Are we looking forward to the end of human conversation?

“We’re trying to eliminate any unnecessary encounters with actual people,” explains Tor Bot, the DR Fude’s founder in a text message. “If you look at most people today, they have no desire to actually speak to another person. They would rather text or tweet. We’ve noticed that even dining companions never talk to each other anymore. They’re absorbed with what’s on their smart phone. In some cases they’re probably conducting their dinner conversation via text messages.”  

Tor Bot, founder of DR Fude’s human-free restaurant

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 9.33.17 AMI remember when bank ATMs first came along in the early 1980’s. Most folks were in an uproar. “But I like talking with Margaret, the teller. I don’t want to bank with a machine.”

Now, of course, we dread having to talk to a bank employee. They can’t possibly service us as well as technology. In fact, we’re probably pissed off if our bank’s app won’t let us deposit checks via our smartphones, since even the act of going to an ATM is an annoyance. We might have to talk to someone standing in line.

More and more we’re finding ways to avoid human contact. We shop online, which saves us from chitchat with cashiers or incompetent sales staff.  And thankfully we never have to endure a phone call anymore since we can tweet, text and comment on our friends’ Facebook statuses instead.

The next generation will be even less verbal. If you have a teenage daughter you know she can communicate for days at a time without ever using her vocal chords. Studies say the average teenager girl texts 60 – 100 times a day, but check your kids’ account online. In some cases it’s 10 times that.

It’s only a matter of time before we can avoid real conversations in all walks of life. We’ll take classes and attend school via our tablets and laptops (if they still have those in five years) where all our communication will be in bits. We’ll get medical care digitally or through apps and text services. We might even find ourselves looking up at the waiter and instead of answering what we want to order with spoken words, we’ll simply text our request.

At least that’s where I see thing going. You can see my prediction in this post on DR Fude’s, the digital/robot restaurant idea I predict will open soon.  Scribbled it up for the MITX blog as part of their What’s Next series.


I've been meaning to comment on this for a while now as I think it raises a great point. It reminds me a bit of Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows. It's a cautionary tale. Much like diet and exercise, people will have to schedule time in their calendars for inter-personal relationship sans electronic devices.  In fact, it will not only be critical, but a comparative advantage, in my opinion, because it is in those non-electronic times and deeply human moments where some of our most profound thoughts will arise.  


I suspect that movements and religious denominations (such as Orthodox Judaism, for example) which provide a lifestyle/community and way of life to encourage this will experience increases in membership as the downsides of a fully immersive e-lifestyle become evident and studied.