I was thinking about skipping this weekend’s blog post. There are a lot of important things in motion inside Shift Sight, and every minute counts. With great irony, tonight’s topic is communication with a helping of technology on the side.
“The medium is the message.” – Marshall McLuhan
Two Cups and a String
Communication has been wrapped in technology throughout recorded history. Cave paintings, smoke signals, paper letters in envelopes, and the electrical signals in the rectangular viewing device of choice. Communication is simply the sharing of a message across a medium.
At this point in history, humanity has the most choices for communication. Old mediums remain while new ones are added. I can still write or call someone, but now I can text them too. Technology tends to do two things to communication: 1) the medium becomes faster, and 2) the medium becomes more versatile.
Let's start with the latter point.
The humble scribe was the backbone of a fixed one-to-many communication medium: one author with one message and many readers. Printed books, another technology, tipped the scale toward speed rather than versatility. The scribe could not keep up with the printing press, and errors (unintentional or otherwise) were duplicated consistently.
Radio increased both speed and versatility. One message, ironically read from a printed script, could be delivered at the speed of radio waves. Errors could now be corrected with a follow-up broadcast.
Online Electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) and the World Wide Web took the speed of radio and upped the versatility: many authors interact with many readers. There is no single broadcaster.
Social media changed the game: algorithmically chosen authors interact with individual readers such that no two readers see the same thing.
What if we are getting better at playing the wrong game? How would you know?
My People Will Call Your People
Last week, I described society’s recent pursuit of technology as bubble wrap. It therefore seems appropriate to describe bubble wrapped communications as bubble mailers.
A certain social network offers “smart replies” in its communication service. Using artificial intelligence (AI), it will guess what you want to say to someone and give you some options to click on. You are being primed by these responses. You cannot un-see them, and they affect what you will do next whether or not you click on them.
Google has taken this a step further with its AI solution, making natural voice calls on your behalf. My AI will call your AI. What’s the problem? After all, efficiency is a must in today’s race-to-the-bottom world.
The problem is that communication is the foundation of all human relationships.
Communication is also a form of self-expression. AI is now threatening to censor and direct your self-expression. “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t let you make that call because you might be angry.” Although anger directs energy into the limbic system (fight, flight, or freeze) and away from higher reasoning, anger is sometimes the best catalyst for achieving a result.
You don't have to believe me. My AI will call your AI and they'll discuss it further.
The Ocean in the Seashell
What is said, heard, and understood are seldom the same. Communication is not what comes out of our mouth or our keyboard. It is not “what we meant to say” after our fuming partner makes us realize that speaking our piece was a bad idea, even if self-expression seemed appropriate at the time.
Communication is what you, the reader, understand. Communication has everything to do with the receiver and little to do with the sender.
Accordingly, how you feel about me has little to do with me. If you need an acid test, show this blog post to ten random people in your neighborhood. The message (this post) is fixed, but they will all walk away with different impressions of me based on their own experiences and biases.
Humans are flawed receivers. We tend to listen to what we want to hear.
Every flaw has a benefit. We can hear the ocean in the seashell. This may seem trivial, but it can be profound if you reflect on the possibilities. Listening is a skill that is meant to be developed, not outsourced to AI.
Jade is designed to help you unplug from damaging technology. There was careful consideration of communication since it is such a basic human function.
There is no “app for Jade” or social network associated with it. There is significant research that indicates people are hardwired to need to be physically present with someone to properly form relationships. Non-verbal communication is critical to human development and human sanity. Jade reflects this.
I’m sorry Dave, I cannot hear the ocean.
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.