Sophisticated and Simple – Demands of the Post-modern human

Sophistication has become a ‘need’ of Post-modern humans. Technology & globalisation generate this urge for sophistication.

Maslow’s Law recognises basic needs – food, water, shelter, sex & clothes. Entertainment and self-esteem are identified as secondary and tertiary levels respectively.  Yet, looking at the way of life of the young generation (10 – 20 yrs of age) and their manner of peer networking, one may question whether technology is qualifying to be a basic need. Of course, Twitter is not oxygen, but I could not believe it when I saw teens in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia enjoy SMS texting whilst tolerating hunger. This is mobile phone penetration at the bottom of the Pyramid and 90% of usage is for communication (i.e. security and gossip). A significant portion of these consumers live below the poverty line (<2$ a day) and their communication costs are eating into their food budget.

Such urges are rooted in the spoiled West. Twitter, Facebook are thriving due to the urge of teens to share their gossip, ego and self-esteem. By buying a David Beckham t-shirt, (with £15 from Dad) one teen generates a chain of gossip between a whole classroom full of grammar school girls. The Paparazzi feed the BBC’s, CNN’s and Times and the tabloids keep their spy networks to watch the hit counts. The adults suddenly recognize they are out of the loop and are thus compelled to know anything and everything happening at every second, from Afghanistan to Somalia, Brasil to China.

This complex mind cannot live only with food, oxygen and clothes. It needs mobiles with one million applications, radios with hundreds of channels, companions who can talk different languages, teachers who can create drama in the classroom to teach the subject material. Food must be tasty but should be wrapped with designer material, but also served in a modern techy environment.

Yet, there is a line of simplicity within this sophistication – simplicity in terms of maintaining the sophistication within the limits of ones control. Sky provides 300+ channels. But viewers can choose them simply by manoeuvring 9 digits on the small remote control. Mobile phones have only a handful of buttons, yet users can use these few buttons to complete many tasks; conversations, reading MSN news, texting a message, calculating the budget.

Is it only the controllability? (i.e. keeping everything within the limits one can manage?). Well, yes and no.

Such an intrinsic urge for simplicity is a result of the urge for inner peace. The writing of the Dalai Lama, Thich Naart Haan, Ajan Sumedho – the modern day Buddhist ambassadors – emphasize the peaceful nature of the inner mind. (One can experience this state by experiencing ‘Samadhi’ in meditation). The Human mind is peaceful at birth, and it is subjected to increased sophistication and complexity over time and with education and maturity. Yet internally, all humans silently seek that peacefulness.

Post-modern humans are individuals struggling within this dilemma of sophistication and simpleness. Microsoft managed to add sophistication through Windows and MS-Office and we all became fast consumers of that sophistication. This enabled us to reach the ‘simplicity’ of multi-tasking, (Excel accounts, Word typing, PowerPoint presentations and Outlook emailing all at once). But, when the working space got cluttered, Google ‘search’ has provided a new way to reach the next level of simplicity. Yet, today, people are beginning to complain about the growing clutter within the Google applications. The frustration emerges, challenges build up, and the journey continues to find the balancing point between sophistication and simplicity!


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