Thursday, October 11, 2007

Abject Technophobia

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You feel it when you're walking down the street, or even when you're just sitting down with a good book. From out of nowhere, you feel a sudden vibration in your side pocket, or you hear a distant, disembodied chime.

You instantly reach into the said pocket, like a reflex action, bringing out your mobile phone, expecting a new message or, if you're lucky, a phone call or an email.

But there's nothing there. The operator logo greets you with a blink as your fingers activate the mobile phone's backlight. You have just felt a phantom vibration.

Some research - not much, admittedly - has been going into this phenomenon, wherein most of the more definitive results point to a psychosomatic answer. That is to say, that it's all in our heads. Which also underscores the urban legend that man, in this day and age, has become so attached to his technology that it has partly begun to affect even his mind's involuntary actions.

I'm no technophobe, and I love machines just as much as the next guy. But it's curious how current technology has promoted more than just the evolution of the human physiology. Now, we're dealing with mental evolution, the true final frontier wherein no man has ever gone, and could ever get into, unless you were a telepath, in which case you should belong in a zoo. But I digress.

The rationale behind these involuntary tremors is the overwhelming need for connectivity, which is a light way of saying that we truly don't want to be alone, in the gestalt social aspect of loneliness.

The first level of human contact is the touch; the second, the presence. And the third is communication. Machines have eliminated the continuing need for the first two, and have directed more focus on the third level, which is communication, which explains partly why old people consider the next generation to be noisier and more confusing. We are enveloped in white noise, the static of speech without sound, the conversations of bells and chimes and blinking lights, because that's pretty much all we have left in a rapidly expanding global community.

But I think that people haven't really forgotten the first two levels of human contact; in fact, the need for such things has become so increasingly important that the expectation of touch, the aura of a person in the room, has been delegated to the machine, in the absence of a willing participant in social play. Thus the phantom limb of a mobile phone in your pocket. Thus the phantom vibrations.

We are waiting for someone to touch us, embrace us, and to say hello.

This is the 21st century, ladies and gentlemen. The cusp of the ages, where old gets left behind in the afterburners of the future. This is where the fear of being alone outweighs the fear of technology, and also quite possibly the beginning of the end of society as we know it.