Words


From the time that human beings moved from sign language to speaking, words have become the most important form of expression. Communication has been the key to the process of human evolution. Sure there have been other factors that have also led to the evolution but communication has been the most important. Most of the inventions would have failed if there was not a communication channel to help reach out to masses.

When it is about communication, can the conversation about advertising be far behind? 🙂

Advertising helped the masses in getting to know new products, new technologies, new ideas. Stuff that was relevant for them. Of course advertising moved from mere information dissemination to more evolved approach of plugging a need gap, creating a desire, making people buy something which had lot more attached to it than pure functionality.

But this post is not about advertising or communication. It is about words. Words that string together to form a sentence. A sentence that communicates what we feel, what we like, what we don’t life, express our point of view.

Long back when there was no internet, no social media, no communication apps, we relied on speaking face to face. For long distance, there was post – Inland letters for regular updates, written pages in an envelope about detailed stuff, love letters, fights, breakups. Everything had a ritual to it. Everything had anticipation. That waiting for the postman to arrive or checking the mailbox as soon as you got home. That first reading of the letter quickly. Then taking time to read it the second time. Pondering over words on the page. Trying to visualise what the person at the other end was feeling when writing. Lovers treasured the letters and visited them over and over. When a break up happened, a bonfire was made of the letters. The letters were burnt but memories remained.

Cut to 21st century. We still communicate. More rapidly than ever before. We type and hit send. And the fact that it is all instant (try this sometime. How long do you wait, how often do you go over what you have typed before pressing send), has meant that we don’t much bother about what the words can do. We don’t pay attention to the language or even to specific words. Words that may cause hurt, anger, love, misunderstanding. There is no crossing out once ‘send’ button has been pressed (of course apps are looking at building a recall feature – high time). The problem is that receiver too reads the messages instantly and reacts instantly. We say people have become more expressive today with all the fancy stuff they can do with emoticons and emojis. I say we have lost the art of communicating. Art of using the right words. Art of pondering over what we really want to communicate.

Back when we used to write, we would go over what we had written again and again. At times tear the sheet if we felt it sounded wrong. There was a clarity of thought. For the sender and for receiver. Not anymore.

Considering that we now ‘talk’ less and text more – love happens on text, proposing happens on text, sex happens on text, break up happens on text… we don’t think too much before typing and sending the message. We do not think of the impact words can have on the person who gets the message. Even when we read the message, we read the words. We do not try to read the intent behind the words. We do not visualise person’s state of mind when he/she was typing out the message.

It is a pity though. For someone who loves words, loves what they can do, it saddens me to see what we are doing to them. Not just in personal communication, but even in the profession I am in. The art of writing. The art of persuasive words has disappeared. It has disappeared because we don’t have the craft. The client doesn’t want too many words. The evolved consumer thinks in terms of number of characters rather than sentences. Thinks in terms of emojis. So we also need to communicate the same way.

We don’t read enough therefore we do not have the vocabulary to express well enough.

This though doesn’t matter so much. We get what we deserve. Of special concern is breakdown of communication between two individuals and that really is the sad part of being in the digital era.

Swimming pool is closed


Back in the days when we lived in a world which was clean and unpolluted, its the change in the fragrance that symbolised change of weather.

These fragrances, hard to describe, heralded the onset of a season. The subtle shifts in temperature when we moved from winter into spring and then into summer or when we moved into winter.

The shifts, subtle yet so sensorial, we loved them.

Spring cleaning and warm clothes being given lot of airing before being packed or being put in the sun to remove the smell of nephthaline balls as preparation for winters.

All the cues of the change were out there for us to smell and to see and feel.

The symbols have changed. “Swimming pool is closed” notice on the society notice board tells us we are moving into winter. Or in March “swimming will open from…” tells us that it’s time for summer.

The clearing sales by various brands are another signal of a change. The conditioned air in offices and people complaining that it’s either too hot or too cold are signals of change.

There are no fragrances in the air or the perceptible shift in the temperature anymore. More than that, we don’t have time to feel any of that.

The day we made one screen our window to the world, is the day everything changed. Now our world is just size of the screen. The weather app tells us the weather. Posts and tweets tell us of the changes. Detailed weather charts tell us of the summer or winter or the monsoon.

Pollution has played havoc (we are to be blamed of course. Let’s not try to shift the blame anywhere else) and made the fragrances disappear. The temperatures don’t change much. Winter is just about two weeks of intense cold. Summer just doesn’t go away.

