February 10, 2004

Metacomm Pollution

I was sitting having a sandwich and cold coffee, reading BBCi over my T610, when this idea struck me. It started with someone making some sort of wearable computer which is intended for a human, but a robot can also use it. Somehow building a robot that used stuff made for humans seemed very funny to me. I thought about it. The reason I thought it was funny was that it seemed to be very dumb to make bots use interfaces developed for us.

Think about it, the reason we have these vague interfaces for humans is because we as a species are "interface constrained". All our interfaces for communicating with the outside world are low on bandwidth and are inefficient to go. Why would you want to build a bot that uses a mouse - you would rather connect the mouse port and allow the bot the directly talk to the mouse port. Rather, you would rather that there was no port at all, which would take care of the low bandwidth and restricted data that can is transferred through a mouse interface.

Now think about it. We as humans are restricted by the rate at which we communicate. Remember the peripherals of the computer which was the reason why the processor was never loaded? Are we not a similar analogy? It is our rate of data interaction with our surroundings that prevents full fledged thinking. Take a look at what I am doing - I got this idea in under 10 seconds, and for the last 5 minutes, I have not even come close to explaining the core concept.

Humans are like computers with extremely slow data exchange interfaces and without multitasking.

Life in the modern world is driven by nothing other than this aspect of the human. Humans had basic wants like food, clothing, shelter etc. These were met. He then had some higher needs, which were also met. However as his needs were met, he started facing the effects of his twin drawbacks.

He started finding difficult to concentrate, to be productive. He found it difficult to think and talk at the same time. He found it difficult to communicate with others, put ideas across, get ideas understood and accepted. This has meant that man now stopped communicating ideas and started communicating about the need to communicate better. Sort of like meta-communicating.

Meta communication is slowly but surely clogging up the modern world. The effects of meta communication pollution is visible all over the place. Management is now the most meta communication polluted of all human practices. All the buzz words, all the terminology, all the talk is little substance and all hot air. However it is understood. And reused. Thus meta communication takes precedence over communication when it comes to management. The how's, the font sizes, the styles, the dress of the presentor. All these take precedence over the content, which is delegated to the backstage. Typical of the meta communication polluted day in the life of a manager.

Lets get a word in. Metacomm is short for meta communication, or communication about communication. It refers to all communication that is not directly related to the communication that has to be done. Metacomm also refers to all activities that are an overhead to the action being performed.

The next most metacomm polluted environment is the new fangled "process oriented" software development companies. Software development is an art and a science. When it is treated like manufacturing, a number of steps need to ensure that this metaphor works - metacomm. The CMM levels, the ISO certification - all refer to process orientation and more importantly spew out metacomm.

I could go on, but I will not. Metacomm is the next big evil that humans have to face. In fact it is the biggest evil in the recorded history of mankind. Information overload with metacomm pollution. Degrading lifestyles, deteriorating minds, stressful environments.

Metacomm pollution is the mother of all future shocks that toffler could ever imagine. And believe it or not, it is here.

And I have a feeling mother nature knows about it too!

More on mother nature, up next.

- ravi

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