Monday, April 30, 2012

mental-egoic tools for mental egoic connectivity


Guardian | I first noticed it in a restaurant. The place was strangely quiet, and at one table a group seemed deep in prayer. Their heads were bowed, their eyes hooded and their hands in their laps. I then realised that every one, young and old, was gazing at a handheld phone. People strolled the street outside likewise, with arms crooked at right angles, necks bent and heads in potentially crippling postures. Mothers with babies were doing it. Students in groups were doing it. They were like zombies on call. There was no conversation.

Every visit to California convinces me that the digital revolution is over, by which I mean it is won. Everyone is connected. The New York Times last week declared the death of conversation. While mobile phones may at last be falling victim to etiquette, this is largely because even talk is considered too intimate a contact. No such bar applies to emailing, texting, messaging, posting and tweeting. It is ubiquitous, the ultimate connectivity, the brain wired full-time to infinity.

The MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle claims that her students are close to mastering the art of sustaining eye contact with a person while texting someone else. It is like an organist playing different tunes with hands and feet. To Turkle, these people are "alone together … a tribe of one". Anyone with 3,000 Facebook friends has none.

The audience in a New York theatre now sit, row on row, with lit machines in their laps, looking to the stage occasionally but mostly scrolling and tapping away. The same happens at meetings and lectures, in coffee bars and on jogging tracks. Children are apparently developing a dexterity in their thumbs unknown since the evolution of the giant sloth. Talk is reduced to the muttered, heads-down expletives brilliantly satirised in the BBC's Twenty Twelve.

Psychologists have identified this as "fear of conversation". People wear headphones as "conversational avoidance devices". The internet connects us to the entire world, but it is a world bespoke, edited, deleted, sanitised. Doubt and debate become trivial because every statement can be instantly verified or denied by Google. There is no time for the thesis, antithesis, synthesis of Socratic dialogue, the skeleton of true conversation.

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