Increasing Complexity: Communication and Relationships

In the early 21st century, trends in communication have not only remained, but actually accelerated. Life was much simpler before, but Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris can cure any misguided notions of historical nostalgia.

With the advent of technology, transportation and communication systems have became much more efficient and accessible to the average person. Add this to increasing population densities in urban areas and you have a social web where each individual has contact with a large number of others, however fleeting this interaction may be. Communication and, consequently, relationships are becoming complexly interconnected, not to mention more numerous. Demands for our time have been increasing, while the supply of hours in a day has stayed the same. Basic economics indicates that the value of our time has skyrocketed.

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Logarithmic Plot of Life’s Evolution

Anybody who lives in the city knows the ambiguous feeling when visiting a small town: ” It’s so calm out here”, sighs, “but why is the waiter taking so long?” Urban living is rapidly becoming the norm around the world and this is changing how we communicate. From the time you get out of bed till lunchtime, city-dwellers find themselves encountering hundreds of people, known and unknown, whether in traffic, going up the elevator, at the supermarket or anywhere else. To manage all these interconnected exchanges among people, complex systems of organization and communication are in place, such as traffic signs, cell phones, televisions and passports.

These allow us to coexist in a relatively harmonious way automating repetitive processes and reducing time for communication and consequently, for decision making. The more efficient and complex these orders become, the more we can act and interact producing more fruitful businesses, families and governments. The world is in fact becoming a better place with our progress in science and technology. You don’t believe that?

 

Take that Heidegger & co.

Not only have our lives increased in length, they have increased in intensity (the amount of things that occur in any given period). Hence the rise of Twitter with it’s 140-character messages, online dating, single Instagram pictures replacing printed picture albums and endless sequences of  abbreviated text messages.

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Netflix’s House of Cards: Raymond Tusk is a billionaire who at any given moment has multiple employees all over the globe holding business meetings. To manage the volume of decision making, he takes all his staff’s calls, provided that they are phrased in a single yes-or-no question.

The problem is that the amount of events happening has changed much faster than the evolutionary adaptions of our brains during the same quantity of time. Do you wonder why suddenly it seems like half the population is being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder? That’s because our genetic makeup has practically been the same for thousands of years while sociological changes are happening at a mind-blowing pace. Everybody seems to be suffering an overload in their databases, social networks, emails, calendars, you name it. Assuming that technology and globalization continue marching forward, we will soon find ourselves and our communities, mentally, cognitively and emotionally bankrupt.

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We can look at the history of science and technology for a clue as to what can be done. Finding algebra and geometry to be insufficient, Leibniz and Newton invented/discovered calculus. Suffocated by a ridiculously complicated cosmology, Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo adopted the much more reasonable heliocentric model. Similar situations happened with the discovery of fire, the invention of writing, the creation of computers, the Internet and so on. Today, again, we are reaching the point where a radical new way of dealing with complexity is needed. Improving the use of our biological hardware no longer makes the cut; it’s time for a major upgrade.

So far, we haven’t really manipulated our physical configuration and have mostly developed external systems of computation and intelligence In many ways, these technologies have surpassed us; in other ways, we still remain way ahead. Biological and artificial entities are like a sperm and an egg which will fuse into one totally new organism. Computers will become more anthropomorphic and humans will become more technomorphic until the one is indistinguishable from the other.

Life and consciousness has emerged in the Universe and has now started actively and self-referentially improving and expanding itself with a capacity never seen before.  Humans will continue to increase their lifespans and will continue to increase the amount of content they can fit into any year. Bear witness to the birth of a new scale of macro-organism. Be grateful for having been born in the era in which you get to be one of the techno neurons that will conform the new planetary brain.

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(No, I am not a Fascist).


 

  • Something to reflect and comment on:

The amount of friends we have has greatly increased, but the relationships also seem to be less profound and durable. A century ago, marriages were typically ended by low life expectancy, whereas nowadays, longer lives and fewer kids have produced a large number of couples boring and stressing each other to the point of divorce, reflecting the same trend as friendships. Even communities seem to be totally unrecognizable after five or ten years.

What will happen if these patterns continue? Will we see the emergence of new types of social organization and grouping, replacing the traditional family unit as the cornerstone of society? How about the concepts of home, work, career or education?  What do you predict is on the horizon?

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