As we all know smartphones can be used to monitor bodily functions, create sleep profiles, etc. Some say that is great because it reduces our dependency on doctors, and it reduces doctors’ workloads and so will help reduce healthcare costs. I’m not so sure here – I can’t help imagining what the ability to constantly monitor blood pressure and other vital signs will lead to in the hands of a hypochondriac …
Thinking about all this drew my attention to an interesting difference between the English and the German language: When referring to the fact that we carry our smartphone wherever we go, the English-language media talk about the device being “surgically attached” to the user’s hand, their German counterparts observe how the smart phone is “verwachsen” with the user’s hand.
That is an interesting difference. Surgical attachment is the result of major human intervention. In this context the expression illustrates the enormous technological efforts that went into these devices, not to mention the infrastructure that is required so that we can use them wherever we are. Most interestingly, however, surgical attachment can only be done when the smart phone user has agreed to the procedure, and the procedure is reversible.
“Verwachsen” on the other hand means that the smart phones have become part of our organism – cyborg-like and irreversible. It is an active verb structure, “verwachsen” can happen without human intervention, I can wake up one morning like Gregor Samsa and find myself with that growth in my hand.
So the English term describes an active decision on the part of the user in a world where the user rules the technology, and the German term suggests we are completely at the mercy of technology, and technology rules us.