The Tyranny of Smartphones and Dumb Covid Passports

The Tyranny of Smartphones and Dumb Covid Passports. By Matthew Walther.

Smartphone ownership is essentially coercive. [They] have subsumed so many facets of our existence that is almost impossible now to think of a field of human activity or a concrete act — visiting a friend or neighbor, going to a restaurant, traveling, or even taking a short walk — that has not been transformed for the vast majority of the population by digital augmentation. …

Digitally abetted vaccine passports represent a point of no return, after which it will be impossible to imagine a world in which basic freedom of movement and action exist except on sufferance granted by the algorithms.

Sooner or later the same technology that requires persons to demonstrate that they received certain shots six months ago will force them to show that they have voluntarily undergone more recent medical interventions, or that they have agreed to “terms of use” agreements in which they abjure certain opinions said to be in violation of the code of conduct enjoined by, say, the global casual dining chain whose neighborhood franchise one is attempting to enter. …


We already live in a society in which we are quite literally adjuncts of whatever data has been emitted by the devices we are forced to carry in order to perform tasks as simple as parking our cars or entering a baseball stadium.

Machines that were once meant to facilitate communication (who now remembers the sheepish arguments that used to run as follows: “I know they’re kind of silly, but I like to have one in case of an emergency”?) have become obstacles to the most ordinary human intercourse.

Digital devices have not only overtaken commerce; they have monopolized our attention spans, they have destroyed even the informal etiquette of friendly conversation and casual dining; they have virtually erased the distinction between our time and that of our employers; they have made us not slaves but actual commodities, consumer products to be rated and analyzed.

The future opened by the widespread use of digital vaccine passports is one in which an escape from the barely understood tyranny of these screens becomes impossible.