Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Social Networks - Part 4, where would we go next?

Continued from Blog 3...

Let’s step back from buying and selling (Blog 3) to more generalized collaboration; a topic that I started in my 2nd blog.

Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize their shared goals. This work requires active communication both in terms of physical coordination and intellectual exchanges.

Our ancestors communicated synchronously, in which all parties interact with each other in real-time, using gestures, signals, voices and finally verbally in the form of languages. Regardless of verbal or non-verbal, all of their communications took place in real-time as all parties were able to observe and process their information instantly.

At some point in our evolution, we started using marks and scratches to inscribe and later paint pictures. This gave birth to a method in which a person communicates to other asynchronously. All the parties were not needed to be in same physical space to receive the communications. However, this was a one-way information exchange at any given time like emails.

During the past 5500 years or so, our collaboration has been improving, marked by many new communication tools, with each one starting a new phase of growth. Here are some examples of these tools, though this is not an exhaustive list:
1.  Written language – 6700HE or 3300BCE
2.  Paper – 1015HE or 105CE
3.  Printing Press – 11400HE or 1440CE
4.  Telephone – 11876HE or 1876CE
5.  Digital Computer (Z3) - 11941HE or 1941 CE
* HE stands for Human Era which starts from 10,000BCE. We are now in 12012HE.

If we look at the trend associated with the introduction of each new communication tool, we will see that each new tool increased the volume of asynchronous communications. However, the first major breakthrough in improving synchronous communication was the invention of the telephone. Internet provided more ways of synchronous communication like video chat. However, we are limited in how many simultaneous synchronous channels can be open at any given time due to the design of our physical senses. This is the reason that if we have more than a certain number of people in one room, in a chat room, on a phone conference or in a video conference, we cannot coordinate effectively.

As pressure is mounting on synchronous communications, because the volume of asynchronous communications has increased astronomically, we are adopting near-synchronous communications in the form of emails, Twitter and Text chat. These methods are not synchronous but do have a level of interaction. 

Some questions that I had been asking myself is where would we go next? Here are some possibilities:
  1. Our brains continue to evolve and we become more efficient in using near-synchronous methods like Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc.; this is something that I talked about in my first blog on the generational changes in the number of active interactions we could have at any given time. Technologies like Cisco Tele-presence or Anybot will continue to push the limit on virtual presence. How far can we go with this and how would our social behaviours change in the future?
  2. "We will bypass our normal five senses for synchronous communication and develop a link between digital world and our brains." Would we ever dare to do this? Would our brains be able to process larger volumes this way? Would it improve our understanding of each other’s emotions and feelings?
  3. A combination of 1 and 2.
  4. Something totally different.

In the coming weeks, I will think about these possibilities and will need your thoughts and ideas.

I would like to specially thank following friends who have helped me in thinking more clearly by asking the right questions and improving the way I communicate my thoughts:
Emily Hunter
Evan Blumer
Heather Griffin
Nabila Siddiqui
Vikas Gupta
Zulfiqar Ali



  1. Brain-to-Brain Interface coming soon...


  2. http://www.engadget.com/2014/12/24/smartphone-use-alters-brain-finger-link/