My colleague, Yoffy, recently wrote in these pages about the future of the Internet. (My title is a reference to the video posted there, which I found very amusing.) I definitely resonate with his needs and interests, and the two points he wrote about:
Touch and keeping in touch.
But when he talks about how technology can be more personal, well, I have a somewhat different perspective. It may be that he’s a visual guy and I’m decidedly a word person. No wonder I like the keyboard he finds too impersonal. And all the touch screens in the world can’t replace it—though I think (hope, actually) the days of the computer mouse may be numbered!
As a human being, I want to be able to feel and interact with my surroundings.
Absolutely. But even more, I want the things I touch and interact with to be real. Now as a programmer (or, say, a blogger) I spend a lot of time interacting with computers. Am I just typing and clicking? No, I am manipulating something that is real to me, though completely invisible to the people around me. Beyond and underneath and inside the keyboard and monitor is something called information, and I process and mold it to my liking.
But is information the ultimate reality I want to touch? No, I prefer to go deeper. Two things that information wrangling must achieve, or I’m wasting my time. On a professional level: I want the information I work with to affect reality. On a personal level: I am hoping to reveal to others who I really am.
Having the right information can make it possible to attain your goals and dreams. Our very real experiences spark the ideas, those ideas attract (can you say “search engine”?) the information to complete the invisible form in our minds, and our actions follow the form to accomplish something real. A real product, or a real activity, or a real person-to-person communication that real people are interested in.
Can I convey a message completely and accurately? Technology certainly helps me create and transmit larger and more complex messages—but those dimensions do not always equate to meaningful communication. Our devices can deliver appealing, content-rich “experiences”, but do little to ensure their authenticity. There is a real danger that we accept too readily a sweet candy coating on a poisonous pill. (Is that overstated? Let me know if you think so …, I’m standing by it for now.)
Someday we may have holodecks and transporters, but until then I resist promoting technology as a substitute for real experience and real personal contact.
What do you consider real? Here’s to hoping the right technology will help, and not hinder, your quest to reach out and touch.