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Always On: an examination of our dependence on connectivity

Using a stark set of case studies, Brian Chen explores society's projected path after decades of trading privacy for instant access.

Everyone concedes that phones are getting smarter, but tech writer and author Brian Chen says you don't have to be a philistine to wonder if they are doing so at our expense.

"Zero hour" was January 9, 2007, the day Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, a mobile device that evolved into the app-filled "perfect thing" at a pace that no one, not even Mr Jobs himself, could have predicted. It then set the tempo for a revolution in mobile computing.

Always On illustrates the subsequent highs and lows with a stark set of recent case studies that reveal our dependence on constant connectivity.

On the pro side, an iPhone first-aid app saved the life of a Haitian earthquake victim trapped under rubble, teaching him how to dress a gaping leg wound before he bled out. On the con side, a couple became so addicted to gaming in Korea that they let their infant daughter starve to death.

In between such polar extremes, Chen concisely explores society's projected path after decades of trading privacy for instant access. Even if we never use an off switch, perhaps someone should at least remember where it is.

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