The Auto Mask of the 21st Century Man

Look at streets, where people wear masks, invited to use virtual reality glasses.

Human lives have been critically connected with machines and virtual life, instead of the real one.

By Ashraf Aboul-Yazid

As a young boy, I used to be a good calligrapher. I practiced my calligraphic talent in every handwritten piece of paper: was it an art lesson, a love letter or a festive greeting card.

It was a real pleasure to transfer Arabic alphabet letters into art. This crafted hoppy continued during the years of my university study, as well.

My friends – from around the world – were receiving my artistic messages in the form of a single copy magazine, decorated especially for them. A postman would also have my thanking message on the envelope decorated with certain calligraphy art.

But this era of using calligraphy had come to an end with the appearance of computer in my life. Letters were only typed by the PC keyboard buttons. The use of fingers became restricted to typing not sketching or decorating.

It was a critical transfer that I was not alone at experiencing it. A new era of fabricated letters has come to replace spiritual letters. It started with letters but went on all types of our life.

Simply we crossed the green line of natural human beings to live with robotic creatures. It was not only the super man, but we had the bionic man and woman, the iron man, the auto pilot and robo-cop , the auto dictation, the auto painting and the auto translation.

While our passions should be individually varied, the auto passions – made by social media reaction motifs and emojis – classified our feelings, giving us cold artificial reactions for caring, love, appreciation, sadness and anger.

It is just a click, not even a written message. You are not a human being any longer; you are an auto -man, similar to your counterparts all over the world. Robots are not only making cars, machines and devices, but they are also reacting!

No need to draw a private greeting, it is already there on web, ready to be picked by you, distributed by certain resources and used by millions who dropped their creativity to use the readymade phrases and cards.

The future is not coming; we are actually living the future where every action is being automated. It is no longer a writer’s fantasy; it is a scientist’s reality. Science has come to force us living in a very scientific way, calculated by numbers and formulas, not built by emotions and feelings.

Look at streets, where people wear masks, invited to use virtual reality glasses. Their hand watches show time with digital hands, not the original metal hands in our old times. Mobile phones could act like a friends, they replaced the real presence with a virtual one. You do not have to hold a book to read, it has been put in a file shown in a reading device in your hands.

Few weeks ago Facebook went off, along with WhatsApp and Instagram. Instead of having real human activities for the hours of these applications’ absence, people continued their trials to be re-connected. People were not able to live normally for a few hours. Their lives have been critically connected with machines and virtual life, instead of the real one.

We became auto-masked with virtual life. Here comes the role of creative meetings to get our absent humanity. We need to re-connect with ourselves. Writers, poets, novelists, artists, photographers and calligraphers need to retain their connection with the world.

Ashraf-Aboul-YazidIn this festival, I promise you to write my dedications to you with my own calligraphy art. It is a real chance to have a new beginning.

[Mr. Ashraf Aboul-Yazid made this speech at 5th Eurasian Literary Festival of Festivals recently held in Istanbul, Turkey] 


Ashraf Aboul-Yazid is an eminent Egyptian journalist, poet, novelist, author of about three dozen books and Editor-in-Chief of Silk Road Literature Series.


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