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Moving closer to the Hivemind, 140 characters at a time

Moving closer to the Hivemind, 140 characters at a time

Jan 13, 2012

And we’re back.  Call it what you might, but this is the first episode of what is to be Season 2 of this blog. I also hate the word ‘blog’,  its too Xanga-esque. I don’t know what I am going to write about in my coming posts,  I may yet turn romance novelist. Until then, when 140 characters just wont do, that is when I open my Evernote and start tapping.

140 characters, its the one-line email of this decade. If 2011 was a year of revolution across the world, then it was certainly defined by 140 characters.

Beginning with carrier pigeons, human communication has moved across many mediums: letters, messages in bottles, telegraphs, telephones, emails, sms, im, facebook…and finally to today’s 140 character Tweet.

Look at that list,  while it is obvious that speed, and effort have decreased exponentially across the mediums, less noticeable is how constant our communication pattern remained until recently. Be it an email, or a phone call, or an IM, its was always between two people.

That was until Facebook and Twitter came along, and gave everyone a soapbox upon which to stand. In doing so, its changed the conversation from 1-to-1, to 1-to-n. And thus we have 2011.

Its very much Borg-like, yet paradoxically liberating. Why call someone, taking them away from whatever they were doing, so you can talk about your vacation?  Throw up a Facebook gallery, put a name on the gallery, and bang, Robert is your mother’s brother.  In the end, I know about your trip, everybody else does too.  I saw that really cool picture of the sunset, I get it, you had fun. That picture at the hotel, the one of the veins on the leaves, that was some real Robert Capa shit.

I know, you bemoan the loss of the one-on-one conversation. But if you look at all the phone calls, letters, emails and IMs, and you factored out all that could be shared seamlessly via social media, versus that which was truly private, how much time and effort have you saved?

Much like the end of the Cold War yielded a “Peace Dividend” that brought us the roaring 1990s, similarly I think there is a social dividend accruing from the emergence of social networks. We are all plugged in, we can know intimate details of far more number of people than we would have imagined in 2001, and we get it for free. Its allowed a generation of people to break free from the electronic time suck of the 1990s and 2000s: ideas, thoughts and emotions flow effortlessly. People can be left to their own devices again, to consume themselves in whatever outlet they choose, yet unlike the days of letter writing, they are not alone.  We may yet enter into a golden age  of artists, academics, engineers, and writers. all of whom were able to focus their individual time and efforts while floating upon a river of feeds, and streams of tweets.

Most of you are on Facebook, but not nearly as many on Twitter. I don’t usually make predictions, but here’s a pretty safe one: you soon will be tweeting. Sure, 95% of what is tweeted is garbage, lacking any depth and entertainment value for anyone but the writer, but thats exactly what thought bubbles are meant to be.


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