Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Other Environmental Crisis

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David at Raptitude has a good post, as usual:

During a holiday get-together, several times the topic of conversation became, “Things that have quietly disappeared from ordinary life.”

We had been playing a word game that requires you to come up with examples from obscure categories of nouns: shampoo brands, film directors, types of fish. When “fashion model” came up, we noticed nobody could name one from this century.

In the 1990s, some of the most famous people in the world were fashion models, but at some point the world-famous model must have become an obsolete institution. Nobody was sad about this, but it seemed interesting that we hadn’t noticed their disappearance till twenty years later.

Earlier, my mom had been unable to make a particular recipe because she didn’t have enough sugar, and didn’t want to make a trip to the store just for that. Someone asked, “Hey… why don’t people knock on the neighbor’s door to borrow a cup of sugar anymore? When did that stop?”

This did seem like a shame. Again, nobody saw it disappear, we just knew that the tradition of neighborly ingredient-borrowing stopped being a thing at some point.

I didn’t notice this theme before. We tend to notice when novel experiences enter our lives—the smartphone, Uber, Google Home—but not when old familiar ones stop happening. I remember my family’s first touch-tone phone, but not my last rotary phone call.

In 2017 David Byrne published a blog post warning of another familiar experience that’s quietly disappearing from our lives: in-person human interaction.

He pointed out that new technologies meant to streamline our lives—Amazon Prime, Airbnb, self-checkouts, streaming music, social media, DoorDash—tend to do so by reducing the need for a human interaction to take place.

What much of this technology seems to have in common is that it removes the need to deal with humans directly. The tech doesn’t claim or acknowledge this as its primary goal, but it seems to often be the consequence. I’m sort of thinking maybe it is the primary goal.

-David Byrne

Airbnb allows you to book accommodation, check in, and check out without even seeing another person.

Spotify gives you access to virtually unlimited music, and even recommends music you’d like. This eliminates the record store, any interactions that might have happened there, and any need to talk to other music fans to learn about new music.

When you book a taxi or a ride-share using an app, you no longer have interact with the driver, even to tell them the address. They already have the data they need. Soon you won’t even have the option of chatting, because there will be no driver.

Amazon is testing automated stores. You scan yourself in, take what you like, and walk out with it. Your account gets billed automatically.

Most people have by now had their first disheartening encounter with an “airport ipad restaurant,” where you sit down ungreeted, swipe your card, touch an image of a the meal you want, and at some point a person appears and places it in front of you. Even eye contact is unlikely, unless something goes wrong.

Imagine another ten years in this direction. Imagine fifty.

Human interaction probably isn’t in danger of extinction, but it is quietly losing great swaths of its natural habitat. Technology is making real interaction less necessary at work, home, and everywhere in between, which must mean there’s simply less of it in the world than there was a decade ago.

This loss is due to environmental degradation, just of a new sort. The environments life happens in—workplaces, homes, public areas, airports, stores—are becoming less . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2020 at 1:59 pm

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