Back in the ‘80’s, I read a sci-fi book – don’t ask me the name; I think it was lost when my apartment flooded in the ‘90s – that was set in the future. It was part of a series, each book focusing on a different “colony” of people living on earth. At that point, the earth had changed and people lived a fully urban life, either in domed cities (a favorite of futurist science fiction writers) or in underwater cities on the floor of the ocean and maybe there were some floating in the air or on the moon or something. The volume I read was set in an underwater city. I don’t remember much about the book aside from that premise and one other aspect.
This society was a true democracy – one person, one vote, no electoral college. Voting was easy: you voted on your wrist-watch. And it was constant: leadership (Congress?) would ping you on your watch and say, “We’re thinking of outlawing X” and you would respond Yes or No. People voted throughout the day, at random moments, Ping!, thumbs up/thumbs down, without much thought, and go on with life. And this is how their government made decisions. “Ok, a lot of people like it. It is done.” One bad day, where everyone feels fearful because mercury is in retrograde and they can’t get their TVs to do what they want, and bad repercussions for ages.
In some ways this book predicted the future: smart watches, where you could receive and approve messages, and influence governmental decisions? Nah, it could never happen.
And could you imagine a day where you are just going about your business, maybe you’re taking your kid to the (underwater) park to play on the (underwater) slides, and ping! Hey, what do you want us to do about funding social security? Oh, Like. Dang, hit the wrong button – sweetie, you shouldn’t have distracted me; now you’ll have to support me when I’m old.
Or maybe you’re in the (underwater) grocery store. Ping! How about sending 15,000 troops to the southern border to keep imaginary (underwater) migrants from invading our country? Oh, Un-Like. Now, where did they move the (underwater) toilet paper to? I hate it when they rearrange the – Ping! What now? Again? No, I told you, Un-Like! I hate it when he just keeps asking until he gets the answer he wants.
No dilbertation – I mean deliberation (Dilbert-ation is what you actually get), no debate about the merits of either side. Just a quick decision, followed days, weeks, months or years later by a realization that, oops, that decision had consequences.
A scary premise, but how often do we live our days like this now? Oh, cookies! Ping! And you don’t even realize you ate the whole box until later. TV on. Ping! Where did those four hours go? I meant to go to bed early tonight, oh, well. Pick up your phone and Ping! I’ll just answer one more email, respond to one more ticket, then I’ll get down to real work, and then you wonder why you didn’t have time to work on the strategic stuff.
And at work: the stores say they’re uncomfortable with this new software. Ping! We’ll roll out another new software program that promises to make things better. No reflection on why they’re uncomfortable. Money down the drain, time wasted, a huge distraction from selling. What a frustrating store visit, the employees weren’t doing what I want them to. Ping! Another new training program, another emphasis on evaluations, another frenetic doing without considering what really needs fixing and what the real consequences.
Sometimes you have to live with discomfort, open yourself up to the uncomfortable questions, listen to the complaints, and make a thoughtful decision that you implement in a deliberate manner.
Sometimes you have to avoid a quick like/dislike of every ping! on your wrist-watch.