Brickberry: We Are All Cyborgs, Now

It used to be a little 8330 Curve. I liked it because it had a keyboard with buttons I could actually press, and because at the time, I was skeptical of smart phones. I was never an early adopter. And really, it was one of the few smartphone options my cell carrier had.

Today, my little Blackberry became a Brickberry. This has been part of the long arc of its slow decline. First, it ceased to receive data. Updating the operating system failed to do anything. Then, it lost the ability to be recognized on my computer as a device, either as a Blackberry or in mass storage mode. Then the camera went. Next, the track ball fell out. It didn’t just fall out, but the rollers disintegrated, leaving me with a tiny ball and no housing in which to place it.

Today, it bricked. I turned it on, and it decided it didn’t want to be on. I turned it on again and checked the charge— full. It promptly shut itself off again. I plugged it in. On again. Yes, yes… and then it blinked off. I went off to work, sans phone.

Work, without a phone, put me in a strange location. I couldn’t time my breaks but to ask others what the hour looked like. I fretted over my roommates, my family being unable to contact me. But the worst of it came when I realized that in trading a closing shift, I had no way to call anyone to ask for a ride home. I had no way to call for help should I get in a cycling accident. Not because there weren’t any phones— no, the store has plenty of those, as does just about every passer-by. I had no phone numbers to call. I no longer know anyone’s phone number by heart.

This shouldn’t be a huge realization. I mean, I always knew that in not having to dial, I had forgotten every phone number I’d ever known. Faced with my inability to even quickly gain this information (long waits between emails and facebook posts in order to reconstruct my list do not make it a very speedy process), I finally felt vulnerable. I had lost my entire list of contacts. Unless I can make that Brickberry work for long enough to transfer the data to a new phone, I’ve lost everything. I can’t even call my parents. They changed their number years ago, and their old one was the last I had remembered rote.

How strange. We truly are cyborgs, then. We allow technology to assume the function of part of our brains— our memory— in order to free ourselves of the constraints of learning by rote. We can then devote that energy to other things, achieve yet greater results… but when a device fails catastrophically (oh my Brickberry), the information, the utility we lose is akin to a serious injury. In fact, that is exactly what occurs: because we have given over part of our minds to the keeping of our tech, because we have turned ourselves into partially electronic creatures, it is very much an injury to our external memories.

As with any wound, it takes time to heal. I will need to repair the gaps in my recall by collecting phone numbers again. I will need to habituate to a new phone. The poems I wrote and stored and failed to transcribe from my new-minted brick are lost forever. But then there is addressing that sense of vulnerability that comes with a major injury: it will take time to heal from feeling so exposed without the power to contact others, being deprived of my very recall. In the manner of my fellow beings, I will become overly cautious about backing up, not trust devices that show even the slightest hint of malfunction. This is adaptive, especially for bespectacled cyborgs like me who store part of their memory on devices off-body.

After all, what do we have if not our minds?

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