The growth of high-technology, particularly in the area of electronics, entertainment, and communications, is giving a new meaning to the question of what is “real.” As part of that question, there’s also the issue of how on-line/perceptual requirements are both influencing and simultaneously diverging from physical world requirements.
One of the most obvious impacts of the instant communications capabilities embodied in cell-phones, netbooks, laptops, and desktops is the proliferation of emails and text messages. As I’ve noted before, there’s a significant downside to this in terms of real-world productivity because, more and more, workers at all levels are being required to provide status reports and replies on an almost continual basis. This constant diversion encourages so-called “multitasking,” which studies show actually takes more time and creates more errors than handling tasks sequentially – as if anyone in today’s information society is ever allowed to handle tasks sequentially and efficiently.
In addition, anyone who has the nerve or the foolhardiness to point this out, or to refrain from texting and on-line social networking, is considered out of touch, anti-technology, and clearly non-productive because of his or her refusal to “use the latest technology,” even if their physical productivity far exceeds that of the “well-connected.” No matter that the individual has a cellphone and laptop with full internet interconnectivity and can use them to obtain real physical results, often faster than those who are immersed in social connectivity, such individuals are “dinosaurs.”
In addition, the temptations of the electronic world are such, and have created enough concern, that some companies have tried to take steps to limit what on-line activities are possible on corporate nets.
The real physical dangers of this interconnectivity are minimized, if not overlooked. There have been a number of fatalities, even here in Utah, when individuals locked into various forms of electronic reality, from Ipods to cellphones, have stepped in front of traffic and trains, totally unaware of their physical surroundings. Given the growth of the intensity of the “electronic world,” I can’t help but believe these will increase.
Yet, in another sense, the electronic world is also entering the physical world. For example, thousands and thousands of Asian young men and women labor at various on-line games to amass on-line virtual goods that they can effectively trade for physical world currency and goods. And it works the other way. There have even already been murders over what happened in “virtual reality” communities.
The allure of electronic worlds and connections is so strong that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of students and other young people walk past those with whom they take classes and even work, ignoring their physical presence, for an electronic linkage that might have seemed ephemeral to an earlier generation, but whose allure is far stronger than physical reality.…
Does this divergence between the physical reality and requirements of society and the perceptual “reality” and perceived requirements of society herald a “new age,” or the singularity, as some have called it, or is it the beginning of the erosion of culture and society?