Change is about the only constant we can expect in our dynamic world. Decades ago, seemingly sci-fi concepts like videoconferencing communication in real-time, flying cars, hover boards, private space travel, digital currency, online payments, and search engines were the musings of wacky scientists, fiction writers, and filmmakers. Today, these oddities are driving global enterprise and have effectively become the new normal.
Tremendous Strides in Human Evolution
In the days of old, one might be forgiven for preferring face-to-face communication over online communication channels. Indeed, it is argued, it is the human touch that makes us what we are as a species. We now know better: it is possible to draw from the very best of our ingenuity, technology, and interpersonal communications online and offline. Our evolution is thousands of years in the making, and in the last 100 years alone, we have taken dramatic strides in our own development. From light bulbs to locomotives, automobiles to self-driving vehicles, from telephones to videoconferencing, email and cloud-based technology – we are truly a species in flux.
With such dramatic change comes many hard questions. We are continually debating the effectiveness of getting things done online verses offline. Truth be told, there is far greater efficacy in online financial transactions processing than there could possibly be with offline processing. Cost, convenience, and comfort are but a few of the many reasons why we choose to take our business to the World Wide Web. Tremendous strides in securing online data coupled with rapid 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi connectivity have revolutionized the way humans interact with one another and the world. Rather than perceiving online as better than offline or vice versa, these opposing paradigms are often juxtaposed, interconnected, and interdependent.
It Comes down to Personal Preference
Multiple examples abound, such as online dating where online profiles facilitate meeting a person face-to-face so that normal human interactions can take place. Meetup groups are another classic example of online interactions allowing for greater efficiency so that the perfect groups can meet up in person. Of course, there are a myriad of examples supporting one or the other channel. Online banking was expressly designed to facilitate rapid transactions processing without waiting in line for inordinate periods of time.
At the click of a few buttons, a username/password combination allows users to process complex financial transactions like purchasing foreign currency, paying mortgages, applying for business credit cards or personal credit cards, shifting money from one bank to another, etcetera. In this regard, there is a clear preference for the efficient services provided through online banking channels.
Even in the medical realm, we are seeing a shift towards online consultations with veterinary services and MDs offering their expertise via online portals. Health and wellness services through licensed mental health counsellors are also available through regulated online videoconferencing systems, putting paid to the notion that patients and pets need to be in the care of their physicians and veterinarians respectively.
Entertainment Options Are Greatly Expanded Online
Entertainment is quite possibly the most advanced arena when it comes to comparisons between online and offline mediums. The rapid rise of social media has facilitated an online gaming juggernaut of epic proportions. Today, players in Hong Kong can power up and compete against players in New York, New Zealand, and South Africa simultaneously.
Such is the power of online interaction that we are witnessing some of the greatest strides in the entertainment realm. Game players rank highly in this new cultural zeitgeist. Whether it’s social games like Candy Crush, or skill-based games like Texas Hold’em Poker, we are seeing the power of online multimedia drawing players in by their millions.
A rudimentary search on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter confirms what we already know: online gaming and social media are joined at the hip. These two channels complement one another by reeling players in and providing them with bragging rights at the same time. Fans and followers can easily share details of their gaming sessions. Prior to the advent of the Internet of things, such bragging rights were limited to in-person encounters at tournaments, conventions, and arcades.
Indeed, it is thanks to the Internet of value that we can experience competitive online poker tournaments, from the world’s leading gaming giants. And yet even with all the fanfare, online poker companies have not sacrificed the in-person contest for the online competition. These two options are not mutually exclusive; they often work in tandem with one another to facilitate the most traction with players.
Of course, there are limits as to what online can offer as opposed to an in-person consultation with all the medical paraphernalia, equipment, and monitoring systems. The human touch can never entirely be substituted for an artificial intelligence (AI) construct, or online system. Society is moving towards greater efficiency of operations and that means that online systems will support offline operations, rather than replacing them.
Where Offline Doesn’t Work as Well
Typically, online food delivery services from local supermarkets and e-commerce platforms may be highly desirable to folks who simply don’t want to fight the traffic and the queues while shopping for their groceries. Multiple examples abound such as Uber Eats, Domino’s delivery, and thousands of other food service options.
However, to this day there is no effective online substitute for a food delivery service tailored towards soft serve ice cream or self-service frozen yoghurt. This type of business requires patrons to come in and frequent the store, sample the offerings, and serve up their own flavorful combinations and sprinkle on their own toppings.
Much the same is true of theatres where the entertainment experience is comprised of sitting among fellow patrons in a theatre and watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or theatrical production. There is no doubt that Blockbuster video stores and DVD rental businesses have virtually disappeared thanks to online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and dozens of others.
Very few people can bear the thought of an exclusively online existence, and crave human interaction at some level. Like our ancestors, the great apes (for the Darwinians among us) we are social creatures and we don’t live in a matrix – we live corporeal in a world. As long as we have all 5 senses available to us, we will always crave the sights, sounds, smells, taste, and touch of the world we live in. To want any less is simply unacceptable to every one of us
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