Saturday, June 09, 2012

No One Needs Us Anymore

The other night I had dinner with a group of travel agents.

I was curious how the economic, technological and generational shifts were affecting their industry, so I asked what the future of their profession looked like.

And without skipping a beat, this one woman launched into a story that blew my mind. About a week ago, she was talking to the cashier at a local bakery. When the guy asked what she did for a living, Cindy said she was a travel agent.

The cashier replied, “I thought you all were dead!”

Proof once again, there’s nothing more frightening than the prospect of irrelevancy.

The only problem is, no one needs us. We’re a dying breed. Everything people used to need from us – information, answers, ideas and advice – is available to them right now, for free, in perfect form, forever.

It didn’t used to be that way. There was a time when we were vessels of knowledge. Pillars of wisdom. Narrators of the story of life. And paragons of experience that those who were hungry could climb mountains to pursue, even if only to touch the hem of our garment.

But now people just google stuff. Nobody needs to wonder, think, reflect, ask, create, mediate, listen or read.  Just download, verify and repeat. Download, verify and repeat. And if we don’t do something to reverse this trend, our species is not going to make it. If the pendulum doesn’t start to swing the other way, we are not going to last.

Human beings are social creatures. We need to need each other. Our craving for belonging, connectedness and togetherness is no less essential that food, water or shelter.

But if we insist on ignoring, avoiding and circumventing each other – if we continue to solely depend on the pixels of digital surrogates instead of the perspective of actual people – we will continue to become less human by the hour.

Eventually, we’ll serve no purpose other than fleshy holsters for electronic devices.

We don’t need more access to information.

We need more access to each other.