It is paradoxical, but it seems that the more hyper-connected we are through the Internet cloud, the less connected we are as humans.
When I was studying philosophy at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, I had the privilege of being able to print my works on a square Mac like a drawer, which used a dotted ribbon. My classes were face-to-face, and life was good on slow summer afternoons, when we avidly followed the lessons of that brilliant generation of Italian surnames who forged us with pulse and rigor: Sasso, Piacenza, Desiato …
Life was so beautiful, that I already felt a deja vu, a reshimov, that this model was not going to last long. Already living it I felt nostalgic, I was able to see myself when that life on campus was a memory that fades, like a watercolor in the rain.
Google appeared as a search engine, Gmail as email, Facebook as a social network, YouTube as a substitute for cinema and TV, and the encyclopedists’ dream come true: Wikipedia. The campus, face-to-face education, and networking were going to make a quantum leap.
The first Internet gurus thought that everything was going to change, but they fell short: today my whole life is on my phone, my money, the photos of my loved ones, my medical data, my jobs, my books, even my classes. I teach by phone.
I share this condition of being hyper connected day and night with billions of people on the planet, in my two languages, Spanish and English. Does that mean that we are more connected as humans? I’m afraid not.
When I started studying Kabbalah with Michael Laitman at the Bnei Baruch Institute in Petak Tikva, 13 years ago, I began to experience in advance what today -as a result of the pandemic-, has become the norm, but it was something that, at that time, I could not do explain to my friends, my colleagues at the university or the politicians with whom I worked: the video meetings on Skype, the classes on the virtual campus, the colossal library of Laitman classes available to all Humanity, the digital books …
However, that impressive development of digital connectivity has brought more isolation than unity, connection or empathy. Billions of lonely beings with their faces lit by the little light of a device where they see other billions of human beings just like them. Each one has become a small world, a microcosm, which is duplicated in each cell phone as a kind of fractal, whose shape is also replicated towards the macro, groups, communities, nations that no longer have borders in this hologram or digital world, in which we have lived for 30 years since Internet appeared.
In theory, it would be enough to touch an icon on a face, speak, leave a message, and we would contact that person to tell them something we have imagined, or to tell them that we have been thinking about them. But we rarely do. There is like a decorum, a code, that the Internet is not made for that, but for specific, practical, material or, at best, hedonistic things, like Tik Tok.
My philosophical hero, Richard Rorty, was a consummate anti-essentialist. Man does not have an essence, he said, a human condition into himself, that differentiates him from other species, Aristotle’s zoon politikón and Marx’s homo economicus were meta-stories that we accept in certain situations to navigate, because the world is very confusing.
Not being essential humans, we look more like a growing sponge, which is nourished by the liquids and contents that surround it, which are reaching it, and from there, from intrauterine food, through breast milk or pizza that we had lunch yesterday, nutrients, memories, emotions, groups of words and sensations are being built, which constitute us every time we wake up and until we go to bed, fragile and contingents humans whom an avian flu can make disappear in a tris. What happens during the dream may not be of this physical plane, better not to touch it.
I remember that there were some legal, political, ideological fictions that were accepted for a certain comfort, so that the world could continue to function: I am French, I am Venezuelan, I am American, I am Israeli, I have parents, brothers, children, I speak one or two languages I’m from the left, I like women, I believe in economic freedom and human rights, I’m a die-hard Real Madrid fan …
Someone could even be described by the way he made a living: I am a doctor, I am a fruit seller, and that was a condition that could be for life. Today mobility means that a doctor can end up selling fruits, that a gymnast ends up being an influencer, and a boring teacher ends up being a pornstar.
It is not that identities have become liquid, it is that they are demonstrating their precariousness, their continuous fixing, reconfiguring and rebuilding themselves on a daily basis, like the walls and buildings of that nightmare movie called Dark City.
The fairly durable identities of family, gender, nationality, and occupation have been relegated to a precarious and minimal base.
When interacting in the digital hologram, we can even choose a beautiful avatar that we are not, we change our identity daily if we please (we put a new avatar, a change of state), and thus the identity becomes a work in progress, Something very hard, by the way, and that hits us somewhere remote, although we do not consciously perceive the blows, but whose effects are felt in the long run, on sleepless nights illuminated by the light from the little screen.
When I was at the UCAB campus we were connected in person, in small groups that touched and felt each other. There was a good part of our identity.
Today we are connected with thousands of whom we do not know, who we do not feel, and who sometimes complain on their FB walls: but what do you really know about me?
Kabbalists and quantum physicists share the belief that, more than matter or energy, the universe is made up of pockets of information, which lasts forever.
We are made of the same atoms that arose during the big bang. That is something we have in common with amoebae and Pleiadians, if they exist at all. We are made of stardust, and perhaps that is why our body vibrates like a harmonic when we contemplate the Milky Way on a clear night. We reconnect with something astral, we know that up there is our origin.
Our passage through this world (whenever we have awakened) is above all a search for reconnection, the re-ligare of the Latins or the yihud of the Hebrews.
A fuzzie model of the human condition moves away, and today we navigate a sea of masks, of avatars, in which we can spend our entire lives, from one to another, while we walk slowly towards the last shadow.
When we run out of signal on our smartphones, an atavistic instinct causes us to point the device towards the sky, trying to regain the lost interconnection. That may be an icon of the current human, a homo avatarensis.