“SEVEN seconds, my dear friends. SEVEN seconds. That’s how long it would take for Mr. Browser to click away from or go on clicking towards YOU—your company, your product,” said the Facial-Care-faced guy in an impeccably tailored pin-striped GQ-inspired suit, some hotshot guru for business and market development in Asia Pacific for a leading net-system software.
“Ergo, marketing strategies have to be calculated at lightning pace. Throw away all you learned at business school,” added this amiable vanguard of the WorldWide Mess—er, Mesh. “Don’t you ever doubt it: businesses will inevitably have to formulate new models at breathtaking speed. Oh yes. It’s a whole new ballgame. An exciting, challenging ride to a great new world of unimaginable opportunities. Grab every chance you get. You snooze, you lose.”
It wouldn’t be wild to surmise that almost the entire audience of dry-cleaned, cellphone-infected, espressoed-out yup-yup-yuppies listening to him that day were as awestruck as I at the forecast on the imminent tidal web—er, wave of internetization coming to sweep us into a world of clicking relationships.
“Better get your boat ready lest that wave drowns you,” said the sleek alpha geek.
Aaack! The tomorrow sci-fi warned us about is right at our doorstep, and I’m not yet dressed! Thought I.
Drumrolls! Enter the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) lady honcho from Singapore in flawless Armani business garb. In calculated soft-spokenness—you understand, in business, clothes speak louder than words—she foretold the one-click shop no further than your fingertips that will program your vacation to “Zee-boo” (Cebu) with absolute glitchlessness.
Addressing the hundreds of zealous humans of all manner of entrepreneurial persuasions sitting at the edge of our cushiony seats, she said with an unsmiling smile in her unblemished English with only the faintest trace of Singaporean clip, “Say good-bye to the fifty-something people you normally call to help plan your business or holiday trip, to construct a perfect itinerary, book your tickets, your hotel, your car rentals and transfers, synch your schedules and route your tours. Just a click, perhaps five max. Yes, fellow business comrades, we are plunging head-on towards a stress-free society! Go ahead, sip your Cappuccino, have a hot shower and a little gossip on the side because machines will be doing the stressing for you.
And, should typhoon Haian happen to drop by Cebu on a day too close to your flight date, no worries. Just as you step out of that relaxing shower, the purring contraption on your desktop will ululate a message from your one-click shop saying that your itineraries, hotel, car rental, tours, etc., have been re-booked already to a typhoon-free, sunny-skied, worry-free time. Relax, watch your movie, go to a spa, or have a little more gossip or Facial Care or do more crosswords.”
The Brave New World Business Conference—a name never more aptly chosen—lasted all of ninety minutes. Ivy-league speakers of compelling charisma, mesmeric video presentations of academy award-winning proficiency, fascinating PowerPoints of riveting forecasts were brought together with such ingenious programming, listeners were motivated to heart-attacking inspiration.
In the stupefying—to put it mildly—aftermath, my mind swelled with prognostications of a world taken over by artificial intelligence. Visions of mall-less streets—who needed stores when a mouse was all we needed to get our groceries, books, CD’s, furniture, houses, and cars, and whoa, even dates or spouses! Ordering clothes through a cold monitor, easily clickable fashion statements delivered at your doorstep. A thousand books in one device, movies in the palm of your hand, unending selections of music in a contraption the size of half your palm.
I imagined my sister’s travel agency with “Closed” signs boarded over it and in its stead a sign, “Exclusive Distributor Of Computer Vaccines,” posters shouting “BAN VIRUSES FOREVER!”
With not a small amount of glee, I envisioned traffic-less streets freeing up some clean air, possibly less garbage. Cold cash would be a rarity with clicking and plastic going around for payment; pick-pocketers would be jobless!
I imagined lawyers overstressed at marriage annulment cases because the defense of defective computers or viruses for rocky alliances will be tough to overrule. I envisaged net counseling for marriage, family, business, doctors.
That was twenty years ago.
Today, many of those visions have come to pass. New businesses have flourished: fake computer vaccines, computer hacking lessons, Radio Frequency Identification systems, cellphone bombs, drone assaults, Skype, Viber, ad infinitum.
Brain cancer and other cancer friends of microwaves and radiation have also reached record highs. Still no vaccines for that though. I wonder if by now the techies have combined forces with fashion czars to make radiation-proof designer clothes. I think they’ve already concocted pharmaceuticals for massive cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, surgical procedures to correct them and other such tech-related physical handicaps from the click-away life mode. I know there are a number of tech-designed mice for the mouse-challenged. Not to mention, epidemics of back problems, scurvy, muscular atrophies, obesity, strokes, ad nauseam, all directly traced to overly sedentary lifestyles, to lack of circulation and vitamin D……
While online shopping trends are expanding, malls are exponentially increasing faster than you can say “hey look,” teeming with oceans of ceaseless humanity. Traffic has grown to epic heights never before imagined—life-threatening, hyperventilating, blood pressure-rising, crime-instigating. Sister’s travel agency is still alive and kicking—they figure marketing strategies daily to ride that tidal wave so it doesn’t drown them.
Looks like people just can’t stay away from people. When a machine, in its rambling, tortuous monologue leads us on from number to harrowing number—press 2 for this, press 3 for that… —don’t we all call out for, seek, demand, a human being to exchange words with?
I am startled by the earsplitting wails of a baby in a stroller nearby whose distress jars my musings. Not too far away, her mama comes rushing to cuddle her little one close to her bosom, and baby suckles from her in satisfied, sloshing solace.
A calm, tender feeling washes over me: those thinking engines, however hi-tech, seamlessly designed, far out, mind-blowing, uber, “perrrr-fect,” still can’t give us food … still can’t give us the warmth we hunger for … still can’t love us back ….
We need the earth beneath our feet, we need the sun upon our skin, we need some dirt on our hands. We need the hug that keeps us sane. After all, we are people with a powerful life force running in our veins inseparable from the Supreme Cause of all causes.
We are not computer chips. People need people. People need God. And that, my friend, makes ALL the difference.