Digital Distraction vs Personal Interaction

Digital Distraction vs Personal Interaction

Digitization has brought tremendous benefits to the worlds of action, of achievement, of speed and of volume. It allows almost infinitely faster computing, dramatically swift financial transactions and lightning speed communications. It has enabled the development of medical cures at a rate undreamt of ten years ago. It makes the world go faster, which is often thought to be a good thing. A bit like an express train, you reach your destination earlier but miss the beautiful views of the countryside on the way.

There is a down side to most progress. In this case it is the distancing of the user from the provider. Digitisation has created a process of not speaking to each other but sending each other instructions on how to answer a question or solve a problem. It’s not just ChatGPT or some other form of AI that is causing the problem. The whole concept of service is under attack. Ask a simple question and you will likely receive instructions of a length and complexity you would expect for the construction of a nuclear submarine.

Techies can take this in their stride – though I was amused recently to find a really good techie who I could enlighten on a small digital matter. For the most part, techies are well able to understand the Language of Lem-enhanced Lobotonists. For us Meerer Mortals, it is the charge of incompetence and backwardness we cannot take. We were not taught to ask crystal clear technical questions. For some of us it may even be a little late to learn now.

Quite apart from comprehension, the idea of shifting the work of purchase and use from the provider to the user is a form of cost cutting not yet reflected in lower prices or better service post-purchase. The whole concept of service is eroded by the taxi that won’t wait a couple of minutes, by the queue ticket obtainable in advance of your being there to respond to it and by the wait you must endure before receiving attention at a bank. Not all of these are digital, of course, but digitisation has spurred a tendency towards them.

I find a strange analogy in the growing use of spreadsheets. Certainly these are essential for figures, especially figures that need to be processed, but almost everything is now put in a box. This is a distraction from meaning when we are trying to convey or examine ideas. Pictures and language are the best communicators of feelings and moods. Boxes remind people of, well, boxes and that in itself is a disruption to engagement.

The impersonal may win in the end, of course. Comprehensive AI is just around the corner. Before the species gets there can I suggest that we try four ways to retain some of the sensational beauty and charm we have on the planet? 

Talk to someone – other than for immediate, practical needs and activities – every day. Discuss the world, the problems, the joys, the beauty, above all the future. You have views, they have views. Bounce your views off theirs and their views off yours. You will feel better for it.

Remember someone who cared for you or who you cared for. Not the same person every day – spread your memory around a few decent people. They are worth remembering. They would love to be remembered by you.

Be thankful for something you have or have had in your life. Again, spread your thankfulness around several events, occasions, items. You will soon learn that appreciation is a mood you are handed back in more than full measure.

Create something special. Doesn’t matter if you cook it, write it, paint it, plant it or simply imagine it. Make it your own, as unique as you can. Make it jolly, make it sad, make it yours. Creating anything is a blessing nobody else can give you but you can always give yourself.

It’s not intended to compete with digitisation, just to compensate for it.

After all, you always want to be ‘out of the box’, don’t you?

Good morning

John Bittleston

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30 August 2023