06 September 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Real and Digital Relationships

Dear friends,

I hope you had a good summer and settling back in Madrid.

This Sunday we are discussing: Real and Digital Relationships

Just to remind you that we start at 6:30pm and please don't forget to
get your drink before you come down to the library: we don't have a
waiter service downstairs.

Real and Digital Relationships

It is well accepted that we human beings, like many other creatures, are
social animals. We need the company of others and we need the support of
others to survive. In the twenty first century we just cannot exist
without the support and services of others.

So for us the question is not whether we need relationships, but rather
is there a difference between real world relationships and virtual
relationships. Of course, we can take it that by relationships we can
include the amours types and the normal social types. This leaves us
with what are digital relationships?

There is no doubt that we understand what we mean by "digital" toady;
anything to do with social media, the internet and networking through
web portals even would more or less cover it. But just because the means
of communications is different from what happened in the past and, in
our case through a machine, it does not mean that these new virtual
relationships are somehow different from past forms relationships.

So one issue is the form and the other is the function, as in our case
the functions of relationships; either real or digital. One of the main
functions of relationships is to exchange information and the other is
to physically interact with others: we can try to find out about the
time table of a train, find the price of a book and so on. Physical
interaction might involve a kiss, buying a television set or spending
the afternoon with friends over a drink.

Virtual relationships are inevitably based on pure exchange of
information: what is the meaning of "illusion" in English, which is the
cheapest flight to Paris, is there an earlier train and so on? But of
course I cannot make a real cup of tea from my computer! For that I need
to buy the tea from the grocer; meet my beloved under the clock at the
station; take a train to the office.

The fact that real relationships and virtual relationships are uniquely
different suggests that maybe our comparison between the two is not
valid. But I submit that this is no convoluted Cartesian duality problem.

On the one hand the real problem is not the form (face to face meeting
vs computer time) but rather the degree of substance (function). Virtual
relationships generate an enormous amount of information by the very
fact that digital information is very easy to create and exchange.
Compare writing an essay on a PC and typing it on a typewriter, and then
sending it friends.

It is also very easy to start and establish virtual relationships, but
many times it is a matter of numbers game to find a decent relationship.
But real relationships are much harder to establish, least of which
because we can only physically interact with people within our
environment. But even this real world immediate environment has been
subject to expansion with such things as cable, wireless, letters,
ships, planes, faxes and so on. The virtual world is just another
extension of an evolutionary trend. We need to reach further afield and
we need to meet more people; the very same ambition Lucy in Africa might
have had.

But there are two major issues with virtual relationships, in a way to
balance some of the major benefits. The first is that we need to learn
how to assess and interpret large amounts of information which our
brains never had to contemplate. A million years ago, figuratively
speaking, our brain only had to sort out three questions: what can I
eat, how can I reproduce and will it eat me? Try to find a cheap flight
to Paris today that leaves at the time you want and the day you want,
but the basics are still the same: will they provide food on the plane,
will my partner love me more for taking them to Paris, and will the
airline company cheat me?

The second issue is that if virtual information is easier to generate
and to distribute it is also easy to intercept. Our virtual private
information is as safe as a box of chocolate left unattended on
Christmas day. Governments know what we are writing and what we are
saying, companies know our shopping habits, our faux pas on social media
are nearly open for all to see. But this has always been the case it is
just an extension of the evolutionary process.

But the Cartesian challenge has not gone away: how can our mental ideas
be converted into physical events? The answer is relatively simple, when
the brain understands certain information signals it activates the body
to act accordingly. This is why when we order a pizza from our mobile
phone it usually arrives in the expected time. Would a smartphone be a
magic box for people like Descartes, Plato or Kant?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Real and Digital

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