June 19, 2014 by The Zemanifesto
“Yo” is a new app with a single function: it allows users to send and receive this message and only this message: “Yo.” That’s it. That’s all it does.
“The hallmark of a bubble about to burst is a heightening in mania right before it all hits the fan. Say, for example, investors driving through Silicon Valley throwing bags of money out of a car window and watching penniless entrepreneurs scramble for cash to fund their do-nothing app.
Allow me to introduce you to new chat app, Yo.”
But the truth about Yo is so much worse. It isn’t the symptom of “tulip mania” in Silicon Valley, it’s the next step in the devolution of the human mind, and all indications are it’s gonna be a huge hit with the kids.
According to the app’s creator, Or Arbel, “context based communication” is the future of text messaging:
You usually understand what the Yo means based on who you get it from and when you get it.
Arbel says he imagines business of all kinds embracing the app. Stores could send a “yo” when they have a sale, sports teams could send a “yo” when they score a goal and blogs could send a “yo” when they post a story, but I promise never to do that.
And this will probably work — Yo is the future of human communication because it’s just a digital version of its past.
Early humans relied on guttural grunts, high-pitched shrieks and body language for communication. Much of this communication was “context based.”
If I grunt at you, with my arm extended in your direction and my hand gripping an apple, you might rightly deduce that my grunt represents the offering of an apple.
Inversely, if I’m standing sideways and holding the apple with both hands near the shoulder furthest from you, my grunt ought to be interpreted as a warning, unless you want to get the business end of a pointy stick for fucking with my apple.
Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen calls it “one-bit communication” and says it’s already getting used — in some parts of the world more than others.
From Business Insider:
“Yo is an instance of “one-bit communication” — a message with no content other than the fact that it exists… Other instances of one-bit communication: Police siren, flashing stop light, “Open” sign, light turned on, taxicab roof indicator lit.”
Andreessen also points to the phenomenon of “missed calls” in South Asia, the Philippines and Africa, where many people rely on prepaid cellphones. To avoid spending minutes minutes, people use unanswered calls to signal predetermined meanings.
It works like this: I drop you off at your house and tell you I’ll call when I make it safely home. I call you, let the phone ring once and hang up. Now you know I made it home safely, because that’s what the ring means.
In Bangladesh, this kind of call makes up for 70% of all cellular traffic at any given time. Then again, gaming the phone company isn’t a uniquely foreign concept. Remember this commercial?
So Yo may or may not be the next big thing, but it’s not an aberration or even the flickering of something particularly new. It’s just another expression of a culture that rejects nuance and embraces expediency.
I’m far from the first person to draw a parallel between the reductivism of social media communication and “Newspeak” from George Orwell’s 1984. I’ve always thought those writers were a bit hyperbolic in their analysis, which is to be expected from somebody invoking Big Brother.
I think 140 characters is pretty short, but revolutionary sentiments have been condensed into much tighter parameters than that. It isn’t as if they limit the number of tweets you post, so it’s hard to argue Twitter is inherently repressive or ant-intellectual.
And it’s a bit annoying at times that there’s a “like” button and no “dislike” button on Facebook, but there’s no limit to the negativity you can cram into a comment. So it’s hard to argue the site’s marginally smarmy slant is confining to open discourse.
But in the case of Yo, which literally reduces all human communication in its sphere to a single word, it’s hard not to think of Syme, the Newspeak expert at the Ministry of Truth, confiding in Winston about the supreme value of simplicity in communication:
“‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well… after all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word?… In the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else… in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston?’”
And Yo is beautiful in the eyes of a certain beholder. The crux of the “Unix Philosophy” is to “write programs that do one thing and do it well,” and Yo is the purest manifestation of that maxim imaginable.
Also, it’s “doubleplusgood” if the thought of typing out “omw” or “lol” makes your brain sore.
Via various sources