The greater portion of Alan Lightman's novel, The Diagnosis, takes place in a modern day world and deals with modern day issues. The Diagnosis shows a juxtaposition of human emotion and technological advances, seemingly opposite entities. The mindless use of technology as a form of communication and as a replacement for human contact is ever present for the length of the novel. This modern technology is the driving force behind there being nearly a complete lack of physicality among the characters of the novel. Technology effects every character in this novel and has a great impact on the events that play out. Bill Chalmers, the protagonist, is confronted by an illness which afflicts his mind at first, causing him severe amnesia, and later his entire body, a growing numbness. He is unable to live without his gadgets and is completely dependent upon his use of technology. His wife also shows an emotional attachment to the technological world in her Internet-based love affair. Chalmers' son is also not out of the reach of these modern day advances.
In the first scene of the novel, an enormous emphasis is placed on the reliance upon technical devices. Bill Chalmers is on his way to work with the normal rush hour crowd. Everyone is extremely impersonal and all are either on their cellular phone, laptop computers or electronic personal organizers. When Bill loses his memory, the only thing that he clings to is his telephone. He cannot remember any phone numbers, however, he feels that the cell phone holds some great importance to him. When he is finally taken into custody he is on the floor clutching his cellular phone, his most significant item, against his chest. Another part of the novel where technology plays a large part in Bill Chalmers" life is when he gets home from the hospital. All that he can think of is getting back to work and catching up on all of his business-related endeavors.