Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hot or Not?

One thing about entrepreneurialism that grabbed me was the same change-the-world impulse that animated political activity. So I found that aspect of the Facebook movie quite fun to watch. The sense of riding a big societal tsunami on a surfboard and landing high on a mountaintop was palpable, and certainly one of the most awe inspiring aspects of the ongoing migration of human activity to digital networks is the dizzying speed with which the right idea can explode.

On the other hand, I find that I'm not that engaged when I log on to FB.

Perhaps it's that I score high on neuroticism traits... This recent piece in the Economist on human happiness across the age spectrum suggests that your satisfaction with Facebook will be a function of your underlying traits -- and I must admit that I do enjoy a quiet night at home (when the kids are reading and not screaming)

"Whereas neuroticism tends to make for gloomy types, extroversion does the opposite. Those who like working in teams and who relish parties tend to be happier than those who shut their office doors in the daytime and hole up at home in the evenings."

So maybe I'm just a stay-at-home whether online or in the real world, but I doubt it. I love an evening of good conversation with people I enjoy being with -- in the end, I think that FB is basically too flat an experience for me. While humans are obviously social creatures, the inputs are multisensory -- and there is a huge amount of bandwidth in realtime verbal and nonverbal communication --- think about jokes or flirting-- body language, tone of voice, facial expression, etc. is all missing online. Then again, we are in the early innings of the digital revolution, so guys like Kurzweil are undoubtedly correct about how much more there is to come.

Maybe when we have holographic displays and multi-user 3D chats, things like Facebook 3.0 will be richer and more satisfying. As anyone who has tried to moderate a meeting will know, you'll need some serious algorithms for that. We do have those embedded in ourselves when we engage in a dinner party conversation..

As I get off a phone call with my friend 9 time zones away, feeling much more connected that his FB updates ever achieve for me, it's clear that a key element of human sociality is its essentially synchronous dimension. Asynchronous communication for social networking seems to put more distance between us, and seems to concede too much to the artificial constraints on time that is the essence of the modern world.

If we are to reclaim the human, that is gonna have to go. That can't happen til the world of work turns upside down.

This review of The Social Network by Zadie Smith is a great read, and saves me the trouble of writing more: here

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