My Phone Died. It Felt Like Part of Me Did Also.
Humanity today is coming to grips with this reality:
Human + Technology = Human
We are our technology.
It made us.
One of my favorite explorations of this idea comes from a TED Talk by Suzana Herculano-Houzel:
Summary: the invention of fire and the cooking it brings allowed our species to pre-digest food and support a higher calorie-per-neuron count which led to our advanced brains and us surpassing not only our primate brothers and sisters, but every other species on the planet. The technology of fire made us human.
Many are afraid of technology, and rightfully so, but I'll also offer they may be ignorant of the role it has played in our existence as it is today. Personally, I've been drinking the transhumanist Kool Aid lately. I try to embrace what is and what is most likely to be.
So on Friday morning, when I turned on my phone and saw a couple flashes of the Apple logo and then nothing... I knew part of what makes me who I am had died. I'm on my phone a lot. My phone is an extension of me, just as the glasses I use when on my computer or the food I enjoy, sourced around the world via technological advancements.
Many are unwilling to admit this for some reason or another. Maybe it's shame. Maybe it's fear. I recognize my phone as an extension of me. This black useless brick, this Monolith, lies dormant like a lost appendage.
I knew its day was coming. It was locking up on me more and more, hinting at a future hardware death.
The first thing I did that day was buy a new one. I spent some time shopping around, looking at refurbished options, same day delivery promises, and even the completely new-to-me Android world. I settled for what I know because I didn't want to be without my appendage for long. I went new because the battery is the first thing to go (I already replaced the battery on my Monolith). I was there at the mall when the doors of the Apple store opened. I was not alone. Many were also in line, waiting to expand their humanity. As always, I didn't leave the store until the phone was tucked safely into an Otter Box. I should be more gentle with my phones, but again, I try to face reality.
I ended up going with an iPhone 6S. It's a nice upgrade from my iPhone 5 which was also a major upgrade to my iPhone 3. Yes, planned obsolescence is a bitch, and paying this much for a "phone" is quite ridiculous (I won't tell you how much I paid, it's insane). But I paid it and moved on.
I had a slight freak out when I got home, plugged in in my new phone to restore from backup, and saw this:
What do you mean, I can't restore my arm? It's my arm!
That's kind of how I felt. Many Google searches later on more sites than I can count, I finally found a potential option that didn't include just "deleting the corrupted backup." I updated the iOS on the phone and after that, it accepted the backup.
Part of my humanity was restored.
But not all of it.
Many of my Google Authenticator entries were gone. After much searching, I was quite disturbed to learn this on a blog post:
Update 2015-12-07: As pointed out in the comments, it looks like newer versions of Google Authenticator store keys in a way that can’t be retrieved from iOS Backups (only restored to the same device). This only affects new keys added to the app - older keys are still able to be retrieved.
And that's what I experienced. Really old entries were still there. Newer ones were not. It reminded me (which is why I'm writing this post to remind you), if available:
Always store the secure key to your 2FA logins!
Some sites (AWS included) sadly don't offer the key and you just have to reconfigure everything through their support team. Some sites do, and I hadn't been paying attention enough to write down the codes in my password manager. One such site was my @bittrex account, and I wanted to give them a shout out here.
Unlike @poloniex which took almost two months to fix my botched deposit of 3,000 STEEM, @bittrex was on top of it. They replied to my support ticket almost immediately with a list of things I needed to do in order to disable 2FA on my account to log in again. That included (among other things) a picture of myself holding my ID and a hand-written note with today's date mentioning Bittrex.
Amazingly, I had access to my account the very next day.
I posted about my phone death on Facebook and was surprised to see how tribal the responses were. It seemed to reinforce the personal connectedness we have with our digital devices. Google Pixel, Droid, iPhone 6, iPhone 7, and more. My friends started disagreeing with each other on why one is better than the other and how they will "never go back." There was also some good information about Authy which, unlike Google Authenticator, allows you to back up all your two factor authentication codes (which may lead to vulnerabilities like the one discovered in 2015).
The point of this story?
- Make sure your backups are not corrupted and/or you know how to properly restore them on a new device.
- Always use two-factor authentication, even if you have to jump through some hoops to get up and running again. The risk without it is too high. Always secure the secret key for your 2FA accounts so you can reconfigure it later as needed.
- The technology you use throughout the day has become part of who you are. Don't deny it, just adjust accordingly.
- Take frequent backups of the devices you use most.
Thankfully my backup was only about a month old. I lost some contacts, but pretty regularly sync my photos, so I don't think I lost anything important there. It's a little awkward responding to texts with, "Um, sorry, who is this?" but such is life with a new phone.
It's a little scary to be defined by something so out of my control. But it sure is nice to say, "Hey Siri, what's the weather like today?"
Have you ever lost a phone or computer unexpectedly? Did it change the way you think about it? Do you back things up more frequently now?
Do you think technology makes us who we are?
On a related note, if you don't have an external device you regularly back up your computer to, get one. Do it.
Luke Stokes is a father, husband, business owner, programmer, and voluntaryist who wants to help create a world we all want to live in. Visit UnderstandingBlockchainFreedom.com