If utterly friction free living ever arrives, we’re all toast. Thankfully, I sense the human condition will never allow it to happen.
Whatever the technology buffs and lifestyle innovators might claim or predict, our everyday humanity is rather attached to the grubby, physical realities of its ruck and maul existence.
Furious invention is doing its damnedest to move us all out of the real world into a new era of technological and existential hovering – an avatar and clone-like experience of existence that allows us to remove any need to touch the scratchy sides of real life at all.
We now find that even the biologists are in on the game, creating data-based life forms capable of reproduction and evolution, utterly devoid of any human interaction. Soon we can just task a genome-mapped data-modelled living clone of ourselves to live the grubby truths of our ‘real’ lives while we hermetically seal ourselves in some floating chamber of frictionless fabulousness.
The death of ageing is yet another example of our need not only to remove the experience of friction but also the evidence of it: in this instance, that of our very existence and its impact on how we look – God no, we cant have that. That would be, well, rubbing our faces in it so to speak. Friction, of a different kind but friction none the less
Ok, yes, some frictionless living is very welcome and gratefully received.
With everything from frictionless payment to Iris recognition passports, travelators and the soon predicted absence of any friction of the London Transport staff kind on the Underground, one could feel that we’re well on the way to friction free living.
So it’s not for want of alternatives or invention that we still broadly stick to each other and the real world.
Perhaps it has been bred into us to cling to our mortality and its incumbent human flaw and frailty.
As centuries of poets, writers, artists and philosophers have tirelessly pointed out, it is only when we’re closest to the mortal, fragile truth of our own humanity that we feel most alive. Right now, thankfully, that seems to be the way we still like it.
We wouldn’t it seems change it for the world. Why? Because it’s in the scrape and the scuff that we remind ourselves that we are living feeling beings.
Indeed, some would say that it is only the addictive nature of human friction that will save us from a data-mapped genome-shaped self-generating binary oblivion.
The good news it seems is that the harder technology and lifestyle innovations try to separate us from the scratch-and-sniff interaction of human collision, the more we seem to crave its reality.
It is for the best that technology and its providers (and in turn, the brands that utilise their miraculous invention) are forever enabling us to hover just that little bit higher above the world by ever increasing degrees.
It triggers the Newtonian truth of equals and opposites. Which is both good – and of course, bad. Which is, in its own way, good.
There seems to be a direct correlation between our degrees of rare being and those of our base doing. The increasing speed of our ascent to technologically enabled dislocation seems to be matched only by the equally increasing speed of our descent into a playground of a more primal and connected nature.
As a species, we need to watch how life plays its self out both in ourselves and more importantly in others – it’s part of how we learn – it’s part of how we commune – it’s part of how we improve – it’s part of how we evolve as creatures. In the crash bang wallop of human contact.
It is only through our proximity to our own kind that we learn to navigate both the heights and depths of ecstasy and desperation in our human existence; and in turn proof ourselves against its worst rages of circumstance. It is also only in our real-time bumbling through our immediate environment, and in our connection to it, that we can truly gauge how and to what degree we and our surroundings are co-dependent – and in more human terms, decipher where the edges of our misanthropic and philanthropic selves truly lie.
It is only in being human amongst humans that we remember how to be human.
And it is only by our scraping by, getting through, and rubbing along that we remain sentient extant human beings connected to the world and the people around us.
Human Friction is the root of responsibility – the thing that keeps us on the right side of the walled ghetto of separated existence – and friction is what we as individuals and collectives need to secure our base human reflex to protect and care for our own and the environment in which they thrive.
The ever increasing generational and communal dislocation that exists in our supposedly civilised societies and cultures – the removal of the friction between the old, the dispossessed, the poor, the disadvantaged – brings only one reward – a stunting of the cyclical, fluid, ever increasing improvement of our human condition. I find it no surprise that the most recent generation in our most civilised societies are the first in centuries to look forward to a poorer quality of life than their parents, as measured by almost every indicator.
If a brand wanted to champion a more evolved human existence they’d move the ‘frictionless’ dream and every new piece of technological improvement that delivers it out of the ‘human progress’ tray and into the ‘table stakes’ tray: their development a cost of doing business and being best in class: as opposed to being their ‘purpose and reason to be’
Having done that they should lift every communal and people powered initiative they have up and into the centre of everything they do.
Frictionless life is no life – friction is the visceral, flawed dirty engine of our humanity. And in a Newtonian world, the more you remove one form of it, the more you need to add of the other.
When people take back control of their own destiny – and when communities take back control of their own everyday lives, the impacts are astonishing.
For example, brands who unlock the desire of young people to apply their precious time to recreating the frictions of ‘together’, reap an exceptional reward. The rise of youth volunteering in communities around the world: and the impact on brands of organisations like RockCorps are both beautiful and redeeming – but more importantly they point to the value of friction to improve our existence.
When people re-engage with the beautiful human truth of finding the right way to rub along together; when they remember that their fellow and neighbour is if not ‘family’ mostly a friend; when they learn how to embrace the good bits of progress and all of its technological toys as a means and not an end; suddenly humanity blossoms.
Any brand or business therefore has to realise that our increasingly frictionless life needs an offset strategy – it needs friction.
They must realise that for every leap forwards that technology might proffer their ambitions, an equal and opposite people-powered investment in people’s everyday lives must come with it.
So figure it out please. If you don’t, we’re going to need a whole lot of peanut butter, marmite, honey and jam.