171128 The big disillusion
Margaret Prescott and eight partners are starting Phant, a social network. Margaret is concerned about human issues, seen from the perspective of sociologist and artist who studies art as therapy. Her rationale is as follows:
“Humans want real connection and engagement — it’s good for us! — and thanks to the Internet and social media, we’re connecting more than ever. However, research links higher rates of time spent online with increased levels of unhappiness and loneliness. Isolation has become a health crisis—resulting in physical, mental, and emotional problems including shorter life expectancy, depression, and increased levels of stress (via the New York Times). It seems that, while technology has provided us with greater access to other people, for many, it has hurt our ability to form and foster deep bonds with others.”
Why do I hesitate to give the minimum of $5 to her IndieGoGo funding drive? Even though I like her idea, even the fact that she is working and a B-corp business model, there’s something wrong with her premise. It’s basically that she claims Phant, which is designed to help overcome loneliness and isolation, it has the same inherent technology that causes loneliness and isolation.
That is, physical reality.
Phant, like Facebook and other digital, online systems, is no substitute for face-to-face, physical engagement with people, processes and things.
Why? Because it’s easier. Physical contact is frightening in a world of uncertainty where the illusion of probability has taken over peoples’ brains and minds. From the chemistry of our brain functions to our intellectual reasoning, the path is toward isolation or grouping into shared clustering and power in numbers.
I would venture to say that one of the major dehumanizing forces at work in the world today is the disconnection brought about by the illusion of calculation based on probability, when it is an uncertain world that we really live from day to day.
Like the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional plane—an invention dating from the 1400’s and Leonardo Da Vinci’s time, today the notion that people feel connected by tapping and sweeping their fingers across a touch-screen is false. It comes from a chemical produced in a part of our brain which spreads to our thinking and rational actions. Not all parts of the human brain (and to some degree in other vertebrates) are impressed by this tiny center, this source of hope, love, anticipation and fulfillment. I think it may be traced to the nucleus accumbens—a coffee-bean shaped pair (one for each hemisphere).
Like psychological nuclear integrative fantasy (NIF), the obsessive and overriding desire to act at a distance, to live in a detached, imaginary world of virtual reality instead of the hard, physical reality is cultivated and encouraged by digital technologies such as social networks and virtual reality experiences.
We make a Facebook page. We buy a VR headset. We lust after virtual and/or augmented reality. I speak (or rather, I write) from experience. I am tapping my keyboard at my desk, it is 7:00 in the morning, I want to teach the world about the joys of printmaking and it appears I must join the mainstream (as Margaret and her associates appear to want to do).
In a keystroke I see today’s article about amazon’s new roll-out of Sumerian, tempting me with the words, I can “begin building immersive, interactive scenes for popular hardware and software (including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, HoloLens, iOS, and Google Daydream).”
Add to this a Halfwood Etching Press and we’re good to go with a social, artistic and technical network as old as technology itself with printmaking. I have called my proposal, Proximates—a global network of press-users who register their prints by date and location and thus make a virtual print-pal.
We wish we could be rich both in spirt and cash, and having seen billionaires get their wish to do this without hard, physical labor, sweat, tears and pain. As human beings equally endowed, our nuclear accumbens makes this dreaming so.
Other parts of our brain, both left and right hemispheres, obediently take up the task to make our dreams come true and to achieve this without getting dirty or tired. I want to order Sumerian, and choose a platform to go with my etching press. Would I then be happy?
Not unless it includes physical reality—such as working with people right around my neighborhood, like Ethan Lind and Ed Raub, Tom Kughler and of course my daughers, wife, sons-in-law and granddaughter.
Initially I was interested in Cyrus’ Despres’—Margaret Prescott’s husband’s—description of her project. I thought he described it as a story-building platform where people compared notes of a shared process. As he spoke, I thought of my project—an autobiography—and the shared experiences that might make my writing project a success. To think it would be read by the hundreds of people who brought me to the point in my life history and pathway to my goal (NPCI), I secretly wondered if Phant might be a tool to help me.
This project of Margaret’s, or so I thought, I must learn more about. I learned that Margaret is seeking funding, and she was attending some of the same Techstar workshops at the same time that I was. I learned later she is a consultant, therapist, studied at Antioch and is artistic.
However, when I read the premise of Phant—that people will be less lonely and their feelings of disconnectedness if they shared pictures of their dinner plate, vacation or a sunset with one another, I thought Phant looked identical to Facebook. Yet, I believe the so-called “social media” have the opposite effect of bringing people closer and connected.
The evidence is in the current position of the USA in its relations to many other nations in the world—some of which view our country as the worst and most dangerous on Earth. It is the disconnect between what we say we believe in—racial equity comes to mind after my time with Ed Raub yesterday—that is killing us and ruining the future of Earth’s human life sustainability.
The US has more prisons than universities, yet the founders of this nation said only an educated population can sustain its ideals. It will be for another country to realize the dream of a better world. My plan is combine reality—hands-on printmaking on real presses and virtual presses which lead to face-to-face interaction no matter how uncertain the results may be.