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Less and less is the answer to the Internet

Go to Shutterstock or any stock image site and type in “guilty pleasures”, what do you see?

Mostly pictures of women making various facial expressions at sweets.

Since when have sweets been associated with guilt? And why mostly women?

And how many people are aware of this association as a product of social conditioning? A social conditioning process could take place over generations, but once it is built in into the collective psyche, it changes generations.

The Internet era has been in its full blown glory for more than twenty years, still much shorter than the lifespan of a generation. Yet, look at some products of social conditioning that have been slowly seeping into our psyche, accelerated by the omnipresence of the Internet:

  • When a stranger talks to me, s/he must be having an agenda of some sort.
  • When someone shares an idea or an experience, s/he must be looking for agreement, expressed as Likes or equivalent digital currencies, as s/he knows that Likes may lead to sales.
  • It is completely normal to walk around a social event with headphones on and showing no interest in people and activities around you. In a similar vein, it is completely normal to walk through forests and along rivers with your eyes glued to smart phones, with noise-cancelling headphones on of course. Virtual and augmented reality, whilst opening up many amazing different ways for digital interaction, will make this behaviour even more expected, hence “more normal”.
  • Time is very precious, thus we need to live our lives to the fullest, to the extent that it is ok to accept or reject a stranger using just a swipe of the finger, in the name of convenience.
  • Time is very precious, thus we need to live our lives to the fullest, to the extent that one can just spend a few days on a new craft and claim mastery of it (*). Then tick an item off the bucket list, and move on to the next one.
  • It is normal, when you first arrive at a new place, to pull out a smart phone immediately to take a selfie with whatever that thing is in the background, then move on to a new one. Whilst moving to the new location, ignore the road and spend all your time commenting on the photo you Instagram’ed or pinned. Because time is very precious, and we need to live our lives to the fullest #inspired.
  • Being famous, as in having a lot of followers – some hopefully human, is the sure sign that “you have made it”. Until then, you can just fake it by using increasingly nifty techniques to attract lots of five-second doses of attention.

The Internet is a wonderful thing, and it has changed lives in many parts of the world.

But the current socio-economic model of the Internet is deeply flawed, as Ev Williams of Medium and many other progressive minds of our time have pointed out. The real result of this systemic flaw is not in the increasingly deeper divide in opportunities and affluency across the globe; it will be in the conditioning and corruption of hearts and minds, many too young to realise what is going on – they who shall inherit this world.

I first took part in the Internet revolution 20 years ago. For some time now, I have been feeling partly responsible for the monster we have all created. 

At a fundamental level, the current Internet socio-economic model encourages more and more, whilst the real answer to human qualities that have stood the test of time, such as humility and commitment, is in less and less. This more and more approach is not all negative, of course, as it has resulted in a wealth of information online, and thousands of useful digital services. But it probably should have run its course.

How less and less is going to take shape on the Internet is not yet known, but I suspect that it will be reflected in depth rather than breadth. Deeper relationships, meaningful connections, end-to-end services, holistic socio-economic business models from wealth generation to social impact, etc.

I think about and experiment with this problem almost every day, as it interests me. And I will not even dare claim that I do this for the sake of future generations. I do this for my own sake.

(*) Master Jiro Ono, of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame, considered himself an apprentice after a lifetime making sushi. And he meant it. Authentic masters, regardless of craft, rarely consider themselves masters of anything.

📸 Viktor Hanacek