Your brain, your smartphone and where they come together – a dystopic view & a novel

wordGuilford College trustee and radio personality Terry Graedon’s daughter Alena Graedon recently published a novel that I can’t get out of my head. It’s titled The Word Exchange and, rightly, it is highly regarded.

It is science fiction, “a dystopic thriller.”

Its premise is that digital devices don’t just relieve your brain of work, they cause it to atrophy. If your smartphone or tablet knows what all the words mean, then your brain no longer needs to. And worse – as digital devices more nearly mimic brain functions, digital viruses may mutate into brain viruses. The novel goes off with a pretty good story of bad guys enticing consumers into dependence and addiction to digital devices. (The author, a native of Durham and graduate of Carolina Friends School, may have first heard talk, one imagines, of consumer-addiction theories somewhere close to home.)

I enjoyed The Word Exchange, but did not give it a lot more thought until the day came when, by mistake, I left my cell phone at home. That was when I realized that my native brain-calendaring function has totally atrophied. Without realizing it, I have become absolutely dependent on my devices to order and remember my appointments, meetings and tasks. When my phone was at home, I could not function.

Addicted?  It’s close to that.

Dependent?  Absolutely.

A virus? Well, I wasn’t throwing up, if that’s what you mean – but I did have a pain in the neck and a real headache.

And now I can’t get Alena Graedon’s premise out of my mind.


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