Humans: Dysconnected fools with tools

The literature of facts can be the scariest literature of all. There are 7.4 billion people on our planet and more than 7.4 billion cell phones. Right now, more people have access to a cellphone than to a toilet — which is good because no one should have to suffer through a shit without being able to check Facebook or watch porn.

Mobile devices are multiplying five times faster than humans. Fortunately, Samsung has already begun testing artificially intelligent cell phones; the downside is they’ve been committing suicide.

Dysconnected, written by Anton Scamvougeras, a neuropsychiatrist and a Vancouverite, presents us with facts like this. (The prevalence of technology, not suicidal phones.)

Judging from its size and shape, Dysconnected is probably meant to be a coffee table book, the kind that would normally house a collection of waterfall vistas or street art. This one is a compilation of provocative pen and ink drawings, accompanied by quotes about technology. The quotes are by various celebrities, from Adele to Henry David Thoreau. The drawings depict all sorts of people quite literally attached to their phones in what’s obviously social commentary.

These beings, these people, have no faces. Their heads contort into a funnel towards their phones. The book begins with a brief, single-paged introduction and closes with a brief, two-page fact sheet about phones. The bulk of the book is taken up by the aforementioned quotes and illustrations. Each spread features a quote on the left page and an accompanying illustration on the right.

All of the quotes relate back to the idea of humans being made fools by our tools, of people ironically wasting time on what was billed to be a time-saver. The illustrations’ trend are the distractions that technology facilitates. Painter and poet Jean Arp, quoted in the book, says it beautifully:

“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.”

The stats on phone use are staggering. It shouldn’t come as any surprise if you’ve spent any time with other humans, but the numbers are sobering:

One in five people aged 18-34 have used their smartphone during sex.

Fifty per cent of Americans and 80 per cent of 18-24 year olds sleep with their phones next to them. A psychologist might find some kind of correlation between those stats.

Twelve per cent of adults use their phone in the shower. We get more inventive every day.

Obviously this isn’t a sit-down-and-read book. Or maybe it is, maybe Scamvougeras is anticipating the further reduction of our attention spans and intended this to be a modern day Dostoyevsky novel. If the average human attention span is less than a goldfish’s (and it is according to a Microsoft study, which blames our overly digitized world) then this book might be quite an ambitious undertaking.

Regardless of the required reading habits, it raises questions about the obvious. Are we actually comfortable spending every otherwise unoccupied moment glued to a cell phone?

Editor’s note: this book isn’t offered as an ebook so you will have to buy a physical copy if you’re interested.