Monday, September 06, 2004

Have you considered... technology has changed us?

Not in the usual way of making things easier, but in how we communicate and our level, or lack, of patience?

We expect immediate answers, constant communication. Patience is almost a lost art. Want dinner in a hurry? Nuke it. Most microwaves don't go above 15 minutes for the cheap ones and digital microwaves have a quick feature that doesn't go above 6. Writing letters is nearly a lost art, give over to the business letter that serves as hard copy proof in a court or for a file. Penmanship has gone down the tubes for most people and isn't even taught in schools any more. Lovers, family and friends...and even enemies...are connected by sound at the speed of light through microwaves, satellites, and fiber optics.

Instead of responding to diatribes in the newspapers, making them a much more interesting read, people flame each other on the net, which still makes for some interesting reading even if the respondents are Neanderthal idiots who can't form a complete sentence. Net-speak is sufficient to be understood. Graffiti of the nuclear age.

Letters once took months to reach from one party to the other, often getting lost when ships went down, mail trains were attacked by bandits or Indians or simply went off the rails due to some natural (often unnatural) disaster, or pony express riders just didn't make it to the end of the trail intact. Letters are buried all around the world, moldering, decomposing or waiting to be found by someone, but not the someone who waited for word about some important event.

With telegraph, telephone, and now computers, we don't have to wait so long. We are not bound by the vagaries of natural disaster, unless you count electricity, computer viruses, and hard drive crashes. Even when natural, or man-made, disasters occur, there are other options: telephone, cell phone, or someone else's computer. Smoke signals of the nuclear age and easier to read.

What does this do to the art of patience? Destroys it. Why should we wait with so many technological marvels at our disposal to communicate. Someone must really be in the back of beyond where there are no cell towers, no computer access, and no telephones to be unable to respond in some fashion. The miracle of instant communications is that we have any patience left at all.

All this technology also give us another problem: far too much information. We need to say something to fill up all that white space, keep a conversation going, especially since the time is unlimited with unlimited dial-up/DSL/cable service at one low affordable price. After all, we can't spend all our time working or cruising the net for porn or research or whatever. Or can we?

Communication is a shorthand speak of symbols and letters that stand for words. We are moving backward, devolving. How will the archaeologists of the future decipher our codes without a Rosetta stone?

Historians, scientists, and archaeologists believe communication in the ancient world evolved from symbols and single letters to take the place of the spoken word to spelling out words, but what if they are wrong. What if their hieroglyphic shorthand was the devolution of communication and the ancient world's net speak? Are we the living proof? Fully formed and spelled words and sentences devolving into letters, emoticons, symbols, and shorthand to make communicating even faster at the speed of light. Is it possible. Are we reliving a past that has played out over and over millennia after millennia for time out of mind? Do we have things backward?

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