Table of contents
Podcast S7 E11 | 26 min

Smartphones Are Bicycles for Our Minds

10 Jul 2024
The proliferation of smartphones is transforming basic structures of human existence, experience, and performance. How do these machines change what it means to be human?

Where is your smartphone right now?

If you’re like most smartphone users in the United States, it’s probably within a few feet of your reach, if not sitting in your hand. In the last 15 years, smartphones have quickly, seamlessly, and profoundly been embedded in the daily lives of most Americans. There are now few, if any, domains of modern life that are unaffected by smartphone use.

This episode explores our interactions and relationships with these pocket-sized computers we call smartphones through the research of Alberto Navarro, a doctoral student at Stanford University. Drawing from inventor Steve Jobs’ view that the computer represents “the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds,” Navarro explores what computers represent for humans in evolutionary and energetic terms.

Alberto Navarro is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Stanford University. He is interested in how tools allow humans to flexibly modify the structure and functions of their bodies and minds. Following in the anthropological tradition of making the familiar strange, his dissertation explores ways in which smartphone use in the United States is transforming many of the most basic features of human existence and experience. He believes improving our relationship with smartphones is one of the most impactful things we can do to enhance our everyday performance and well-being.

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SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is produced by House of Pod. The executive producers were Cat Jaffee and Chip Colwell. This season’s host was Eshe Lewis, who is the director of the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship program. Dennis Funk was the audio editor and sound designer. Christine Weeber was the copy editor.

SAPIENS is an editorially independent magazine of the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the University of Chicago Press. SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

This episode is part of the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship program, which provides in-depth training for anthropologists in the craft of science communication and public scholarship, funded with the support of a three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

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