The Apple Watch: From Technology-Knowing to Body-Knowing

06/08/2015 01:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

Much has been made of the new Apple watch, its many capabilities and styles. But perhaps there is a hidden potential benefit to the Apple watch that has not been noted: It could enhance our sensuality.

By sensuality I simply mean feeling your own experience of your own experience. A sensual person is one that is in touch with their five senses, and how they feel about what is registering, viscerally. A sensual person is not a flat-liner but instead lives on an emotional and sensory roller coaster, and they wouldn't want it any other way. We might assume this is the normal state of affairs for most people. It is not.

Sensuality v Living on Auto-Pilot

Many people -- too many people -- are living on auto-pilot because they are so overcommitted, overscheduled, over-extended -- in work and in play. Their feeling life is stultified. They have no time other than to skim over the surface of their life. They are numb to themselves, just going through the motions of daily routines, both professional and personal.

I am a cognitive anthropologist who has spent approximately a quarter of my time over the last 23 years talking with people the world over about what their lives are like nowadays. What I hear everywhere -- from Brooklyn to Bahia to Beijing -- is we are all living in a World of Too: too fast, too complex, and too competitive. People tell me that "just to stand in place they have to run." Hardly anything is now given the time to mature, to become routinely nuanced. Everything is plucked while still green and hard. We currently live in the rat-tat-tat rhythm of a staccato-like life.

The Paradox of Technology

A paradox obtains: In part, technology has brought and wrought this World of Too upon us. Technology can also help return our orientation to our inner selves.

Such an orientation would have a huge upside. A more sensual population would understand that their senses are invaluable assets that allow them to interact with the world at the richest possible level and identify the experiences that feel absolutely right to them. Sensual people would have a better sense of their circumstances and how to heighten those circumstances, because they are truly paying attention.

When we turn the dial up on our senses, we experience things internally and externally that we would not be privy to otherwise. For example, when we turn our senses outward, we encounter a perspective on the world that isn't visible on the surface level. When we listen to what people are saying, watch for patterns and inconsistencies, and truly feel the world around us, it is as though our environment is suddenly snapping into focus.

Making full use of your senses promises insight, whether getting a better grip on your work environment, trying to identify where a relationship is going, or even just attempting to decide the best use of a few hours of leisure time.

Two other advantages accrue to a sensual being:

* Empathy: Not giving oneself time to reflect impairs one's ability to empathize with others. The more in touch one is with his or her own feelings, the richer and more accurate is one's ability to consider what passes through another person's mind.

* Creativity: A feeling mind - one that can stop and focus on itself -- is more creative. You've got to "hack" into your own feelings to see what attracts you, repeals you, intrigues you, makes you wonder and allows your mind to wander.

The critical point is: meaning arises from feeling. Norman Mailer once said something fundamental: "You can only get to a truth through an emotional truth. You can't get to an emotional truth through an objective truth." Feeling directs the journey.

Going From the Outside to the Inside

The hope would be that the Apple Watch and other wearable technologies would help people create a real, organic, self-generated and self-propagating body awareness -- a feeling reflex -- that goes beyond fixing on externally supplied data as a proxy. Knowing one's biometric readings of blood pressure and running pace and heat rate are one thing. But to have these kinds of numerics lead to a state of mind that, in general and without prosthetic prompting, is continuously more sensuous, well, that would be a good use for technology!

Then the old idiom might apply: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.