The point of no return or how much is TOO much – the modern Babylon Tower
words Slavena Panayotova
illustration Dario Santos
Ding! Pop! And your eyes immediately start looking for the source of the sound. Yes, exactly like an animal that’s just heard its own name being called or has smelt a delicious treat. Sounds familiar? But in your case, it’s your phone. Correction, it’s your friends, colleagues, your better half trying to get a hold of you, to connect.
You can connect with anyone anywhere anytime. You can catch up with your friend from Gibraltar while eating a schnitzel in Austria and answering your boss’s annoying emails, for example. Posting your job application and waiting for an answer for weeks now belongs to the past. And if you’re late for an appointment, you can just send an ‘I’m running late!’ text. How well is this!
Modern technology has changed our lives fundamentally. We are so well connected that we don’t even need to leave our homes in order to earn money. And we don’t have to go further than the front door to spend it either! Most of the time we are so busy swiping on our screens and typing messages in an effort to make our lives easier that we end up losing touch with the material (and emotional) world around us. We have even started expressing our emotions by choosing from a bunch of yellow faces. And this is all good until it gets bad.
Remember the Tower of Babel? According to the myth, there was a time when people spoke a universal language and decided to build a tower so tall it would reach the heavens. However, they were punished for their vanity and for forgetting that they were only humans. A greater being confounded their speech so that they couldn’t understand each other anymore and scattered them around the world.
Myths and legends aside, isn’t history repeating itself? Think about Google Translate, for example. Yes, it’s a good cheat when emailing foreign colleagues or trying to pass as multilingual in your CV but what about linguists and translators? Where do they fit in? Last time I was Skyping someone, the programme offered to interpret for me and I could even choose what voice should be used. And what about the process of learning, discovering, enjoying the other person’s language? I think we’re getting closer to the setting of the Babel myth, don’t you?
‘And the tower?’, you might ask. Well, on a more massive scale, scientists are doing what not nowadays - from changing people’s gender to changing people’s genetic structure even before they have been born. Sci-fi much? Then think about your daily life. How do you fill up your car’s tank? How do you pay for your groceries? How do you keep up with your workout routine? Correct, you choose to do all this by yourself, with the help of an OS. And it’s easier and faster but more and more dehumanizing.
Imagine life a hundred years from now. Man is capable of experiencing a variety of emotions thanks to the environment humanity had to survive in. Until today. We don’t really have to survive much. In fact, we are becoming more and more impatient and intolerant when stuck in not-so-interesting situations. We are forgetting how to write in our own languages. We are even forgetting how to speak them because we are gradually stopping to perceive the fine undertones of our interlocutors’ intonation. We interpret messages through our own problems and concepts, not being able to see the other person’s movement or to hear the joke in their voice. Our relationships with our parents are deteriorating just because we don’t use the same communication channels anymore. And love…love has been downgraded to a couple of swipes and likes.
So imagine life a hundred years from now. How far can it all go? How tall is our tower going to get? Can we make our reality even more care- and non-demanding? Are we going to reach the heavens or is our modern tower of Babel already shaking at its foundations?