The smells, noises and mixture of personalities is not always positive. The cultural, political and social melting pot also results in negative consequences for all.
Human civilization is a fascinating story about the search for ways to approach our own existence.
Until then we had spilled into small groups across the planet, but we found a different way to settle in the world, and get more energy from their resources via agriculture and keeping livestock to sustain increasing human concentrations.
We have not stopped intensifying this trend. But while we had the energy to keep so many bodies concentrated in one place, the expulsion of the products resulting from the activity has been a lasting problem.
Excrement, food debris, stagnant water, waste … The periphery of the agglomeration was increasingly farther away. So the smells, the smelly air, enveloped inhabitants on all continents.
Technological advancement supposes new energies to tirelessly move artefacts and enable an amazing amplification of the ability of humans to approach.
Currently, a fifth of the world’s population is at any time inside a machine moving from one place to another. And what about the ceaseless transport of supplies all over the planet.
But this wonder of having other people close to each other, previously unattainable, means getting carried away by an artefact that consumes a lot of energy and produces noise, a lot of noise, machine noises that the human being had never heard.
These noises do not cease. They envelop society perennially as smell use to do.
And to mitigate this presence of noise we do what we used to do with pestilence: hand perfumes and incense or other aromatic substances in places; and now they are the headphones for the pedestrian and the ambient music in many premises where human agglomeration is apparent.
An attempt to contain the unpleasant with more smells or with more sounds has become part of the normal.
But in the 21st century we have begun to live another experience of human approach: a proximity without places.
We have been caught up in a networked world, where you don’t have to move to meet.
It is no longer a condition to agglomerate within a walled enclosure, nor to enter much of our time in a mobile machine, but to connect to a network.
And the counterpart is not the stench or the noise, but the fixation. It is not the sense of smell that is affected, nor that of the ear, but that of sight: the gaze is fixed on a screen.
Increasingly on the screen, people, information, objects, activities are within reach of the eyes, so that it is absorbing, because behind that mirror there is a world that does not stop showing itself not only within the reach of the eyes, but at your fingertips.
That world so close does not just pass in front of our eyes, because we can touch it with our fingers, so in addition to being held the look is also requested the touch of our fingers, which do not stop pointing on the screen.
The combination of vision and touch transform the small screen into a kaleidoscope that retains our attention and that drives us to shake it again and again so that more images continue sprouting.
This digital, networked world, which is providing us with such experiences of proximity to other human beings, to information in whatever format it is in, and to events as distant as they may take place is in its infancy.
But it already reveals a power of transformation for this history of civilization in search of the world and, therefore, humans are closer.
Today a world so close, within our reach, has upset us, because it is a disturbing experience, unimaginable for our body with senses reduced to a small space, pedestrian beings limited by distance and by the number of bodies that can meet in a place.
It is possible that today’s screen, practically our only umbilical cord with the Net, is diluted and our hands and eyes are detached from this fixation.
The emerging digital orality means that the spoken word is used more and more to transmit information that is now displayed on the screen, thus downloading the attention that claims to fix eyes and fingers on the screen for any activity.
Question, listen, talk will be revitalized. And augmented reality will give rise to us to what today, virtual, only manifests itself behind the screen.