I am not going to get into the role food plays with the changes in season because that will make this post never ending, given the foodie I am 🙂

So here is to the onset of winter – swimming pool is closed.

Artificial Intelligence


Short post. There is a lot of buzz about Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Now I got nothing against technology but this sure makes me wonder.

What happens to genuine intelligence? What happens to “Real” reality?!

Is it signs of time that we are living our lives virtually so much that we cant consume anything that is real? AI has been built by real Intelligence. Virtual or Augmented Reality is just about vicariouness. Nothing beats being there for real.

I guess we are ready for technology to take over our lives in more ways than one. Be slaves to the master called technology. The bleak and desolate images shown by Hollywood may not be too far away. I do hope they don’t come true in my lifetime. 🙂

What do you say?

Times


Quoting yet again from a book by Stephen King. This time it is from Christine:

“…there are ” times” in human existence. That when it came to be “steam-engine time”, a dozen men invented steam engine. Maybe only one man got the patent, or the credit in the history books, but all at once there they were, all those people working on that one idea. How do you explain it? Just that it’s steam engine time.

Comes the Civil War and all at once it’s ” ironclad time”. Then it’s “machine-gun time”. Next thing you know it’s ” electricity time” and “wireless time” and finally it’s “atom bomb time”. As if those ideas come not from individuals but from some great wave of intelligence that always keeps flowing… Some wave of intelligence that is outside of humanity”.

Interesting concept right? Through the ages we have had these waves of discovery and inventions that have propelled humanity forward (or hurtled downhill).

There was a dotcom wave where everyone wanted a website that will help people do something and then there was a bust wave too. Just like it is for startups now. Everyone wants one. A 100 others want to be part of every startup that comes into existence. Of course the Malthusian theory of population is at work in corporate world too and hence we see more companies going under than stay afloat.

Not just discovery and inventions, it is also true for people, politics and religion.

Political parties stay in power or ousted depending on the wave. It is not so much the anti incumbency factor but the dying of the wave. Look at our own country. BJP rode to power on a new wave. Congress lost because their time had ebbed. Would Obama had won if he could have gone for third term? Probably not. It is time for Trump. Just the way it was time for Obama. Same goes for religion globally. Won’t discuss that. Its for everyone to see. Not to forget what happened in Germany with Hitler.

Look at history. Dynasties came into existence and then died. Why did that happen? It was their time and then it wasn’t.

Our lives too are driven by these “times”. There is never a stable continuous path to our lives. There is no constant upward movement. Or downward movement. It ebbs and flows. However, we all hope that every downward spiral when it ends, settles higher than the previous low. (Just like market shares which always settle a little higher after every sales promotion). Yes we all want that there is no downward spiral. But it is not in our hands. Time drives everything. Just the way it is said in the song by The Byrd’s… “Turn turn turn…”, there is a time for everything.

Look back at your life. Look back at history. Look back at technology. Look around what’s happening. It is time at play. We are being either buffeted by the waves or floating on serene waters. Now if only we understood this concept, will we not be less disappointed, less stressed and less distressed when it is not our time? Will we not make the most of it when it is our time?

The world around us of course doesn’t give us the luxury to think things through. We are at it constantly. We fight even harder when the times are tough (to not fight is to let the world tell us we have failed). But the fact is, we can’t fight time. I am not saying we lay low and do nothing. But it is about not creating points of resistance for time. Because sooner or later, our upward journey will begin again.

Holds true for humans and holds true for corporates. Cut, slash, burn will not help you grow. It will only make things worse. But stick around, ride out the storm, look closely for trends that you as a person or organization can use to start the next wave. We all can’t be Columbus or Einstein. We all can’t be leaders and innovators. But we surely can develop a sense for the trends. Sense for what trend will fit right in with our capabilities. Oh and before we jump on to the next trend, we must ensure that it is not just a quick passing phase that will be over sooner than you utter the word trend. Quick is always disastrous in the longer run. For individuals as well as corporates.

The key is to understand where we are on the time continuum and gear ourselves accordingly. During an impending natural calamity, we do not break down things, we shore up, we strengthen so why do we do otherwise with our lives.

The digital age


You are not human anymore. In a world driven by binary, you are just a number. Or maybe you used to be human but then came the real digital age… when brands and marketing teams decided that you need to be analysed as data. 

The social network wanted more of you on their platform so that they can sell you as numbers to the marketeers.

And here is the thing… you agreed. You opted in.

