It was a friend of mine, who triggered the process of writing of this note, when he introduced me to ‘Charlie’.
As some of you know, Charlie is this App that does the basic groundwork for your meetings, preparing you for every meeting on your calendar by collecting information on the person whom you are planning to meet – his or her tweets, his or her blogs, his or her linked-in profile, and his or her views as well as any recent writing on the net etc.
So by the time, you settle down in a meeting room or in a business hotel, Charlie would have prepared a profile on the person(s) you are intending to meet, including his or her interests, hobbies, and other recent activities. I am sure that there are other similar apps on the net, but the first time experience is eerily intriguing. The other day I got into a meeting where both of us were encountering the other through Charlie.
It is intriguing because Charlie is just a harbinger for things to come in the near future that would transform our lives and relatedness – there is a new form of consciousness being created today – about self, relationships, communities and most importantly the Other. I am calling this emergent consciousness as ‘e-consciousness’ for lack of any better term.
With the proliferation of the chip leading to the reality of ubiquitous computing along with the cloud, and the brilliant wave of ‘internet of things’, we are creating a complex network of knowledge systems and artificial intelligence that define us and describe us.
From the clothes with embedded chips that we will wear, the contact lens that allow us to access internet directly into our brains, to a new medical care that will transform the society – including diagnostics and reporting of diseases, blood pressure, cancer, et al, to driver-less cars and taxis that would map our life-journeys, to the books and blogs we read and write, and the photos that we share – ubiquitous computing is and would create intelligent force-fields that define our identity and our lives – another form of collective consciousness – that I am labeling as ‘e-conscious’.
Living is getting simpler as technology transforms the world around us. We don’t need to remember names, addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, anniversaries, critical data, history, past knowledge – as all this is readily available at the push of a button today and maybe just thinking about it in the future – as our brain waves would access this complex network of intelligence through haptic / kinesthetic communications. Our memories that are stirred by deep emotions and intense encounters can be saved and stored as bytes of data – accessible to loved ones, intimate friends.
Today we are speaking of virtual life that can be re-constructed at will. Intense encounters, adventures, nuances of romantic love, sexual trysts, excitement, creative expression – there are scientists who are talking about constructing these virtual worlds customized to one’s tastes and preferences.
The e-Conscious & the Human Encounter
We are in the process of constructing the ‘e-Conscious’ – quite akin to the collective unconscious in terms of complexity and linkages, but only more visible and palpable. And in this brave new world that links us through the cloud and ubiquitous computing, and in creating new algorithms of engaging and relating, what of the human encounter would remain the same?
So for example, in my encounter with the Other – both of us constructed and deconstructed by the e-Conscious and its engines including Charlie, what kind of relatedness would I encounter is an exciting question to ponder upon. Would the e-Conscious only limit our relatedness to skills and competencies, delineate only instrumental interfaces, or would it offer more creative encounters? Would we box each other in the profiles and identities that are generated by the e-Conscious, or would we attempt to flesh these and add to these…
Take for example, the coping and defense mechanism of projection – an unconscious process that all of us engage with while coping with the anxieties of relating to each other. Freud conceptualized Projection and considered that in ‘projection’ – thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else. What the ego repudiates is split off and placed in another human being.
The e-Conscious transforms this process by allowing interesting possibilities and choices. For example taboo feelings and withheld desire, that are thrust into the unconscious, and subsequently projected on the Other, can be engaged and experienced legitimately in a virtual world. This may lead to a complete fragmentation of the psyche and the identity processes – ‘Who am I?’ as a question would be answered through various virtual interfaces. Or it may lead to a more evolved way of relating for it would necessarily mean owning up the darker feelings within, while engaging and experimenting with these.
Thus the question that emerges is whether the e-Conscious as it looms large on the horizon would reinforce the fragmentation of the individual psyche or lead to a more mature way of co-holding the dark and the light side.
Learning and the e-Conscious
The other human process that changes between my generation and the next is ‘Learning’. The e-Conscious exists as a knowledge and data bank – accessible to all of us who are on the network. When I was young, those of us who could memorize facts, objective truths, and data were considered geniuses.
Today the e-Conscious changes all that – learning has a new definition – that of discovering patterns within self and the Other, and that of exploring the subjective truth. Learning moves from being instrumental (as e-Conscious is there on tap) and becomes more about synthesis, self authoring, and transformation through self awareness. The latter is still some distance away from being routinized in the e-Conscious.