Recently, we went to see the Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams at the Liverpool Playhouse. There is a wonderful line in it ‘People go to the movies instead of moving’ when Tom Wingfield comments on everyone living life vicariously through the action-packed life of Hollywood stars. The play was written in the 1940s long before the advent of smart phones. Nowadays people interact with their smart phones rather than with the people around them but still live vicariously through the lives of celebrities. Recent research has found that many people today would actually prefer to deal with computers that appear to understand them rather than with other people, according to Richard Waters. This is a shame because one of the things that makes humans different to computers is our ‘inbuilt propensity for social interaction’. Computers are unlikely ever to replicate our emotions, curiosity, irrationality or creativity (See my post entitled ‘Engineers are slow, error-prone…‘ on April 29th, 2015). So put down your phone or switch off your computer and interact with your fellow human beings.
Richard Waters, Jobs for droids, Essay in Financial Times, Weekend 17/18 October 2015
I saw the same production and it was excellent. I would extend Eann’s point beyond the choice (or tension) between interacting with a smart device and a real person. He’s right, but sometimes the choice is between talking to a person and bottling it up. My reading of novels and my observations of student behaviour over the last 50 years have led me to scream out (sometimes only internally, so as not to shock passers-by) “talk to each other!”. A problem shared is a problem halved, as the cliché has it. This applies to our difficulties in understanding key bits of engineering as well as in making sense of the social world around us. Ask a friend – or even just an acquaintance.
Reblogged this on Kool Kenatro (Bajan13K) and commented:
Another good reason to take walks in friendly places, and talk to strangers. However, I think the article forgets that you can be friends via computers, which would be a better choice than trying to interact with uninterested, or uninteresting, people.