Should we uninvent smartphone?

Tommy Kan
3 min readOct 19, 2020

Time flies! It’s already the time for my younger daughter to apply for high school. While when I gave a glance of the essay questions she is preparing answer for — one question caught my attention: Which invention would you want to un-invent if you could?

Through a coaching conversation with her, she got her list:
1. Nuclear weapon
2. Cigarette
3. Plastic packages/bottles

I am highly impressed by the list she came up by herself!

Then as a habit as well for my own curiosity, I Googled the question and found below TEDx talk from YouTube, a great one with the answer to the question — Smartphone should be uninvented. It was articulated in a very balanced way by starting with the great benefits we as society gained from the invention of the smartphone like convenience and education etc. Then switched to the *harm* that smartphone brought to our society — Eroding human connection with free dopamine generator.

While let’s get from the fantasy back to the reality — can you really uninvent anything which is already existing!? All normal people incl. me know the right answer — No, we can NOT uninvent anything once it’s invented, can we?

Let’s go little bit deeper, think about all the things mentioned above as the targets to be uninvented for a better world — every invention was something useful and at one point a Hero (like Tobacco industry was the economic foundation of early day USA as a young nation.) to certain nation, society or the whole world like when Plastic was invented as a super cheap and durable material for so many needs.

So the true and most powerful question here should be asked is not about uninvention since it’s backward looking, how about “How we can minimize the harm of an invention by changing human behavior?” This is a much better question since it gives the power back to our own hands and it is reflecting the brutal truth — as human beings, we need and should be responsible for any inventions we’ve made so far and work hard to reduce the harm and increase the good thru education, awareness-raising, incentivizing, and most importantly self-control of our own behavior.

Let’s talk about smartphone, if you choose to not use it for cheap dopamine, you can start from now since you always have the full control to when and how to use it, can’t you?

Often Being responsible means you take action to restrict your own behavior, to reduce negative impact by smartphone, you can start changing your own behavior from now like:

  • Do NOT bring it to the dining table
  • Do NOT bring it to the bedroom
  • Do NOT install social network app
  • Do install more self-education app like Blinks, Audible, Kindle, Podcast

Again, let’s stop think what to uninvent, and start take full control of our own life by realizing that you have full control of your own action, always!




Tommy Kan

A lifelong learner and explorer! Grew up in Asia, now enjoying the dynamism of Silicon Valley in the sunny California.