Mobile as a part of the technological simulation of consciousness in the world of digital inequality


Discussing how far mankind went with mobile technologies, it is interesting to point out that already in 1964 the famous theorist of media, Marshal McLuhan predicted this scenario in his book ‘Understanding Media: Extension of Man’:

“Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness” (McLuhan, 1964).

Todays’ statistics data fully confirms aforementioned assumption. According to We Are Social analytics, quantity of unique mobile users accounted of 3,790 billion people by 2016, which was 51% of the whole population of the Earth in 2016. If we take a look at recent statistics reports we will see that the share of mobile traffic skyrocketed from 0,7% to 38,6% (We Are Social UK, 2017). That abnormal growth highlights role of mobile technologies in changes human’s life in short time.

Speaking of mobile technologies in our future we can reference to Mobile World Congress 2017 and its main subject “Forth industrial revolution”. Firstly, let us consider what is the ‘Forth industrial revolution’ and what pros and cons it has?

“At the core of this revolution will be hundreds of billions of connections, sensing and communicating key information about their environment, allowing the digital economy to spread into every aspect of our lives,” said Mats Granryd, GSMA director general (Mobile World Live, 2017).

Will these inventions really helpful in case of trouble-shooting in countries, which suffer from starvation and other types of humanitarian problems?

Nobel Prize nominee, Angus Deaton, answer discussed this question in his book ‘The Great Escape: health, wealth, and the origins of inequality”, which devoted to inequality and disproportionate development of civilization:

‘New technologies have provided new opportunities for the more educated and more creative and, in extreme cases, have provided extraordinary fortunes to the most highly educated and the most creative, or at least to the luckiest members of that group.’(Deaton, 2015).

Speaking about needs it is worth to look at this question through the lens of pyramid of A. Maslow. For example, for population of countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria (countries with the biggest annual growth of mobile connections according to We Are Social and Researchers from University of Oxford) basic needs are more likely relevant for them. Of course, this conclusion should include exceptions, but generally speaking, despite of rapid growth of mobile connections, Global East and South Countries are not ready for the ‘Forth industrial revolution’ and for taking advantages of 5G technologies. Meantime through the mobile Internet people have access to social media, which full of marketing tricks make them strive to life style, propagandized by rich countries. Consequently, mobile breakthrough makes growing inequality more obvious and emphasizes it.

Let us consider mobile transformation in ‘rich countries’ through the lens of needs as well. For people there, self-actualization, self esteem, knowledge and belonging more relevant than basic needs. But all of them could be replaced with new needs, which has been emergent in the era of mobile and social media (e.g. messaging, liking, sharing). As a consequence, people more focus on their virtual life.

One of characters of Stanislav Lem’s ‘Solaris’ said: “Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.” (Lem, 1973). The same thing can be said about exploration of world of mobile technologies, which partly have become substitute of our consciousness.

Giving all aforementioned facts, not all of us will take advantages from this know how, since there are still a lot of social problems such as rapidly growing inequality and humanitarian crisis, which had been forgotten to be solved or they have just been ignored.

No wonder that humanization of mobile technologies has become recently one of the most important topics for International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations and others humanitarian and volunteers organizations. For instance, International Committee of the Red Cross recently published report “Humanitarian futures for messaging apps. Understanding the opportunities and risks for humanitarian action”, where had been highlighted significance of usage of mobile technologies for refugees and for humanitarian missions. United Nations in their turn launched campaign, which encourage young adults to create problem solving mobile applications.

Presumably these actions will help make “Forth industrial revolution” significant not only for telecom businesses and media companies, but for social problems solution as well.



Marshal McLuhan (1964). Understanding Media: Extension of Man. 1st ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.,

We Are Social UK. (2017). Digital in 2016 – We Are Social UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017].

Deaton, A. (2015). The great escape. Princeton [u.a.]: Princeton Univ. Press. (2017). How Snapchat Became The Leader In AR Without Really Trying. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017].

Mobile World Live. (2017). Mobile leaders say intelligence key to innovating – Mobile World Live. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017]. (2017). Spatializing publics: mobile social media, urban sociability and the materiality of civic engagement — Oxford Internet Institute. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017]. (2017). New Publication: Engagement in the Knowledge Economy: Regional Patterns of Content Creation with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa — Oxford Internet Institute. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017]

DAWN.COM. (2017). The rise of mobile and social media use in Pakistan. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017].

Kellerman, A. (2014). The internet as a second action space. London: Routledge.

Lem, S. (1973). Solaris. 1st ed. Newton Abbot [England]: Science Fiction Book Club.



Elena Epstein

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