Sunday, July 3, 2011

After Intimacy

We tend to think of the future in terms of what we will gain (Bigger, Better, Faster, More) rather than what we will lose. But lose we do/will, and Richard Watson has provided another handy update to his trendlines for the future; this time for extinctions. Yes it is tongue-in-cheek, but there are more than a few grains of truth (or should that be 'grains of probablility'?) in what he projects.

Take his forecast that this decade will see the extinction of Intimacy.  In a recent talk at the RSA, Sherry Turkle explored how our digital lives (online and mobile) are substituting the illusion of companionship for real intimacy. Rendering us 'Alone Together'. She gave the example of repeatedly observing numerous parents of young children outside schools and in playgrounds busy talking on their mobile phones, ignoring the demands of their children. Seemingly preferring the intimacy of the phone conversation to a face-to-face conversation with their own children.

Rob Horning thinks it may be about more than just a technological phenomenon. That there may in fact be a more profound shift taking place in the ways in which we perceive intimacy. As he explains it:
I have this feeling that people are going to become more and more wary of direct face-to-face attention because it will seem like its wasted on them if it’s not mediated, not captured somehow in social networks where it has measurable value. I imagine this playing out as a kind of fear of intimacy as it was once experienced—private unsharable moments that will seem creepier and creepier because no one else can bear witness to their significance, translate them into social distinction. Recognition within private unmediated spaces will be unsought after, the “real you” won’t be there but elsewhere, in the networks.  
To me this represents a generational shift. Most people in developed countries under the age of 25 are - in Rob's words - 'increasingly unavailable to attention in the moment'. And a few of us over 25.

Of course, there is a reaction for every action (Newton's third law applies to societies not just objects in my opinion), and in the long run human nature determines the human future, not our technology. Still, plenty more peaks ahead.


  1. Interesting as always.

  2. " the long run human nature determines the human future, not our technology."

    Yes. The central truth for aspiring futurolgists? I read a book by Ray Kurzweil some time ago about what the future held in store and I thought what nonsense. Very Bill Gatesesque. I hope, not self fulfilling prophecy. But it seems to be. But put this perspective against the kind of perspective and insight put forward by the likes of Goethe, Hegel, Jung about the kind of forces that underlie human destiny. What do you get? - Precisely the kind of thing you described in the above blog post. Turbulence ahead, indeed. :)

  3. It is interesting on how devices do alter society's behavior. It starts off with a few isolated examples and grows into mass practice.
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  4. Interesting article and I agree with Roc the human nature determines the human future, not the technology.

    Best regards,

  5. Excellent article is very interesting to know how devices can alter society's behavior around the world.

    Best regards,


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