Saletan peers into the future:
We want to centralize our power to manipulate the things around us. The universal remote was supposed to do that. But it doesn't, because it can't navigate the digital world the way the smartphone can. We need to consolidate these two devices. And it's a lot easier to put the remote's abilities in the smartphone than vice versa.
I should confess I haven't joined the smartphone craze. Part of it is that I don't like phones and very rarely answer them. They're a horribly rude form of life-interruption or a means to perpetuate constant neurotic interaction with other humans. Of course, we need them, but we don't need them everywhere all the time.
But the more evolved form seems less uncivilized. GPS and Google Earth make travel exponentially more interesting, even if that serendipitous wandering around I love so much becomes rarer and rarer. All the other fun tools also add to life's general amusement. Grabbing that music you hear and owning it: fab. Price comparing in local stores: awesome. Maybe the smarter phones get the less they will be like phones. When that happens, I'll get one.
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