The Need For Non-Virtual Reality

Let me apologize in advance for this post being a little different from my usual reflections on telecommunications issues.

The past 15 months, living under the threat of COVID-19, have demonstrated how digital connectivity can enable so many of our life interactions to transition to a virtual environment. For most of us, this digital shift has been a remarkable success. It has been a most remarkable achievement.

We have seen policy makers gain a much greater appreciation for the need for ongoing investment in infrastructure and, we have all developed a better understanding of the need to to find creative solutions to bridge the digital divide. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today.

We also know that we have a need to emerge from the shelter of our virtual cocoons and return to be able to interact with family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Vaccines are the key enabler for the resumption of non-virtual reality.

I have had two grandchildren born over the past year: a 10-month old living overseas and a 10-day old new-born on the other side of the continent. Our 10-month old only knows the sound of our digitally encoded voices and our faces compressed onto a 5-inch mobile screen.

Now that we are double-vaccinated, we felt safe in venturing out to meet our newborn in person, experiencing the much more satisfying full sensory experience with him and his parents.

There is nothing quite like the touch and smell of a new born baby.

I have often said that being a grandparent is the reward that we get for putting up with our kids for all those years. It is a blessing.

I’m grateful that technology has enabled me (and so many others) to work productively for the past year and stay in touch with no-cost video calling and conferencing.

We are forever indebted to those essential workers who put their own safety at risk every day to keep the non-virtual parts of the economy running, providing us with goods and services, sustenance, health care and public safety.

While we have learned that so much can be done to live and work online, we humans tend to be social animals. Many of us can live online, but in my humble opinion, we can only thrive by being able to escape virtual reality with a return to genuine physical reality. I celebrate the achievements of our telecommunications industry and all that we have been able to accomplish thanks to billions of dollars of annual investment, but I never lose sight of our need for face-to-face contact.

As I enjoy this special moment of freedom together with family I haven’t seen in more than a year and a half, it is a reminder of the need for all of us to escape our screens and return really soon to more physical interactions.

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