Our society is evolving at a record pace towards a digital cosmos – a society in which life is largely digital. In the digital society of the future – in some respects, the near future – people work, party, play and make love online, and even eat digitally printed food.
The latest developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) are slowly preparing us to go even further. Not only are we replacing human interactions with digital ones; we are replacing humanity itself. The doctor, teacher, coach, psychologist, and so on can all be replaced by a computer.
Mattias Desmet has spent fifteen years conducting research into real conversations between therapists and patients. It has shown him how subtle and sublime real conversations are.
In real conversations, people’s bodies constantly resonate with each other. When people speak with each other, they form a supra-organism on a psychic and subtle-physical level. They are connected by a psychic membrane that imperceptibly transmits the most subtle emotions from one person to another. Every (real) conversation thus satisfies man’s first and foremost primal need – resonance with the Other.
In a digital conversation, this resonance is compromised, due to the limitations of technology: small delays in the signal transmission, restrictions on the freedom of perspective, seeing the other person only partially, and so on. Precisely because of this, long-term digital communication often leaves us with a dull and exhausted feeling.
The gradual replacement of real social situations by artificial ones in recent centuries and decades – through the industrialisation and mechanisation of labour, through the introduction of radio, television, telephone and internet – has taken an insidious toll. It is responsible for the most destructive psychosocial phenomenon of the Enlightenment: it “atomises” the human being, disconnecting us from our social and natural environment and plunging us into solitude.
Loneliness and atomisation is not just a problem, it is a problem with enormous social consequence.
Read the full article ‘Digital Depression and Lonely Masses’ by Mattias Desmet HERE.
Mattias Desmet articulated the theory of mass formation during the covid-19 pandemic. He is a professor of psychology at Ghent University and the author of The Psychology of Totalitarianism.