It’s been a long day. As the 10th anniversary of Barataria approaches, it’s time to refresh and renew. This piece from nearly ten years ago is possibly even more relevant today.
When people talk to each other, there is a social code of acceptable behavior. When they interact with machines, there is no such code. If there is a machine between two people, the rules seem to not apply as easily, and people often act as if they are dealing with a machine – because that is what they have in front of them.
This happens in both cars and the internet. People who are decent enough in person might drive aggressively or say things on a chatboard they never would to a live person. The reason is simple: to them, they are interacting with a machine. The look in the eyes, the body language, and even the smell of sweat are all missing. The sensory experiences are all mechanical. Stupid jerkwad, what does he think I am, an idiot?
This would not be a problem if it were not for the fact that more interaction between people comes through machines all the time. You are reading my work as a number of pixels on the screen, and my personality comes exclusively through my ability to translate it into common English. Am I trying to put my heart and soul into a simple blog entry? Usually, I don’t. I write these quickly to get a simple point across.
Would it be more effective if I wrote my personality into it? Perhaps. I think I can write in a way that lets you know there is a human here. I immerse myself in the moment I am writing about and think through every emotion that comes to me. But this topic is on machines, and they are rather cold.
All I get from the warm glow of my screen is a creeping migraine that starts in the front of my head and works its way back. It’s not that different when I drive in my aggressive Miami style and these idiots are all obeying the freakin’ speed limit like a bunch of farmers or something. Hello? People need to get somewhere, that’s why we’re on the damned road!
Sorry. You don’t want me to convey what I’m talking about that way. You know the feeling, and you’ve been there. Black and white words are not a person’s soul, and emotions like this aren’t something you want to spend time with. And that’s my point – it comes up nearly continuously on the road and on the internet. I’m staring at this machine, not a real person. I don’t want to talk to a machine. I don’t want a bunch of machines in my way.
There is no good answer to this problem. It helps to remember that there is a person on the other end, but this part of the code requires everyone to behave that way. One person acting strictly as if everything is a machine quickly inflames the same passions in everyone.
Perhaps in the end it’s the same as any written material. If we can learn not to be enraged by authors, we can learn to behave the same way on the internet. Cars, on the other hand, will always be a point of contention for me. That’s a whole different story, however.