Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Electronic Leash

Since time immemorial, our most basic means of communication is using voice. We talked, we sang and we shouted. We did all that initially. Unfortunately, our voice cannot go very far. So we wrote letters and had it delivered over long distance but that was just too slow. So we invented stuff to help us to communicate in real time over longer distance.

Hundreds of years of ago, we used fire, bells or smoke to send signals. There were no better alternatives until the 1800s when a slew of inventions greeted the world. Telegraph and radio may sound archaic today but they helped to propel the world forward back then.

Not too long ago, pager was a common tool in the 80s. Some called it beeper for it would irritate us with that shrieking tone which was meant to chase us to return a call. It was not entirely trendy to have one. I personally found it to be a great bugbear.

Then came the mobile phone. The cost of owning it somehow linked it to affordability and that alleviated it to become a status symbol. Today, it is so fused into our lives that we won’t want to leave home without it. A day without a mobile phone can cause separation anxiety. Carrying one with a flat battery can bring much frustration and having it stolen would certainly trigger some mild psychological injuries!

If that is not enough, we have Blackberry and portable PC to ‘help’ us say connected at all times, 24/7, here and abroad. Within the norm of civilization, there are probably very few places in world where we can remain uncontactable.

Human has created a series of electronic leash and we are now leased to each other by choice or otherwise. Come to think of it, we could just switch off our mobile phones but somehow we won’t. The feeling of being disconnected is just too unbearable!

We used to be able to preserve some sanity while on board a plane. Well, thanks to technology, that privilege is dissipating. Now, more airlines are introducing WI-FI on board. What that means is that, we will remain leased as if you are on land.

Good news? Nightmare? It depends.

I am thinking ahead... and imagining our future. Will they plant some chips in us and have us tracked by satellite one day? What a shuddering thought. Even if they don't, the electronic leash can only get thicker and tighter. We shall all embrace our future where people will be closely knit, virtually.

I miss the human touch.

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