19 December 2005
If you have a niche, scratch it...
I don't wanna go to school today! Everyone hates me! I just want to stay in my room.
Well, now thanks to the exponentially growing electronosphere, your elementary school tantrum can be a reality. In the underdeveloped world, a person was likely to live and die within a few miles of their birthplace. They would work, learn and raise families all within a relatively small geographic region.
The same was true in the developing world, until the advent of the industrial revolution. At that point folks simply started to move about. It is estimated in the United States that at any given time, 25% of the population is moving! This is a stunning statistic.
We are now entering, I propose, a period of contraction. There is now appearing a trend to not move and to minimize the range of exposures one must face. A recent paper published in the UK in 2001, addresses the issue of electronic governance and the rapidly changing role of business, government and its citizens.
We are now able to reach out to all corners of the globe via blogs, web cams, e-mail and a host of other virtual methods. But I see the backlash of this as people more often choose to sequester themselves in insulated realms of existence.
We can customize our information intake via a host of cable and satellite channels. We can choose only to converse in "realms" in which we feel comfortable. Our interaction with the outside world can be reduced to the basics, the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.
Faith Popcorn described this as cocooning in the mid 1990s. It's real and evidenced in a number of externally measurable metrics. The decline in movie attendance, the loss of membership in volunteer organizations and other indicators of social withdrawal.
The problem, as I see it, is that this cocooning is non-geographic. Each household becomes and island in which citizens become distanced from one another and become vulnerable to real issues which are related to location (i.e. storms, crime, etc.).
My prediction, we will see a return to small enclaves, although they will exist in the virtual most of the times. This will further fracture modern society as the ability of people to interact and develop legitimate understanding will wane.