The loss of hu­man touch in Mal­tese so­ci­ety

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LETTERS -

Post-mod­ern so­ci­ety is rob­bing hu­mans of the gift of touch and phys­i­cal face-to-face in­ter­ac­tion. A new world or­der is craftily be­ing in­ter­wo­ven and in­sti­tuted where peo­ple are plac­ing more trust in tech­nol­ogy rather than the hu­man per­son. The se­ri­ous­ness of the mat­ter seems to be ig­nored by most of us.

The ben­e­fits of the hu­man touch

A sim­ple hug or even a ca­ress many times may be in­ter­preted as an un­so­licited sex­ual ad­vance, even if made un­der the most in­no­cent of pre­texts. Re­cent re­ports in the lo­cal me­dia sug­gest that even hold­ing a young­ster can lead to be­ing charged in court.

We may soon bid farewell to the lov­ing, strong, sen­si­tive hu­man cud­dle and af­fec­tion.

In­ter­est­ingly, hu­man touch, es­pe­cially phys­i­cal, is heal­ing and the hor­mone Oxy­tocin re­veals the ben­e­fit of phys­i­cal touch or acts of cud­dling.

Oxy­tocin helps hu­mans con­nect to oth­ers and pro­motes feel-good sen­sa­tions that fos­ter a sense of well-be­ing and hap­pi­ness. Known as the “feel good” hor­mone, Oxy­tocin helps in­spire pos­i­tive think­ing as well as main­tain­ing an op­ti­mistic out­look on the world.

Phys­i­cal touch in­creases lev­els of dopamine and sero­tonin; two neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that help reg­u­late mood as well as re­liev­ing the body from stress and anx­i­ety. Dopamine is also known to reg­u­late the plea­sure cen­tre in the brain that is a good to counter feel­ings of anx­i­ety.

The non-stop mush­room­ing of mas­sage par­lours around Malta seems to sug­gest the ever-in­creas­ing yearn­ing for sen­si­tive and re­lax­ing hu­man touch and per­haps un­cov­ers the loss of it in our homes and mar­i­tal re­la­tion­ships. It might not be too long be­fore the sale of sil­i­con sex dolls will be a com­mon fea­ture of Mal­tese so­ci­ety to com- pen­sate for the lack of love and touch.

In­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy through the so­cial me­dia is also grad­u­ally tak­ing over face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tions as peo­ple avoid phys­i­cal con­tact and pre­fer to chat and in­ter­act on­line.

This has fur­ther com­pounded the mat­ter as peo­ple find them­selves more at ease in ex­press­ing their in­ti­macy in sit­u­a­tions of vir­tual re­al­ity or hy­per-re­al­ity.

Dis­tracted Walk­ing Law

An­other re­cent and ev­i­dent phe­nom­e­non of the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy in our daily lives is that many peo­ple walk­ing our streets or us­ing pub­lic trans­port are also deeply im­mersed in their elec­tronic gad­gets. They wear head­phones and are not very much in­ter­ested in en­gag­ing in con­ver­sa­tions with other peo­ple. The look on their faces speaks vol­umes. They look in­dif­fer­ent and many times are a po­ten­tial haz­ard to mo­torists and even peo­ple who use Malta’s nar­row pave­ments.

It is not the first time that I have per­son­ally wit­nessed ir­re­spon­si­ble peo­ple bump­ing into oth­ers as they can­not prop­erly hear or see due to their wear­ing head­phones and fo­cus­ing on what they are hear­ing.

In­ter­est­ingly, po­lice in Honolulu, as of 2017, started writ­ing tick­ets for peo­ple who are dis­tracted by their mo­bile while walk­ing on a pedes­trian cross­ing.

Honolulu is the first ma­jor city in Amer­ica to pass such a law, cit­ing a high rate of pedes­tri­ans be­ing hit on pedes­trian cross­ings.

Ac­cord­ing to Honolulu Po­lice De­part­ment, more than 10,000 ci­ta­tions were is­sued for mo­bile elec­tronic de­vice vi­o­la­tions un­der what is termed as the Dis­tracted Walk­ing Law.

Per­haps this is food for thought for the Malta Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Author­ity (MCA) to sug­gest the en­act­ment of leg­is­la­tion that makes it il­le­gal to use a mo­bile not only when driv­ing but also in in­stances of ‘dis­tracted walk­ing’.

This makes log­i­cal sense as we live in a coun­try where, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent MCA Sur­vey, only three per cent of the pop­u­la­tion do not have a mo­bile sub­scrip­tion, most of them aged over 65.

Ro­bot­ics and Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence

The in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic and util­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety which is evolv­ing around us plus the ad­vanced field of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence and Ro­bot­ics is also lead­ing the way for hu­mans to in­ter­act with ro­bots rather than hu­mans. Ro­bots will not only steal our jobs but our hu­man touch at the work­place as com­pa­nies re­cruit driver­less cars and lor­ries.

In ad­di­tion, some com­pa­nies are find­ing it eas­ier col­lab­o­rat­ing with com­put­ers. For in­stance, LinkedIn, which is the so­cial net­work for pro­fes­sional peo­ple, is mak­ing it in­creas­ingly eas­ier to re­cruit peo­ple on­line as man­age­ment has ac­cess to the data­base of po­ten­tial job can­di­dates. The time for re­cruit­ing agen­cies seems to be over.

Lack of self-es­teem

It is not sur­pris­ing that there is so much neg­a­tiv­ity and lack of sin­cere hu­man touch in our sec­u­lar cul­ture. A world that pro­vides no ba­sis for un­con­di­tional self-ac­cep­tance is not a friend to our souls.

The above back­ground is cre­at­ing a new so­ci­ety where ro­bots, ma­chines and com­put­ers out­per­form and su­per­sede hu­mans and all that is hu­man.

This is def­i­nitely a clear in­di­ca­tion of the be­gin­ning of the end of all that is hu­man. A truly threat­en­ing and scary sce­nario where mat­ter con­trols mind! An­thony Zarb-Dimech

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