There’s been a lot written recently about the interaction between real and virtual worlds, by people far more knowledgeable about the subject than I could ever be. Yet, something that happened to me over the past couple of days made me think harder about the days to come.
What happened was almost trivial. Some of you know I had had a heart attack last Christmas, and that I wear a pacemaker. (An Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator, to be precise). This wee tim’rous beastie they call an ICD has a little built-in alarm. And said little built-in alarm went off in the early hours of Monday morning.
It was an unusual feeling, having an alarm go off inside you. A small part of me went into immediate panic mode, while the rest of me looked at the “facts” as I could see them; I reasoned that I’d never felt better, I was working out every day, I was learning to swim, the weather was hot and gruelling, my recovery rates were good, I was eating well and sleeping well, God was in His heaven and all was well with the world.
And so I carried on through Monday, determining to check things out after I returned to London. There were little voices whispering irritating things to do with having to have another operation, but I wasn’t listening.
Then the same thing happened Tuesday morning. This time I could not let it be, so I woke up early and called my cardiologist. Waited for his call back, resigned myself to not exercising or swimming until I knew better. He called back, and the answer was what I had hoped for.
What mattered most was how I felt. The alarms could have been caused by a number of factors, the key issue was how I felt. And I felt fine.
The incident made me think about the intersection between real and virtual worlds, and how more and more we live in that hybrid world. With hybrid signals. Lots of signals.
The signals need interpreting. Which means we have an increased reliance on people who can do the interpreting, although in most cases the final call will be personal.
This reliance on people doing the interpreting is what concerned me. It requires people to give honest open professional advice, making themselves extremely vulnerable. We need the “valuable but vulnerable” professional advice that Michael Power spoke so eloquently about in The Risk Management of Everything. Yet all the signs are that we are moving into a more and more litigious society, with (as Professor Power intimated)Â the small print outweighing the valuable advice.
Trust is going to mean something else as the real and virtual worlds collide, and as the sources and devices for signals and alarms increase exponentially. Trust is going to mean vulnerability on both sides, both trusted and trusting. That vulnerability is going to require covenant relationships in order to do away with the garbage-net of litigation.
Unless we do this, unless we move to covenant relationships between professional parties and the public at large, we are going to be overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the noises we hear rather than the signals we should be listening to. Not waving but drowning.