I’ve owned all-but-one model iPhone, but I’m not doing much to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. The iPhone changed my life in countless ways, but its greatest long-term effect has been the dulling of my introspective and creative faculties. I’ve grown uncomfortable with boredom, consuming news at every idle moment. I’ve arranged for myself a menagerie of pull-to-refresh Skinner boxes, which have seriously affected how my brain regulates dopamine. On the rare occasion I manage to buckle down and focus, a notification will inevitably steal minutes of my attention with a mere ten-second context switch. It’s hard to discuss productivity in any serious way without acknowledging how much our tools and our brains have changed since 2007.
Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We’re the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order.