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tales from the woods

Friday, September 26, 2003

It's been a while...

It's been a while since i've posted. The reason for it is another story for another day. Co-incidentally it's also been a while since my mobile phone has rung/vibrated. It seems to have died of old age. Life is definitely peaceful without cellphones. The modern human need to be perpetually connected is taken care by my office where i seem to be spending three quarters of my life anyway. They give me telephones and a computer with a broadband inertnet connection. They also give me free dialup accounts/DSL connections to enable me to stay connected in the one quarter of non-connectedness. There seems to be an unspoken conviction in most people that connectedness == contentedness.

Suddenly, we're beginning to be concerned about the bandwidth of our human interactions. Do we tick off a checklist of gadgets before we leave home/office every day? Do we have an electronic address book of all our possible acquaintances at all times? Do we typically make over 3 phone calls before we meet someone on a date: once to let them know that we've left the house, the second to let them know that our ETA is 5 minutes, and the third 5 minutes later? In spite of all this faaltoogiri, do we still start off conversations with old school/college friends accusing each other of not "keeping in touch"?

There can be several reasons why this need suddenly become such a powerful factor in our lives. The first argument is simply that technology has now enabled us to communicate better. Let's try and challenge the basic assumption here. Yes, the tools to communicate have become ubiquitous and more efficient/inexpensive. Has that however made our communication "better"? I think not.

My reasoning is that humans attach value to things only based on it's scarcity/availability. If diamonds were found on every street, their worth would be the same as ordinary stones. (Of course, it doesn't lessen the inherent property of a diamond but we're talking about perceived value here, not inherent value.) Hence, when communcation was scarce and expensive, communication was highly efficient. It was meaningful, crisp and usually achieved the same goals as it does nowadays. On a corporate level, communication over snail mail would be restricted to important annoucements and would be only sent to the employees who are affected. On an individual level, letter writing was an art form in itself. A person receiving a telegram would also know that it was something important. In those days, communication was expensive but effective.

In today's world, communication has become more of an end rather than the means. We keep in touch with each other just for the sake of keeping in touch. The very strengths on which modern communication has become popular, namely ubiquity and cost will be it's downfall. To be continued...

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