· 5 min read

Keeping in touch

№ 1

Alice and Bob are two friends who have never met in person. They live on planet Xorab, where there is a very strict law re: communication. They are only allowed to talk via videophone. The law forbids them from meeting face-to-face. Now, and forever more. Meanwhile on planet Ploxtar, there live two friends, Cindy and Dave, who also have never met in person. Their communication is subject to a different rule: they are only allowed to talk via asynchronous video messages. A video walkie-talkie. They can never, ever converse in real-time. To what extent is C and D’s friendship different than A and B’s?

№ 2

Much like C and D, Erin and Frank have never met in person and only talk via asynchronous video messages. However, there’s something unique about communication on planet Zeltro (where E and F live). They always write out what they’re going to say before they record their messages. On Zeltro, there is always a (larger) gap between thinking and vocalizing. Now let’s visit Eli and Fran. They are a lot like Erin and Frank. They only communicate via asynchronous video messages, and they always read off of a piece of paper when they record their messages. But neither Eli nor Fran write the messages themselves. They are written by secret agents who watch the video messages from a remote location, but do not know E or F.

№ 3

George and Hannah live on planet Myzox and talk every day via synchronous video chat. But their conversations are subject to a very strict set of rules. They are not allowed to share any biographical details about themselves, and they are not allowed to share any details about their day-to-day activities. They can only talk about how their activities made them feel or think (i.e. second-order reactions and emotions). Now picture Ian and Joanne—two friends who talk every day via synchronous video calls. They are not allowed to talk about anything that has happened since they met. They can only discuss biographical details and thoughts that pertain to the past.

№ 4

Katelyn and Louis (from the planet Fyntar) both wear around their necks a video camera that records their every waking minute and live streams it to the other person’s receiver. K and L can tune into each other’s live streams at any time. But there’s a catch! Katelyn and Louis are not allowed to talk directly to one another. They can only observe.

№ 5

Mandy and Naomi are two aliens from the planet Dobsyx who communicate only through SMS. However, the SMS system they use is very unique. It costs one credit to send one word. Credits do not rollover to the next day. How do M and N get credits? Every day, the god of Dobsyx descends from the heavens and asks M and N, “How much time do you want to spend in communication today?” The god of Dobsyx then allocates credits using two variables: (1) average reading speed of the recipient and (2) the number of minutes that the recipient wants to spend in communication. For example, if M tells the god of Dobsyx that she wants to spend 10 minutes communicating, then N will receive the number of credits that corresponds to exactly 10-minutes worth of reading time for M. No more, no less.

№ 6

Olaf and Perry are two aliens who communicate exclusively through SMS. But the SMS system they use is different from M and N’s. It costs one credit to send one word, and credits do not rollover to the next day. On the first day of their friendship, the god of Dobsyx descends from the heavens and tells them that they each have 10,000 credits to use. After the credits run out, they will never be able to message each other again.

№ 7

Quade and Roy are two alien friends who live on the planet Morflux. Their communication is subject to a very peculiar set of rules. On the day that Q and R first met, the god of Morflux told them that they were not allowed to speak to each other for a year. Every day during their year of silence, both Q and R record a 10-minute video message for the other. The videos are placed in a vault with 365 sub-compartments. When the year ends, the first sub-compartment unlocks and Q and R can watch each other’s messages. They are allowed to record video responses, but the replies are placed in a vault that can not be opened until another year passes. And so on, ad infinitum.

№ 8

Steve and Terry are two alien friends who live on the planet Gleick. They are allowed to talk every day, but their musings must always take the form of a PowerPoint presentation.

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