"We are going to have to live through a truly tumultuous period in human history as our technology overwhelms the social and cultural framework of our day and transforms it into something new (and not necessarily better)."
Vint Cerf
Back Community =
"Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese,
pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!"

So, what does an old McDonald's® slogan have to do with "community"?

It used to be that a "community" was comprised of a relatively small number of people living interdependently within a small geographic area having common needs, interests, problems, aspirations, etc. "Close-knit" would be an apropos adjective. Technology slowly but steadily eroded interdependence between individuals. It fostered the development of vast cities, independent travel, self-service — and thus isolation within a sea of people.

On the other hand, technology temporarily back-filled the void to some extent first via network radio and then TV. In the U.S. at least, it wasn't too long ago that television instilled a sense of community among the masses. In the 1950s, '60s and '70s there were just three primary network channels. A popular TV program back then could mean a very large percentage of viewers were watching at the same time. And the really effective commercials more than influenced behavior, they became part of it. How many of TV's first generation, the Baby Boomers, warmly remember these even after several decades:

  • Look Ma! No cavities! (Crest toothpaste)
  • M&M's® melt in your mouth, not in your hand (M&M candies)
  • Helps build strong bodies 12 waysRealityCheck!  (Wonder Bread)
  • See the USA in your Chevrolet (General Motors's Chevrolet)
  • M'm! M'm! Good! (Campbell's soup)

Years later, in the early 1970s, a popular challenge was being able to recite the McDonald's Big Mac® recipe from memory. Many still can. It's sad to say that in many cases this shared experience — tenuous as it
Siblings and parents harbor feelings of loneliness, isolation and alienation — and that's just among themselves.
is — generated a sense of community. Even worse, given today's fragmented TV audience with literally hundreds of channels to choose from, viewing is almost a one-on-one affair with no sense of common experience at all.

It's so bad now that the phenomenon can even be studied under one roof; where family members could each be watching different programs on different TVs, in different rooms. This is in addition to playing video games, surfing the Internet, gossiping on cell phones, and rocking to their own beat with donned headphones.

And that last opportunity for bonding — the family dinner — is headed for extinction with the increasing consumption of single-serving take-out and individually portioned, quick-cooking convenience food:

Stone Soup
STONE SOUP © 2002 Jan Eliot. Reprinted with permission of UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE. All rights reserved.

The consequence of all this? Siblings and parents harbor feelings of loneliness, isolation and alienation — and that's just among themselves. Apathy towards fellow citizens, government and the natural environment is all too common.

Community = Phrenicea!

Per the Phrenicea scenario of the future, the equation changes as the 21st century progresses, but the end result is not much different.

Physical isolation is now facilitated by Phrenicea, rather than techie gadgets. Phrenicea eliminates the need for socialization, exercise, travel — even procreation — to the point where inanimate cubicle dwelling becomes a practical form of existence. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and alienation are minimized through mental engagements with Phrenicea. Still, the basic skills for human interaction are lost — replaced with self-conscious and shy behavior. Face-to-face human discourse is very rare, requiring advanced planning and significant coaching.


We encourage you to learn more about the Phrenicea scenario and to see whether this mid-21st-century equation adds up for you.

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