Pros and cons of smartphones at classical concerts: Mark Zuckerberg makes a point

27 Apr 2017

Nowadays, more and more voices are being raised all over the classical music community to liberalize an etiquette of a classical concert. And those are not just mere words. Innovative events to attract new audiences have already been mushrooming everywhere.


This provokes a considerable debate in publications, and especially in reader’s comments. The major bone of contention is the use of a smartphone during the concert. It's not surprising as the modern listener rather endure hunger, immobility or any other discomfort than checking up the screen.


Still, the tradition is hanging on so far. Any use of the smartphone during the performance is prohibited.


Why?  Because everyone understands that the permission to use it would destroy the very essence of the classical concert - the unique state classical music provokes in the listener.


Here is the clip with Christian Zacharias and his comments:



Traditionalists say that electronic gadget can’t be permitted, otherwise “it kills everything what this is about”. Liberals say, electronic gadget must be permitted, otherwise young listeners will not attend. This creates a total impasse.


However, this epic battle is senseless.  Actively used electronic gadget will penetrate the concert hall in any case, and this will happen within the next decade.


The thing is, the next generation of gadgets will look and function quite differently from the modern smartphones. They will become intrinsic to the human body, more invisible and undetectable by others. Checking, scrolling, sharing, clicking, texting, taking pictures and so on will turn to be totally imperceptible. To regulate the use of such gadget in the concert hall would be completely absurd.


Here are a few examples of the devices we are discussing.


●  Mega project by Mark Zuckerberg: embedding smartphone screen into ordinary glasses, a $120 billion business by 2020:


“In the future, with normal-looking glasses, you won’t have to look at a phone or a TV to see an image. He (M. Zuckerberg) said you will just be able to “snap your fingers” and make a version of a photo appear before your eyes.... A big-screen TV app will be visible before your eyes for the cost of maybe a buck. “This is the vision we are getting to over the next 10 years,” he said.” (Zuckerberg: Future VR and AR gadgets will look like ordinary glasses)


●  Smartphone screen in contact lense:


“Imagine how much easier your day would be if a heads-up display ... displayed today’s weather forecast, or let you check your email without the need for a computer or hand-held gadget. Sounds like the future, right? It’s closer than you might think. ... Not only is augmented vision possible – prototypes are being tested right now. (Bionic Vision: Cybernetic Lenses with Heads-Up Display)


●   Invisible mouse cursor operation:


“Ultrathin temporary electronic tattoos can now turn body blemishes into touch-sensitive buttons, letting you control your smartphone with your own wrinkles, freckles and other skin features.... It will be 10 years before we see touch-sensitive tattoos in mainstream use, says Harrison, but he predicts a future in which skin-based controls are the new normal. (E-tattoos turn knuckles and freckles into smartphone controls)


●  Gadget control directly from the brain. Elon Musk’s project


“ centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.” (Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI)


These type of devices were subjects of the science fiction novels not so long ago. Today we see this technology rapidly approaching. Even sceptical writers, like Matt Weinberger, high-tech columnist at Business Insider, consider that the demise of the smartphone is inevitable:


“Make no mistake: We're still probably at least a decade away from any kind of meaningful shift away from the smartphone… Yet, piece by piece, the groundwork for the eventual demise of the smartphone is being laid by Elon Musk, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and a countless number of startups that still have a part to play.

And, let me tell you: If and when the smartphone does die, that's when things are going to get really weird for everybody. Not just in terms of individual products but in terms of how we actually live our everyday lives and maybe our humanity itself.” (The smartphone is eventually going to die, and then things are going to get really crazy)


It’s only a matter of time (and not too long) before people start to use post-smartphone technologies as actively as modern smartphones. And from then on the difference between the concert hall and all other places where people spend their time will start to fade away.


What would that event bring to the classical music? The good with the bad.


On the one hand, the present obstinate dispute on pros and cons of smartphones in the concert hall will end up with the both sides completely satisfied. Artists and public will gain the much-desired silence, and at the same time each member of the public will gain the full freedom to use the gadget as actively as he or she needs. Really, the Solomon solution.


Still, on the other hand, everyone becomes a multitasker. So we have the audience that listens to the classical music while doing all the things on the internet they are used to during the day.


It hardly needs explanation, what it entails for the classical music. (See Zacharias speaking about "not being concentrated on one thing".)


It's not said that everyone will necesserily behave that way. The point is that the very emergence of a new distraction becomes an integral part of human existence. How many listeners will be able to keep a sustained focus on music in these circumstances, taking into account that even today, people can’t resist using their gadgets literally everywhere, including on dates, at the movies or at the funeral?


To make a long story short, it looks like the next generations of gadgets will bring something totally new into the manner classical music has been produced and consumed for centuries.


Artists will have to compete with all temptations of the world to grab listeners' attetion not only before but during the performance as well.


It might appear that the present problems of classical music will seem like a picnic by that time.






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© Yevgeny Chepovetsky 2015-2017