#94 – Chaos and/or Utopia

In a word, our challenge in the global village today is Oneness, that is to say, coming together in recognizing that we are all fundamentally exactly alike. And yet: “A tech company founded on creating human connection is now ripping American society apart and compromising our civic foundation, though not because it has overtly wicked intent.” (1)

In other words, our species is self-destructing without realizing it, descending into dystopia unconsciously. “It’s no stretch to posit that because human neurotransmitters respond to the platform’s iconic use of a certain shade of blue, and spark with dopamine upon receiving a ‘like’ or ‘tag’ notification, desperate children are now living in cages and a raving madman occupies the Oval Office [2019]. Not even Orwell, after a feast of psilocybin, could have predicted this dystopia. This one’s all ours.” (1)

But do we really have the option of disconnecting from our current insanity? Because of our deep conditioning most of us will probably experience FOMA (fear of missing out) if we tried. “But to opt out of this clanging multiverse is to live in mild estrangement. It’s to feel one’s self become a permanent spectator; to live with the persistent sense that something is always happening elsewhere; to feel old, outlasted, outmatched by the bizarre physics of your own lifetime: The great spinning world has toppled off its axis and rolled away.” (2)

It’s obviously important to understand why this is happening otherwise a solution is impossible. We express our energy in accumulating largely meaningless “stuff.” We pursue chimeras of “pleasure” which deliver the pain of emptiness. And finally, especially today, we can see the allure of “power” among our politicians who ironically prove to be among the most impotent problem solvers in our community.

In his great tragedy, King Lear, Shakespeare revealed an insight we desperately need today. Commenting on the play, journalist Sehgal Parul saw a parallel between Lear’s self-destruction and a similar descent into chaos so common in the Global Village 400 years later. “We see how power works not just on the world but on the self—how it distorts perception.” (3) Are we choosing what we really want our society to be or are we, like Lear, blinded by our emotional reactions to our own delusions.

The tragedy of human behavior in pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power is readily apparent to many of us although we tend to spend too much of our energy in denial. What about the good news? Can technology be used for positive outcomes? Of course, and these often relate to helping those among us who are less fortunate.

For example, a robot cannot express human compassion but that might not matter if the recipient “feels” the pseudo-empathy as genuine. Communities of the elderly and disabled can be socially isolated and alone in facilities too understaffed to nurture them. Bill Langlois, age 68, is retired and lives in low-income senior housing. He spends a lot of his time watching Sox (named after his favorite baseball team, the Red Sox) because his wife works and is out of the house most of the time.

Mr. Langlois knows Sox is an avatar and comes from a start-up called Care Coach. Sox is operated by workers around the world who are watching him, listening to him and typing out her verbal responses. “Mr. Langlois said, ‘She’s brought my life back to life.’ Sox [had] been listening. ‘We make a great team,’ she says.” (4)

“Early results have been positive in Lowell’s first small pilot, patients with avatars needed fewer nursing visits, went to the emergency room less often and felt less lonely. One patient who had frequently gone to the emergency room for social support largely stopped when her avatar arrived, saving the health care program an estimated $90,000.” (4)

Clearly we can’t blame technology for our approaching chaos nor expect it to save us from the consequences of our choices. We can only hope that we, unlike King Lear, don’t wait too long to express compassion for those in our human family—and everyone is in our human family.

Insight # 94The world is not to be put in order, the world is order incarnate. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.   –Henry Miller

Links:

References:

  1. Bissell, Tom. “Anti Social.” The New York Times Book Review. February 3, 2019, page 9.
  2. Senior, Jennifer. “Our Brains Can’t Handle the Trump Era.” The New York Times. February 10, 2019, page 2.
  3. Sehgal, Parul. “”The King Becomes Her.” The New York Times Magazine. March 31, 2019, page 27.
  4. Bowles, Nellie. “Human Contact as a Luxury Good.” The New York Times. March 24, 2019, pages 1 and 5.

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