Science Corner: Yep, I’m a Cyborg

closeup of jeans

I don’t generally wear corduroy; my phantom alerts are from my jeans. (By Marcos André [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I have absolutely experienced phantom cellphone vibrations, only I didn’t realize that was a legitimate phenomenon. I thought for sure I was feeling something else and just thinking it was my phone because I was distracted or something, which I suppose isn’t all that far removed from the proposed explanation in the article. There’s already a strong argument to be made that our smartphones, GPS devices, and similar omnipresent gadgets qualify many of us as cyborgs, but this kind of phantom sensation pretty much seals the deal in my mind.

This is also a reminder of the gap between our perception and reality. We all operate as if what we sense and then perceive is equivalent to objective reality, and for the sake of sanity that’s probably necessary. It’s also reasonable, given how often they are functionally equivalent. But I like to be reminded of the differences now and again; it’s one reason I like stage magic, for example. I see it as encouragement to engage with reality in community. After all, you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Have you ever experienced phantom cellphone vibrations? What do you think they imply about our relationship to technology? Do you think of yourself as a cyborg? How do you calibrate your perceptions with reality?

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Andy Walsh

Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two elementary school students, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog.

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