Your life was made bare with every post, every status update, every checkin, every review, every share, every new addition to the list of contacts. You let yourself become data. And then data became big data. The more people who jump in, they bring with them lot more information to be mined and made available for brands for better targeting.

Now it is no more about your experience of having a coffee, a meal or watching a movie. Data is gathered about where you have that coffee or meal, the kind of movies you watch, how often do you go as a couple to watch the movie, which theatre you frequent, what’s your favourite show timing (Mail I received from bookmyshow the other day!)

You travel and google travels with you in the background. The map knows your home address and office address (two destinations frequently traveled).

You look at the information and depending on your digital evolution, you are either amazed or shocked. But hey, it is too late. You opted in every time you pressed “I agree” for any app without reading the fine print.

So there you are… just a number to a digital marketing professional. The professional who probably knows you way better than your spouse or partner.

So all those who crib about privacy should shut up. You got seduced by technology and now it is too late for you to complain about intrusion. Might as well figure out if there is something constructive that can happen, now that the brands and marketeers know you so well. 

And if you don’t like what is happening… do the digital disconnect. Now that would be the toughest thing for you to do. Remember you got seduced?

Living in our Matrix


large-matrix-blu-ray7The basic premise of the Movie matrix was this world which for the population is a real world but in reality it is a simulated world.

The movie was released in 1999. 17 years down the line, I think we are living the matrix life. Our lives have been taken over… Taken over by what we perceive is the reality. The reality that is being defined every single moment by technology.

The lines have got blurred between reality and virtual reality or augmented reality. We have been enslaved by the digital world. Zeros and Ones define our lives. Control our lives.

How did this happen? Or rather how did we allow this to happen?

It happened because we were seduced. Seduced by the world that opened up because of technology. Access is the oft used term. Liberated is another term. We were led to believe that technology is the best thing to have happened to our lives. This seduction… the temptation perhaps matched the temptation in the Garden of Eden…

It started off slow… initially there was cynicism but then the charm… it worked its magic. Social media became the driving force… and the various forms in which we could connect with the world, slowly and surely pulled us away from what reality was… Virtual space took over our lives.

Today we rationalise our presence on social media and various tools of connectivity. We justify our reasons to be present constantly in the virtual world.

We have more faith today in what we read in the digital space. What we read on twitter. We are so ready to get ourselves worked up… only to realise it was for a wrong cause.

We have reached a stage or reaching a stage that we will be perfectly happy in the world that we have created in the virtual space. Why? Because the virtual space is with us all the time… at work…at home.. away from home… it allows us to connect and do things at work… it allows us to stay connected with family, friends, relationships, work, our dreams (created by the virtual reality)… So we see no reason to disconnect. We see no reason to make the choice of a blue pill vs red pill. Though if we were to make the choice, nobody is going to be a Neo. We will all prefer the virtual vs real.

My generation and perhaps couple of generations behind me still have the grasp of real world. But the teens and the ones in their early 20s, they have grown up to believe in the virtual world as the real world.

And that is what technology wants. Because the more you believe in virtual, the more you will buy into the newer technology that makes the experience even more fulfilling. And soon enough, Matrix will become real.

(image courtesy alden-tan.com)

When the operating system changes


android-ios1.jpeg

 

So yes, after spending years with Android, I also fell for iOS!

It is like stepping out of the comfort zone.

Isn’t this true for most of us?

We get too comfortable with our status quo. Peddle out excuses for not changing. Even if things are not alright, we continue to exist. Refusing to accept the new. Refusing to accept that life needs a change. Happy to (no not happy but perhaps resigning ourselves) continue with our life the way it is.

I was the same. I refused to accept any argument against Android. Kept saying I will never shift to iOS.

And then figured… what the hell… let me take the plunge. Let me change something. Let me step out and look at life in a different way. It is strange isn’t it? How I am talking about life in the context of an operating system. But that is what our lives have become, given how much interaction we have today with screens vs real people.

We connect more with people through the screen than in real life. Because what is beyond the screen, doesn’t give us enough time to interact up close and personal with people we would like to interact with. We start living on multiple levels.. what is happening around us and what is happening on the screen. Lines between real and virtual increasingly get blurred.

I guess when nothing big is happening in life right now, changing the operating system perhaps is a little pleasure of making a change. Who knows, it could be a harbinger of change in the life beyond screen too!

It has been less than a day and the struggle is real to adapt but hell yes! it is exciting : )

(image courtesy blackchilled.com)