We're Not Connecting


There's a void in our world. And it grows larger every day, while simultaneously becoming less tangible and harder to identify. Yet it deepens still. You can sense it right now as you hear my voice.

It's digital communication - an incomplete attempt at recreating human interaction through technical means.

This is nothing new. You can go back to the advent of the written word or even cave drawings as our first attempts at simulating human interaction via an external medium. The idea was to transmit a part of ourselves to someone else whom we could not be present with in that moment. So we built systems to accomplish this, and adopted them with a caveat: "This is a supplement to, and not a replacement for human interaction." During the American Revolution, George Washington once remarked, "We haven't heard from Benjamin Franklin this year, we should send him a letter." The expectation was to use the tools when possible, but always to default to direct relationships. Yet as we've improved our tools, the line between real human communication and communication via external mediums has blurred.

In the last 100 years, we've seen the rise of the telegraph, the radio, the telephone, the television, and the internet. Is it any wonder we've lost our ability to truly know one another?

The choice we must now make sits squarely at the intersection of connection and convenience. We must decide both in our personal and professional lives how we want to relate to each other. An elderly grandmother can now yell out, "Call my grandson!" and a live video connection will broadcast his face in seconds. A global startup team can edit a spreadsheet in real time, with 20 users displayed on screen as colorful tokens moving through the document together.

But would anyone say this is a replacement for being in the room together? Some would, and therein lies the problem. As technology has advanced to the point of real-time interaction, near-perfect visual and audio clarity, and complete workflow synthesis, we've flipped the script: "This is not a supplement to, but a replacement for human interaction."

Companies around the world have gone full-remote. Friends are foregoing reunions and meetups in favor of Facebook stalking. Husbands and wives are divorcing over text message.

At the end of the day, we are living, breathing creatures. There's an ever-increasing complexity to our being that we may never truly comprehend. But technology is a tool. It does not breathe, it does not think, it does not live (much to the chagrin of Alexa enthusiasts). As our tools more closely mimic reality, it's that much more imperative that we remind ourselves that technology is in fact, not reality.

We must proclaim our humanity first - and separate the rest.

When we approach technology as an external tool, conscious and respectful of the immense power it yields, we can achieve unimaginable feats as a society.  We can end global hunger, we can eradicate diseases, we can move people around the world in minutes.

So let's use technology to do great things together. And then, let's connect.

Robbie Klein