A Future of Uncommunications (in 2002)
Background: straight from my “digital diary” vault, here is something I wrote in September 2002 (that is before smartphones, Facebook, the Internet of Things and so on), marking it with the following tagline: “there has never been so muchcommunication technology as today, yet as little communication among people“
In the last two years, many news agencies have announced several times that for the first time data traffic has superated voice traffic.
Accordingly, telecom gurus tells to student and engineers about yet one more paradygm shift: from now on, telecom networks must be designed for data, not voice.
From a human point of view, this is the technical certification that today communication among human beings happens less than human to machine, or machine to machine communication.
To make it worst, this certainly doesn’t happen for lack of somebody to talk with: it’s safe to say (almost banal actually, that overpopulation) is one of the greatest concerns of our time, whatever ethic you look at it with, and that overcrowded cities are causing more stress than ever.
More often than not, however, this connectivity frenzy results in people who want to live only in virtual communities, with somebody even going as far to speculate on why should I (vote/pay taxes/care in general) in the place I stay when my friends, interest and meaningful part of life all are or could be in cyberspace?
This last aberration is only worth nothing as a joke: until we become pure energy, we all need an old-fashioned, merely physical home, with something to carry food, energy, ambulances and waste in an out of it.
Streets, wires and sewers need a lot and need supervision, which can only come from the real community using them.
Enough of fairy tales: uncommunications begin in the family, especially the small and aging ones in western countries: thanks to cheap electronics, everybody can listen to different music, or look at a different movie, alone.
For example, I have realized that when I was a kid my parents talked a lot with me when in the car, because car hi-fi radios were a luxury item.
We got it by default in the car we have now, and there is real progress in the fact that now everybody can be informed of traffic jams and such. However, I’ve realized that many, many times, I find myself belting my children in the back seat and then automatically turn on the radio to filter them out.
Take a look at the groups of teenagers hanging around in malls and parks today. Quite probably, you will find them close to each other, as to protect the herd from attacks, but ignoring each other. They’ll be browsing their SMS messages, or listening MP3s by earphones.
The scaring thing is that they’ll all be closed in their earphones even when listening all the same song. Sometimes this is needed out of respect for others people quiet (think to a crowded subway coach). When I see it in the park however, or when I see members of one family looking at the same movie in different rooms, I can’t help but compare them to a room full of naked people, all hungry for sex, but all masturbating with their face to the wall…
Another dark effect of this telecom overdose is that, unlike just two or three generations ago, we have much more in common with people in our same market segment (i.e. same age, schooling, salary range) than with the other people around us, including our family.
Even putting ethic apart,all this is very dangerous, not just sad, because we HAVE to live in close quarters today, so we need to like, understand cooperate and at least tolerate whoever is physically, biologically and emotively close to us. Millions of generations of cultural and emotive training in this sense cannot just be ignored.