Technophilia, internet addiction, mobile dependency...all untested and spurious syndromes associated with the advent of ubiquitous connectivity. Very many of us have found mobile communication devices indispensable in living our lives today. Many people will not leave home or office without checking that they have their mobile phone. They will not be without their increasingly thin and tactile box of tricks with its myriad hierarchies of materials from the brushed metal alloy casing to the tempered touch screens of glass. The pristine organic displays that first emerged from Cambridge laboratories when I started my science writing career back in the early 1990s. The next generation of semiconductor devices whittling their way down to the nanoscale as each 18-month temporal unit of Moore's Law passes us by almost invisibly.

A mobile phone allows people to make and receive calls (an almost trivial function of these increasingly powerful devices). Increasingly it is simply (complexly?) a computer that allows them to access and share information, send and receive messages, check in, login, run their finances online and, with the advent of augmented reality, navigate their world in ways that were only vaguely dreamed of a generation ago.

It allows us to socialize, make and meet friends and contacts in new and old haunts and much more. It even allows us to take high-resolution photographs and then to apply tints and tweaks to them that make them look like faded snapshots with an often rose-tinted 1970s patina and to share them with almost every one of the other 6,999,999,999 people on Earth.

Yes, many people are now dependent on their mobile phone, a device driven to unprecedented sophistication through materials science as each upgrade hits the virtual shelves of the e-commerce sites. But, is this "dependency" a problem or is it no more an addiction than our prehistoric ancestors' dependency on their primary technology of choice, the hand axe?

Numerous research teams have tried to answer this question, the latest among them is that of Ming-Hung Shih of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, USA, and colleagues in Taiwan, who have used social exchange theory to investigate  dependency  among mobile  phone  users [Shih et al., Int. J. Mobile Commun., (2012) 10, 475-489] They surveyed hundreds of mobile phone users and found that many of them use their devices to such a degree that more conventional face-to-face interaction and traditional social interaction has become increasingly rare. In their world losing their mobile phone is a far greater loss than not being able to meet and greet. They refer to "mobile phone dependency syndrome" (MPDS) and to "internet user addiction".

I do wonder though whether these really are just spurious terms that medicalize the natural behavior of Homo sapiens when our lives are enhanced with a useful, new technology. Did our ancient ancestors suffer scorn because of HADS - hand-axe dependency syndrome? Probably not. That technology allowed them over generations to feed and clothe themselves and to advance towards a world in which we grasp in our hands not a shard of napped flint but aslab of brushed steel and glass within which the power to nap the world is locked in silicon and semiconductors.

David Bradley blogs at and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".