The digital maelstrom: Challenge and Opportunity


One of the most important human need is connection. Regular connection to others allows us to thrive throughout our development, maintain a sense of well-being and belonging. Throughout millions of years, this need was fulfilled by our tribe. Our community. We learned to read other people, make friends, avoid strangers that seem threatening, We shared stories, secrets and turned stories into beliefs.

Fast forward a few million years and we are all living in the digital maelstrom.

Our community increased from the optimal size of 150 people to thousands, for some millions. Our hormonal responses based on very subtle cues of facial expression and body language are now trying to decipher video calls, short messages, and signal postings. It’s very stressful, it’s very challenging for all of us. No wonder, we transformed the way a community works for millions of years into a new way of communicating and living within a tribe in less than a generation. On top of that, we put a powerful device into our hands that can deliver a magic experience and drain our attention at the same time.

It’s exhausting for everybody. And so wonderful.

We make friends all over the world, reconnect with old ones. I traveled the world for a year and being able to work, thanks to technology. New ways to communicate and connect. New ways to experience the world and discover new ones. The digital space can be a magical place, a place of wonder and amazement.

It feels like a maelstrom because we are all learning how to deal with this new reality. While video calls seem theoretically like a good idea, we often turn off the camera because it feels unnatural to be on camera and not connect in person. We prioritize busy tasks over important tasks because checking Twitter seems more important and it was designed to get us back with quick hits of dopamine. We fall for made up stories, get outraged too quickly, share nonsense. We fall into the trap of likes and shares, forget about the real important stories way too quickly.

It’s to be expected. We were thrown into this maelstrom and we need time to figure it out, create new norms, new ways to transform the digital maelstrom into a more human experience. This year’s CES reminds us that the future is about virtual and audio assistant, 5G and AI. We can barely maintain our current lifestyle while new technologies are piling up and need to be addressed.

It’s tiring. And amazing.

New opportunities. New doors opening. New possibilities. Amazing things can be learned, seen, shared and new connections will be made.

But, it requires restraint from us. Future generations in the year 29,845 might be able to live in an always-on state. We certainly can’t. We need to learn when to turn it off, keep it off and use technology as a tool to achieve our goals. We might feel like cyborgs with that supercomputer in our hands. We are not. We are just humans with basic needs.

No need to apologize or feel bad about it. It is who we are. The digital maelstrom is here, will get stronger and more immersive and we need to deal with it. Right now, we are pretty terrible at it. But we will get better over time. It will take patience, discipline, and empathy for others. Because we all are part of the maelstrom.




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