Monday, February 20, 2006

One Ring Tone to Rule Them All

As we proceed down the road of our ever-connected society, it is becoming more difficult – not less – to keep in touch with those around us. I don’t mean that in our time-pressed lives that it is becoming ever-more challenging to make time for the person-to-person interactions that make us human – although that is certainly a problem in and of itself. What I am referring to is that it is getting more difficult to know how to reach someone, due to the multiplicity of electronic communications devices.

Here is the myriad of ways in which I am forced to try to get in touch with my wife, just to let her know what I will be home late for dinner:

> I can call her at home;
> I can call her on her cell phone;
> I can text her on her cell phone;
> I can send her an email to her personal email address;
> I can send her an email to her work email address; or
> I can attach a note to her carrier pigeon (I made this last one up).

Notice that each effort is actually not an attempt to communicate with her. I am actually communicating with a device that is a proxy for communicating with her. In the old days (I will leave the exact definition up to each of you), we communicated with places: you could send a telegram to a location, from which location is would be delivered. You could place a call to a telephone in a particular location. Hopefully your intended recipient was within shouting distance of that phone.

I suppose that the current system is an improvement: I communicate with a device in hopes that the device – being more portable than the telephone attached to your kitchen wall – is in your pocket, hand, purse, etc. Of course, there are multiple devices; some devices may be in a location where a call won’t go through, but text will; and I still have to use a hybrid model: I communicate to both devices and locations in hopes of finding the intended recipient of my earth-shattering message.

Now I realize that there are entrenched players in whose interest it is to continue this nutty system, e.g., the phone/DSL company who profits from every communication effort I listed above (except the pigeon). I’m fine with paying them. I just don’t want to pay them multiple times with no assurance that my message is getting through (I sound like an advertiser).

Maybe the answer is to implant a chip in each of us (the mark of the beast and all that) that will either enable us to reach each other or at least let us know that someone is calling. The endgame – I want to communicate with a person: why should I search numerous locations or, now, numerous devices, just to ask to keep dinner warm until I get home?