“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.” — Oliver Sacks
According to Talk Talk Mobile (London), the percentage of Britons aged 18 to 25 who find it easier to express themselves in emoji than in words is 72.
Let’s say that they’re off by almost 22%, that’d still be over 50% that preferred ideograms and smileys to… words, words, words. Which reminds me of Act 2, Scene 2 of Hamlet… where Shakespeare gives us a complex character… with depth… and all kinds of interesting traits that can’t be condensed into some telegraphic form.
But backing off of fictional Danes and getting back to today’s Brits, note that — among the general public — only 17 percent trust politicians, while 94 percent trust nurses and 64 percent trust the “man on the street.” With younger Brits… the trust factor is way down with regard to all three demographics.
Well, the question arises as to what that group of young cartoon-loving citizens (totaling around 8 million or so out of 65.64 million) does, if anything at all, when they feel screwed by politicians… which is happening ’round the clock these days. Nothing much more than tweet, I’d say. Nothing much different than what their counterparts in the U.S. are doing. And that’s echoed among other age groups in both societies.
I keep hearing how “the new generation” is very pissed off, and is gearing up to make a difference at the polls. I differ with my take on the youngsters. I see them, for the most part, as almost totally absorbed in self-centered activity, and — in keeping with their preference for childish images over words — doing much less reading than their counterparts have done in recent previous generations.
In fact, I don’t see much reading going on except respecting what’s going on online, mostly on highly suspect or silly outlets. In-depth reading, the reading of books and articles which might be considered counterparts to Shakespeare in the social sphere is very hard to come across these days. And the fact that youngsters read less and less for pleasure does not bode well.
In 2015 Oxford Dictionaries named emoji the Word of the Year. But the dynamic which embraces it brings tears to my social consciousness, tears at my soul. For youngsters cannot be whole now or in the future unless they behold the miracles of daily life with reverence, and express their deepest emotions with something other than high tech gimmicks.
Silicon Valley is on track to distract people from the fact that they’re giving up on the power of language; one of the beauties of language is that it enables its own dissection. And folks who do not see that are susceptible to Silicon’s self-serving agenda.
That agenda is very much in bed with the notion that entrenched power interests will profit by dumbing down the interest in language among everyone. Folks across the board are being encouraged to trust the “black box” algorithms that are being developed by corporations in secrecy. This leads to the creation of products like what the software company Northpointe developed with their proprietary algorithm called COMPAS… one of several suspect products.
COMPAS is used by courts to score the risk of recidivism for parole candidates. Northpointe has refused to disclose how the algorithm works, but an assessment by ProPublica found that it is twice as likely to wrongly classify African Americans as high-risk compared with whites. Whether or not Northpointe’s disputing their analysis is spot on or not, the fact is that software like COMPAS is in use all across the nation, and we should be sounding the alarm that Artificial Intelligence is not the way to go in hardly any realm. Certainly not with respect to parole decisions.
The hours that the first driverless bus in Las Vegas operated before getting into an accident was… ONE. But I shouldn’t have to point out how Northpointe and their counterparts have crossed a line, threatening to run over lives. Seeming to want to run lives.
E.M. Forster, in his 1909 short story “The Machine Stops,” imagines a world thousands of years in the future, where humans live in subterranean pods, fearing the air above and relying on an omniscient machine for their every need.
This is clearly the way things are going, and clearly why we must move in solidarity against the momentum regardless of the daunting odds facing us, courtesy of Facebook and its first cousins in the marketplace of ideas and idiocy. The dumb down drug pushers.
Thing is, unless teachers and parents and other concerned citizens stop texting while driving, stop accepting donations in schools from high tech corporations, and begin to radically change their present way of life vis-a-vis high tech products, youngsters and others are likely to only post a frown when something upsets them, never consider — a very short while from now — going downtown to protest in the streets, or bringing down the powers that be another way.
Without Shakespeare in the social sphere our atmosphere is likely to be radiated by a weapon or faulty operation run by Artificial Intelligence. And the few remaining humans — unused to trusting their senses — will have no alternative but to rely on machines for a life no longer worth living for.
Something for which, I’m guessing, there’s no emoji for.
Valleria Ruselli can be reached at email@example.com. She is a member of the Oxman Collective. No emojis, please.