44 cartoons about communication

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Other funny stuff about communication

The Ask Ray Hotline

By Ray Lesser

I’m standing on my head, in a slightly ecstatic meditative state, when my cell phone rings. Since I’m waiting to hear from my agent if my screenplay is being optioned, I race to answer it. Continue reading

Service With A Smile

By Ray Lesser

Please enter your password. I’m sorry, we have no record of you in our system. Therefore you do not exist. If you wish to exist, please go to your preferences menu and reset your existence. Need help? Please send a message to our help desk and we will get back to you. Or maybe not. Continue reading

Why Twitter? Because I’m Here

By Ray Lesser

A new communications service named Twitter now makes it possible to blurt out the first thing that pops in your head and broadcast it instantly to all your friends and followers, wherever they may be, via Internet, IM, and text message. Twitter invites its several hundred thousand members to answer the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less, and they do – millions of times a day. Each message is called a “tweet.”

When I checked Twitter’s website, dan1657 had “just got in to work, forgot my phone charging at home.” Less than five seconds later, omaregan was “Just chilling!” Another user tweeted, “Working on stuff and things.”

Is anyone really interested in this omnipresent bombardment of barely conscious stream of consciousness? Really, why Twitter? And why blog? Why podcast? Why text? Why instant message?


That’s obviously why Twitter was launched about a year ago by Obvious Corporation, a San Francisco start-up. But Twitter’s appeal goes beyond all the twits looking for affirmation of their existence. Presidential candidate John Edwards is using Twitter to try to keep his followers interested in his day. Judging by his latest tweets, that’s not going to be an easy job. (“Holding a meeting on healthcare in Council Bluffs, Iowa today. Des Moines tonight.”) More humorously, Steven Colbert began Twittering, hoping to surpass Darth Vader in the rankings of the Twitterholics with the most “followers.” (“Hey, America, are you thinking what I’m thinking? You soon will be.”)

If you put a million Tweetie birds together in a cage, an occasional tweet is bound to be interesting. Some of the Top 10 Twitters recently:

o Memoir of the Day: “I start things, but I never” – D. Stahl

o At Ritual Coffee, the hand-crafted sign by the register now reads, “Please, no blogging in line.”

o “Internet, I’m in labor. Do something.”

But, even the most dedicated technophile can’t be omnipresent all the time, informing the world about their latest tooth-flossing or tuna sandwich lunch. That’s why MyCyberTwin was created. This new web-based software allows you to set up your own Virtual Clone. By answering a comprehensive series of questions about your views on subjects such as sex, politics and religion, you program your CyberTwin with as much of your personality and background information as you like, enabling it to act as a virtual public-relations agent when you’re not available. Once you’ve created a CyberTwin chatterbot, you can place it on your website or blog to converse with anyone who happens by. Is it you or is it CyberTwin? Only your webmaster knows for sure.

According to Technology Review, “MyCybertwin can be a bit slow, taking up to 10 seconds to ‘think’ before it responds to a visitor’s question.” Wow, that’s pretty good. Sometimes it takes me longer than that to even notice that someone is asking me a question. CyberTwin’s co-founder Liesl Capper notes, people are spending a lot of time creating online presences, whether it’s through MySpace, blogs, or “avatars” in virtual worlds like Second Life. “It may only be for an audience of 10 people, but it’s important to them, and it’s a taste of things to come. This way you can have your friends chat to you when you’re sleeping. It’s about engaging with people and answering their questions without having to go through a hundred e-mails.”

Evan Williams, the founder of Obvious, feels that Twitter is also primarily interesting as a way to communicate to small groups of friends. “It has the potential to be a really substantial part of how people keep in touch with each other.” I guess getting a tweet from a friend who’s “shopping for soy milk. Blue box or red …” might feel more substantial than going online to ask their CyberTwin what they like to eat for breakfast.

Staying constantly, instantly available can lead to its own perils. Eric Meyer, a 37-year-old Cleveland web consultant, had to rethink who to allow in his “friends” circle after experiencing a Twit-storm of 30-40 messages a day from one friend pondering what to have for dinner and commercials spotted on TV. “Who doesn’t have a friend like that, who shows up at a party and just won’t stop talking?”

When I consider this techno-groping towards a stream of consciousness connection among friends, I can’t help but think about James Joyce’s Ulysses, the first great stream of consciousness novel. Anyone who’s ever read it cannot forget Molly Bloom’s soliloquy and her description of Leopold Bloom’s proposal, “and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Although the entire novel takes place during one day, it took Joyce seven years to write Ulysses. Perhaps the first thing that pops into your head isn’t necessarily the thing that you want to broadcast to the world. As someone tweeted, “Noticing that Twitter gives one the illusion of writing without the actual burden of writing. All fluff – no stuff!” Even if you don’t have seven years, maybe it’s worth taking more than seven seconds to think about what you want to say.

