Monthly Archives: October 2013

No technology remotely replicates in-person connections

Not email, voice mail, conference calls, video conferences, telephone conversations, letters even.                conference_call

Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock, page 126:

In the real world, 94 percent of our communication occurs non-verbally. Our gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions, and even the size of our irises at any given moment tell the other person much more than our words do. There are the cues we use to gauge whether someone is listening to us, agrees with us, is attracted to us, or wants us to shut up. When a person head nods or his irises dilate, we know – even just subconsciously – that he agrees with us. This activates the mirror neurons in our brains, feeding us a bit of positive reinforcement, releasing a bit of dopamine, and leading us further down that line of thought.

Nassim Taleb, Antifragile, page 89:

Eye contact with one’s peers changes one’s behavior. But for a desk-grounded office leech, a number is just a number. Someone you see in church Sunday morning would feel uncomfortable for his mistakes – and more responsible for them. On the small, local scale, his body and biological response would direct him to avoid causing harm to others. On a large scale, others are abstract items; given the lack of social contact with the people concerned, the civil servant’s brain leads rather than his emotions – with numbers, spreadsheets, statistics, more spreadsheets, and theories.

No technology-enabled medium of communication replicates the in-person, face-to-face mode served up to us by millenia of evolution (or intelligent design, as you prefer). Choose your tools accordingly.

Trend to Fewer Conference Rooms in Law Offices — Why & Implications

ConferenceLaw firms are building fewer conference rooms. New law offices have significantly fewer “conference seats per lawyer” than in the past.


  • Technology: audio and video conference capabilities reduce the need for in-person meetings.
  • Culture shift: clients do not visit lawyers so much anymore; lawyers go to clients.
  • Money: law firms are not spending as they once did.

Fewer face-to-face meetings come with a cost – to effective communications.

Douglas Rushkoff says that 94% of communication is not verbal. And, he observes that in audio and video conferences the bandwidth of communications is reduced almost entirely to the verbal.

Nassim Taleb points out that we know far more than we can communicate with words, although we can communicate that knowledge by other means. He cites Guy Deutscher. (Fascinatingly, Taleb says the ancient Greeks had no word for the color “blue,” a fact first observed by British Prime Minister William Gladstone. The Greeks had words only for about four colors, thus accounting for the “wine-darkness” of the sea.)

Rushkoff observes that when we communicate solely by means of audio and video connections, the substance of the communication is limited and cramped in important ways. Communications that come this way are more apt to be impulsive, uncompromising and without nuance.

So, we are having fewer face-to-face meetings. Our technology-enabled meetings are cramped and truculent. And we are jammed up against the limits of our language.

Lawyers need to know more about this trend and the consequences. And what color the sea, when dark, really is (I never bought that it was red).