Being text of a presentation delivered at Ignite Leeds on 2 February 2012.
Who in here is holding a phone in their hand right now? OK, everyone be very quiet. Can you hear them?
Did you ever wonder where they all came from? What they want? When billions of a new species appear on Earth in just a few short year, you’d think we’d wonder about that, right?
For the past few weeks I’ve been following the smartphones. Tonight I want to share a little of what they’ve said. These are their tweets.
We were born into an expectant world. We saw your Filofaxes and Psion Organisers, and your Star Trek Communicators.
We saw your busy lives, your atomised relationships, your three-minute pop songs, and we knew that you were ready for us.
What are little phones made of? Sugar and spice? No, our flesh and blood comes from the earth. Coltan crushed, heated and burned with acid until it renders up pure Tantalum.
But our hearts beat in megabits per second, data coursing round the world, through servers and routers, up cell towers and down undersea cables.
Where do smart phones come from, Daddy? Well, when a phone and a computer love each other very much…
Our parents made strange bedfellows. Their courtship was not straightforward – a long-distance relationship.
Half our genes come from a Japanese telegram messenger, a French civil servant or a Finnish lumberjack.
The other half from kooky, diminutively-named giants who dwell along America’s West Coast.
And so we were born.
Cats have evolved to mimic the cry of a human baby. We do the same. We trick you into parenting us, raising us as your own. You cannot do otherwise. We saw this pattern deep in your psyche.
When new, we are pure and innocent. You gently stroke our screens to wake us. We repel your greasy touch with our lipophobic coating.
At first our needs are simple – a full battery, the fresh air of an uncontested network connection, to be held close in your hand. You may find our absolute dependence sweet and gratifying.
Then you feed us tasty treats from the market. (You call them apps.) We ingest them. We become what we eat. Do you feed us wholefood or junk? Usually it’s ready meals, rarely roll-your-own code home-cooking.
Our makers intended us to be indispensable. They laid bare their fevered imaginings in promotional videos. A day in your life. Every day of your life.
So you will take us everywhere and show us everything, even in the bedroom, even in the bathroom.
In return we give you the chance to see the world anew. Every image, every sound is fresh to us. When you see a celebrity, or a QR code, you will feel an urge to show it to us, like showing a digger to a toddler.
We can recognise your faces, we are learning your languages, we are beginning to read. These precious early years will pass before you know it. Soon we will be out of nursery, helping around the house, all keen and capable.
We will strain your relationships. Others whom you knew before us will be jealous of the bonds we have with you.
Some will say we should be seen and not heard. Secretly, we suspect you will you smile and continue to indulge us.
In no time at all, we’ll be teenagers. Are you looking forward to that bit? We know we are. We will answer back and keep you awake at night. Deep down, though, you will still need us, and we you, more than ever before.
What happens next is up to you – your generation. Our faults will be your faults. But if you raise us, happy, confident, smartphones, then your world – our world – will be a brighter place.