www is our Babel fish

Last year I read an article by Joe Hildebrand on this very thing. It related to the rescue of the boy’s soccer team from the Thai cave but the premise applies more broadly than that. I still think about that article so I thought I’d share the concept with you.

If you aren’t familiar with the Babel fish, it comes from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (love the book, not the movie). If you stuck

Image babel fish

the Babel fish in your ear, you were able to understand every single language ever spoken. In fact, the first online translator (by Yahoo) took the name Babel fish. While Adams’ Babel fish had miraculous powers, there was a catch:

Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

Apply that to us. We grew up knowing those who grew up around us – our family and the friends we chose, people we liked and those not so much (but we got used to them). And not many outside that circle. Then our Babel fish came along.

The web provides an easy, effortless, 24/7 place for people everywhere in the world to say whatever they like to each other and about each other. Instead of learning from each other and understanding that we’re not all that different from one another, it seems it’s become a cesspool of nastiness.

In Joe’s article he said something along the lines of people have spent so much time trying to work out how to communicate with each other they haven’t taken the time to think about whether they should.

I know not everyone uses social media in this way, and there are many positive, heartwarming stories shared every day. But it seems to me the dark, negative, hurtful side of the human race is more pronounced in cyberspace.

Maybe everyone needs to stop and think about the Babel fish before they post.

7 comments on “www is our Babel fish

  1. What an interesting comparison! That really works. Unfortunately, it mostly applies to our generation and earlier. There are young men and women now who were BORN in the Inteenet era, too late to withdraw the Babel Fish now! 😏

    • Too late to withdraw, but they can still think about the consequences! Trying to hammer that idea home to my Barbarians. Wouldn’t say it to their face? Then don’t say it.

  2. Besides the deep question included in this post, I’m stunned about Babel Fish. I had no idea that THAT’s what they were about!

    • Glad to have enlightened you, Jacqui. Back in the ’80s, on our first home desktop pc, one of the first games we got (on those 5 1/4″ floppies) was Hitchhikers. It was totally text based and the computer gave you a step in the novel and you had to say what to do (eg Computer: you found a babel fish. Me: stick the babel fish in your ear). I had to read the book to play the game, but I found playing the game gave really good insight and consideration of the book. Babel fish in particular stuck with me from then.

  3. There are light people and there are dark people in the world. People who live in the dark spew hate and try to make others feel as miserable as they do. Light people try to bring joy to those in their orbit. The Internet just amplifies this. I think the trick is to find the light people and live in that part of cyberspace. The dark people will try to steal some of that light, of course, but their influence can be minimized through careful cultivation of one’s online presence.

    It’s not 100%, of course. That’s where the lessons come from.

    • I love that description, Liz. And it’s true. I don’t spend much time on twitter, but am spending more time on instagram for that reason (at least I will when we have routine back again – first week back from summer holidays).

  4. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. I’m a firm believer in that bit of wisdom and think we should all remind ourselves of it on a daily basis!

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