Professor Michael Abramson at Monash University in Australia has found that: “repeated predictive texting is likely to be training young people to act fast without thinking”. Furthermore, we are starting to shy away from tasks that take too long, things with uncertain benefits, and processes that do not offer immediate results.
This, I believe, is a very slippery slope. I suspect that accidental encounters with information and ideas will become less common in the future because we will use technology to filter out individuals or screen out experiences that do not fit with pre-set patterns or opt-in requests. As a result, reality may become almost invisible to many individuals. We will be highly connected to the world around us but most of this connection will be through digital filters and virtual channels. Many subtle physical and emotional signals could be minimised or even lost. Fleeting eye contact with a stranger on a train will become a more remote possibility because we will exist in our own behavioural bubbles, our eyes and ears set on divert to various sensory and escapist pleasures (see “iPod oblivion” on wordspy.com).
It will be a world that is highly conformist in terms of structure and highly personalised in terms of experience. I believe our minds will become muddled and muddy as a result. And if we are not pre-filtering or personalising media, we will have it done for us. The news cycle is accelerating and information is already delivered in snack-sized packages that often ignore or misrepresent broad context and understanding.
This point is raised by the Pulitzer prize-winning writer Charles Feldman in his book No Time To Think. Feldman speculates that if our current 24-hour news cycle had been applied to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, there would have been tremendous pressure to act immediately – and this could have resulted in Armageddon.
We will almost never be alone either. Machines will anticipate what we want based on previous behaviour or they will predict what we need, based on the patterns hidden in vast trails of digital data that we, knowingly or unknowingly, leave behind us.