The individual is connected to society in much the same way that our hearts are connected to our bodies: through a multitude of small but vital links. In one case the connections are physical (veins, arteries, blood) and in the other, social (people, places, memories, symbols), but in both cases they are necessary for the organism to function. When the physical connections are broken, the individual becomes sick. When the social connections are broken, loneliness and isolation ensue. And the greater the rupture, the harder it is to heal. Ideally, we would “graft” the whole person into a hospitable environment. But this is an art, and a difficult one at that, so we fall back on technical, patchwork solutions – the social equivalent of prosthetics. And we call this painful procedure “enhancement”!
An example of this patchwork approach is the so-called “intelligent house,” designed to enable isolated and vulnerable individuals to remain in their homes with the aid of video and computer monitoring. Such an approach may be helpful in life-threatening situations, but like the artificial prosthesis, it does nothing to remedy the person’s greatest need: being part of a living network of people.