That quote about being a tiny speck of dust in the infinite span of the universe—intended to be a comforting reminder that our actions do not merit the importance we delude ourselves into believing they do, and that we should really just relax—is actually quite demoralizing. Maybe it’s the leftover traces of teen angst that have dutifully followed me into my twenties, maybe it’s just how I’m feeling this particular rainy Thursday night—but that quote just makes me kind of sad. If I’m just an insignificant fleck of dust traversing outer space on a marble of a planet with millions of other equally insignificant flecks of dust, then what’s the point? Why are we setting our alarms for 8am, gaining significant leadership experience in a myriad of educational campus organizations, and forming meaningful relationships with our peers? Why are we doing anything, really?
I’m the last person to look to the economically incompetent failure of a system that is capitalism to console my existential blues. But ironically enough, in the release of the iPhone X, among the glitzy headlines and the raving consumerism, I felt a fleeting sense of empowerment.
The iPhone X, apparently, will have FaceID, meaning your iPhone learns your identity so that you’ll be able to unlock your phone just by looking at it. I might be uncertain of where I want to end up in 20 years, personally and professionally. I might be unsure of the “direction” I want to take—what do I want to do with my life? Why do I want to do it? I don’t want to end up rotting away, a corpse of a person rattling away at a keyboard in the office equivalent of a droning monotone.
Maybe I don’t know who I am. But the iPhone X does. You need to be someone in order to unlock the iPhone X—you need an identity that the phone can recognize and remember in order for FaceID to function properly. Somehow, while they were crafting the byzantine, Kafka-esque algorithms that equipped the iPhone X with its deep learning and facial mapping faculties, Apple engineers inadvertently created an artifact capable of reminding me of the existential truth that I am, indeed, a somebody.
The iPhone X probably knows me better than I know myself. The iPhone X tilts its head, looks me up and down, and ascribes an identity to me. It’s reassuring that the iPhone can compartmentalize me as a human being, and it gives me hope that one day, maybe, I can arrive at a conceptualization of myself that feels right and cozy and doesn’t make me doubt who I am and what I’m about. Maybe one day I’ll recognize myself as easily as the iPhone X recognizes me.
Because the iPhone X sees me for me. The iPhone X understands me. It knows me. And it accepts me—it opens for me, and for me only. If I, and I alone, am gifted with the power to unlock my iPhone X, then who knows what other powers I am beholden to?
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