Nowism – Plato, Marx and instant gratification
Looking back to the first advancements in communication technologies it seems that sending messages from producers to audiences in shorter amounts of time has been a catalyst for advancements in technology. Mobile operators have been seeing a growing demand for data usage by mobile cellular phone users because users want more and they want it now. Internet uploading and downloading speeds are growing from year to year because there is more out there to consume. More and more smart phones are entering the market and third world countries seem to have jumped straight into broadband connection due to lower costs of infrastructural setups and communication technologies. These are just a few examples of a wider global trend that has been labeled as “Nowism” or the need for Instant Gratification.
“Nowism” or Instant Gratification can be argued to be a result of two factors. The first is human nature as observed by Plato and the second, as a consequence of the first, is a capitalistic system which needs to worry about its survival. I would like to start with the latter.
Marx has hinted towards this in his 1885 Capital Volume Two when arguing that a production based society needs to reproduce itself each time or otherwise it will cease to exist. It is easy to understand this concept when given an example. In order to increase consumption of products and services the means of consumption of these same products and services need to become available to consumers. In order to watch a video on Youtube you need to have a device and an internet connection, in order to watch a HD video you need a faster internet connection and so on. Thus, For the production process to survive it needs to maintain a production consumption relationship, one that will always keep demand high so the more production can be preformed and revenues will increase. I believe that “Nowism” is the total effect of this process that is moving towards a climax simply because what is more immediate than “Now”?
“Nowism” has affected our interpersonal communication also by instant messaging, emails, constant connectivity and other immediate means of communication. Just take some time to think how these technological advancements have affected our social order. Human invention capabilities are astonishing, but at times it seems that inventions are being invented, put into production, commercialized and consumed before taking a second to think of the possible effects they may have.
In the past 30 years human invention and creation has moved in such an amazing rate that generation Y for example has seen countless technology changes and that is even before they reach their 30’s. Only now the effects of these technology advancements are being played out and heard in the media (global warming, pollution, health concerns and the rise in ADHD diagnoses are all just a few examples of these effects) . What is more interesting to critically asses is our social relations in light of the need for Instant Gratification.
The first factor as mentioned previously is human nature. The social sciences rest on the assumption that the human being is a social creature, that it adapts and changes from society to society and from time to time. Plato says that human beings are not simple creatures, that majority of society’s conflicts arise due to the complexity of human relations. It is a simple formula, if human life and society were simple then that would entail that human beings are simple creatures. But we are not. This is according to Plato and others, and I tent agree, that a Utopian society will never be possible; at least not until something profound in the human essence will change. Why? Will Durant says it0 beautifully in his 1953 book “The Story of Philosophy” : “…men are not content with a simple life: they are acquisitive, ambitious, competitive and jealous; they soon tire of what they have, and pine for what they have not and they seldom desire anything unless it belongs to others (Durant 1953 p.19).”
With this dim view of human beings, that today seems still relevant in light of the economical and political changes we are witnessing around the globe, it is now possible to try and explain these rapid advances in technology and their effect on society. Are we ready to be constantly plugged in? It seems like by the time we have adopted a new technology or an application, one is already there to take its place. Once it goes live, or online, it may soon be irrelevant and obsolete. But have we gone too far for any salvation? Researchers are constantly trying to go thinner, lighter, faster, with the technology they are inventing. But are we ready for it?