12 Jan 2023

I’ve been thinking of connections lately and the various forms they can take. I’m going to start with a definition of connection and work from there:

Connection (n): a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.

Okay, so there is a relationship between people, things, or ideas. That makes sense. But now the question comes up: how do we connect people, things, or ideas?

Language could be one answer.

Being in close physical proximity is another.

So is being in the same place as someone in the past.

Of course, there are infinitely many more types of connections, but I wanted to illustrate it with these first.

If we take each dimension of connection one at a time, we can start to find interesting limitations to each, with respective opportunities as well.

For the first connection, language, the obvious is the language barrier. Different languages, different cultures, maybe enough to say “hello” to each other but not much else. What is being done within the language barrier space?

But it’s still not quite there, is it? I can’t go to Korea and put in my AirPods and instantly understand everything around me. So, there is still work to be done. This is not to say that I don’t think learning a language is valuable in its own right. In fact, I’m learning Korean right now because there are certain phrases there that just don’t have an English translation.

Let’s take a look at the second type of connection: being in close proximity to each other. Airplanes, cars, trains, boats, bicycles, and buses have certainly made this more feasible to connect over time. But there are still instances where being in close proximity just isn’t feasible. The pandemic made this especially clear, and so a new wave of remote friendly companies aimed at making it feel like you’re close have popped up. But they don’t feel like anything. They feel like yet another app. Another set of lights on the screen.

So, what are we to do? Well, AR/VR certainly have progressed, but until they are not so damn goofy, they will not be mainstream. This is clearly a big area of investment as companies have poured billions into figuring out how to make remote work not completely wreck their “culture”.

Lastly, being in the same place as someone in the past can be an interesting connection. One of the first thoughts I had was about how cave drawings from millennia prior are still on the walls. Some of the earliest paintings were just our hands with paint. The hands look the same. They’re still human. But somehow we feel connected to them, standing where they stood when they made those paintings.

There have been some developments in this space, but I feel it is more open than the others. Most of it is about overlaying historic images on a scene, the same way some ruins have a glass pane you can look through to see the monument as it once stood. But can I see the people passing by? Can I hear the sounds of people during the day?

I think there are a lot of interesting concepts than can erupt from mulling over the various dimensions of connection, their limitations, and how we are progressing in overcoming them.