I’m getting old and starting to reconsider some of the positions and issues I’ve tried to champion over the years.
I was reminded of this last night, while Michael Coghlan, from Adelaide (where it was the next morning) was interviewing me for their Design for Flexibility project. At the end of the interview, he asked if I had seen the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars and the reactions in the control room at JPL. I said that I had and then went off on this old-man reminiscence about “back before satellites, when we hadn’t even seen the Earth from outer space, and now we carry around in our pockets, blah blah blah.”
Then he said, but did you see the excitement, hear the yells of triumph, the hugging and hi-five’ing — and I realized that I had missed his point entirely. These really smart people had worked for months, together, breathing the same air, experiencing the same thrills and let-downs, listening the the vibrations of their actual voices. Not only would these engineers have been unable to celebrate their accomplishment in such a way and with such zeal if they had all been working remotely and virtually, but they may not even have wanted to.
Many of us become excited and energized by the magic of technology — and rightly so. But we must be careful that living and working through networks should never be our preference. It should be the alternative that enables us to bridge gaps, to accomplish things that we never could before.
We should cherish and celebrate the electricity of eye contact, the warm affirmation of a smile and the agreement, even if to disagree, that a handshake acknowledges.