Get an e-life

In politics, health care, education, Estonia has been in the vanguard of internet use in every area of public life for years now. But all this e-life could be taking its toll on real life, cautions an editorialist.

Published on 9 December 2009 at 14:38
Where's the bathroom? The end of a healthcare conference, on virtual reality site "Second Life". Davee Commerce / Daneel Ariantho

We’re so used to living with e-everything that we talk about an e-police, e-government, e-state, e-school, e-health care, and the list goes on and on. But several dangers lurk behind all that e-existence. All these IT solutions are marvellous, to be sure: they save time and money, spare our nerves and plenty else as well. But they can also prove dangerous when the means become ends in themselves. What becomes crucial then, for e-government, is the e-connection, which has nothing whatever to do with the substance or quality of actual governance.

We often talk about e-health care, which uses high-speed internet capabilities for the extremely rapid and global transmission of data. But that could be at the expense of actual health care. We fund an e-school, but the money doesn’t go into running the school or its curriculum: it serves to set up another data base. In a word, the real meaning of things ends up going by the board. To put it another way, reality fades, true feelings pall and end up being supplanted by e-love (virtual sex already exists) or coded text messaging. The more e-solutions and e-communication there are, the less real communication there will be. It might be amusing and cost-effective to hold e-weddings, with e-happiness and e-guests into the bargain. The latter will relish delicacies alighting onto their plates like tetrominoes and e-drinks that won’t get them drunk. If all that suits the masses, that’s perfect. That’s what it takes to get re-elected.The e-elections are already turning into an end in themselves. As a result, the whole point of the electoral process – giving someone a mandate to represent the citizenry and safeguard their interests – is becoming lost, or at least blurred.

E-management is as convenient as it is expeditious, but has given rise to a system in which human beings are secondary and partly exonerated from any responsibility. “Send me a mail and we’ll see...”, and it goes without saying that when you receive an invoice containing a mistake (provided you actually get it, of course), you’re in for an excuse like: “But that’s what my computer said….” The means have become so all-important that everyday life has been superseded by a sort of e-life, which is beginning to play a part in every domain. In the end, we might be better off escaping from real life when it no longer satisfies us, and hiding behind e-life, forming e-relationships and, eventually, having our e-remains conveyed to the e-cemetery by the operating system.

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