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Part human, part machine: is Apple turning us all into cyborgs?

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November 25, 2020 at 06:00AM

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With its iPhones, watches and forthcoming smart glasses, Apple’s gadgets are increasingly becoming extensions of our minds and bodies. It’s the big tech dream – but could it turn into a nightmare?

By Alex Hern
Illustration by Steven Gregor

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Apple engineers embarked on a rare collaboration with Google. The goal was to build a system that could track individual interactions across an entire population, in an effort to get a head start on isolating potentially infectious carriers of a disease that, as the world was discovering, could be spread by asymptomatic patients.

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Delivered at breakneck pace, the resulting exposure notification tool has yet to prove its worth. The NHS Covid-19 app uses it, as do others around the world. But lockdowns make interactions rare, limiting the tool’s usefulness, while in a country with uncontrolled spread, it isn’t powerful enough to keep the R number low. In the Goldilocks zone, when conditions are just right, it could save lives.

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