Or maybe, 200,000 years after having learned how to speak, and 5,000 years after learning to write, mankind has reached a new stage in the evolution of communication, which will bring us a new truth. And, as Steven Colbert recently tweeted, “How many roads must a man walk down before he is run over by an eighteen-wheeler of truth?”


Coming Soon: The Future

By Ray Lesser

In the future our hamburgers won ‘t come from slaughtered cattle. Instead every household will have a tabletop nanofactory, which will be easily programmed to produce almost any material we desire. If we want hamburger, we ‘ll simply tell our little factory how much of it to make for dinner, and the nanobot assemblers, using atoms as raw material, will crank out pesticide-free, hormone-free, mad-cow-safe beef, ready to grill, fry, or add to spaghetti sauce. No sentient being will suffer, no rainforests will be slashed and burned, and no methane gas will be released to destroy the ozone. The cost of manufacturing hamburgers (or any other physical product) will be reduced to pennies per pound. Although it won ‘t make it any easier to decide what to have for dinner, this low cost manufacturing process will essentially solve the problem of world hunger.

What ‘s more, based on the many scientific trend lines shown in Ray Kurzweil ‘s newest book The Singularity is Near, this amazing nanotechnology will become available within the lifetimes of most people reading this paragraph, probably by the late 2020s.

Much of the future predicted by Kurzweil ‘s book is easy to imagine. For example, we will move toward a decentralized education system where every student will have access to the highest quality teaching. Major universities are already making many courses available online, so that even students in remote areas (like Kansas) can take classes on subjects not offered by their local schools (like Evolution ). But a huge leap has been made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is currently offering 900 of its courses – half of all its course offerings – for free online. By the early 2010s, virtual reality environments “will be full immersion, very high resolution, and very convincing,” says Kurzweil. “Most colleges will follow MIT’s lead, and students will increasingly attend class virtually.”

Pretty soon that teenager who locks himself in his room with a computer and cell phone for hours a day, only surfacing occasionally for nachos and Red Bull, might become a college student doing approximately the same thing. Their room will become a virtual lab, where they can perform experiments in chemistry and particle physics, or have wild safe-sex orgies in their virtual dorms. Their room will also become a virtual classroom, where lectures will be given, simultaneously translated into any language, by the leading professors and experts in every field. No longer will parents have to come up with $30,000+ a year to provide kids with the best available college experience, they’ll just need to fix up an extra room in the basement and equip it with a shower, minifridge and Internet access.

Of course, not everyone will want to be locked away in their parents’ basement. With the advent of ubiquitous wireless Internet people will be free to go anywhere, while still remaining in contact with whatever group they are a part of. Communication displays will be built into our eyeglasses and contact lenses, with images projected directly onto our retinas. Cell phones already exist that are part of your clothing, and project sound directly to your ears, and there is an MP3 player that vibrates your skull to play music that only you can hear. So, in the future, that person on the subway who is babbling to themselves and seems to be having a spaz attack, may instead be taking part in a seminar at MIT, or a virtual dance party at the virtual frat house.

Energy production will also become decentralized. The manufacture of nanoengineered fuel cells and solar panels (at pennies per pound) will allow for almost all energy to be collected and converted where it is being used. We won’t have to worry about disruptions in our energy supply lines, or terrorists attacking oil tankers or nuclear power plants, because there won’t be any. We’ll no longer need to strip mine land for coal, or cut down forests for agriculture, fuel, or building materials either. (If we want wooden two by fours, or kitchen cabinets, our tabletop nanofactories can crank them out, pre-cut to exact measurements.) Instead people will move out of overcrowded urban areas to live and build in newly replanted forests, commuting to school or work virtually, designing and making their own clothes and furnishings out of atoms from dirt or garbage, and eating as many hamburgers as they want.

Oh, and by the way, these new back-to-the-landers might be doing such things for a long time because with advanced medical technologies people will be able to live for hundreds, or possibly thousands of years.

Is there a potential downside to this coming techno-revolution? You bet there is. (Can you say “gray goo”?) But I’ll leave that as the subject of another column. This month we can dream about the day energy efficient fuel cells can run on ordinary ethanol as demonstrated recently by researchers from St. Louis University. “We’ve run it on various types of drinkable alcohol,” said Nick Akers, a grad student who worked on the project. “It didn’t like carbonated beer and doesn’t seem fond of wine, but anything else works fine.” Hydrogen ions from the alcohol combine with oxygen in the air to produce power. The byproduct, or “exhaust” of this process is water vapor.

Hey, I’ll drink to that.