I was once an evangelical holdout against smartphones. I’d missed the start of their rapid encroachment into the United States because I was living in southern Kazakhstan from 2009 to 2011, and when I came back they were suddenly everywhere, ubiquitous and attached to people’s hands like a new appendage. I’d barely been able to get functional Internet access for two years and had come to like the lack of constant connectivity, but after a few months of living in New York City and running out of space in the notebook where I had to furiously scribble down Google Maps directions before leaving the house, I broke down and gave up my hand-me-down flip phone for an iPhone. Now it’s hard to imagine life without it, even though I’m aware of the way its programs are playing on my automatic responses, encouraging me to make it an indispensable part of myself, rewiring my brain to crave its reassuring notifications and little endorphin hits of fresh emails.
John Wiswell’s new short story “The Tentacle and You,” out this month in Nature: Futures, is a brief, clever take on the way these kinds of novel adaptations creep into our lives and take over, with a science fiction twist.