Thursday, April 1, 2010

Technology: A boon or curse?

Globalization affects people in different ways. Because of it, humans have moved away in search of better opportunities. But technology ensures that emotional distances don’t get created with increasing physical distances. Although for someone who doesn’t want to stay in touch, geographic dislocation would only be an excuse for aloofness. However, we won’t talk about “those” people in this post.

I was in an Indian grocery store the other day. While shopping I realized that one of the dishes that I wanted to cook for my husband, before leaving for my upcoming writing residencies (More on that next week), needed some special ingredients. So, I called up my mom in India and asked her about it. It was a sweet moment. My mother felt a part of my day-to-day life even though she was sitting in a different continent and watching some soap opera. 

But things were different not too long ago. I remember when my parents lived in North Africa in the 80s and 90s. Telephones were a luxury in those days. Aerogramme was the dinosaur of communication, so people conveyed important news via telexes, especially in the eighties. We found out about my brother’s board exams results and my boarding school admissions via telex messages. The downside to telexes: Privacy was a myth. I think, everyone in my dad’s office knew about my brother’s overall percentage, in his class tenth exams, even before he did.

I distinctly remember, somewhere in the late eighties, my father got an awful message that read his brother-in-law had passed away. In the west, even a crisp message of the sort would be interpreted as my father’s brother-in-law had died. The concept of “my” family and my “spouse’s” family is very distinct in this part of the world.

The wonderful thing about the Indian culture is that we embrace the in-laws side as our own. So, for my father, “brother-in-law” could have been my mother’s sister’s husband or my dad’s sister’s husband. I was a child then; I can’t recollect how we eventually found out that it was my phupha (dad’s sister’s husband) who had met with the most ironical death. But dealing with bad news while not knowing whom you are mourning for, was excruciating for my parents.

Things have changed drastically over the last decade. Technology has altered the dimension of time and distance. I recently acquired a pair of purple shoes that my ten-year old niece wanted to see. Of course, my brother and husband made a lot of fun of the cool footwear. But then I think of the two of them as fashion-delinquents.:-) Anyway, watching my niece expressing her approval, on Skype, was beyond ordinary. 

Last year, when my husband was in Bombay, I got to see both the set of parents at my in-laws house – on Skype. The best gift stored in my memory: Seeing all four of them together - laughing, chatting, and teasing.

It’s obvious that I am appreciative of what technology has to offer. But what are the side effects of it? Is technology harming us in anyway? Nothing in the world can bring us only gain, right? Though technology seems to be a boon for your personal relationships, does it adversely affect our professional lives?

Look at the world around you. Can you escape being connected? Actually, is that choice made for you or do you make it your self? Even on vacations or at social gatherings, people check their emails and browse the Internet. It’s easy being sanctimonious and judging the technology-addicts, but can we? The companies allow you flexibilities. Why? Because you are contactable at any given point. Those are unsaid but understood expectations.

People don’t talk to each other as often over the phone. I understand that paucity of time is an issue, but can machines ever replace human contact? Emails, texts, social networking, and IMs keep you connected and strangely disconnected in the same breath. And I am old-fashioned that way. I don’t use ATMS because I’d much rather interact with a human – a teller. Don’t laugh; when my first book came out, the same tellers bought it.:-)

The bigger question is how do we strike that healthy balance between using technology without abusing it?

More until next time, 


Copyright © 04. 01.2010

“Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology” – John Tudor


Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Bijay said...

Well ! technologies, by themselves,are neither good nor bad.It is the application which makes the difference.To bring home this point, developments of Atomic theory inter-alia Atom Bombs could be the best example.
Even at micro level, see the damages which technological advancements like mobile phones or for that matter, televisions are causing to the social fabrics in countries like India are equally good testimony to establish what abyse of technology could mean..Have you seen a boy (or girl) in teens on a motorbike or even bicycle with his/her one hand glued to ear with a mobile and other one balancing the bike in a crowded traffic ? Or have you noticed a Mother of today bribing her infant or young kid to watch endlessly cartoon net work while eating ? These are supposedly innocent abuse of technologies. Worse could be the nightmare exhibited by terrorists of various kinds by abusing things like remote control or explosives.
Now the question arises asto what is an use or abuse of technology ? In simple words, if any application of technology reduces the human face of the "APPLIER" or reduces the human chord between two individuals or groups.If we we fail to make this distinction, developments are nothing but disaster-- though the extent of impacts could vary in a given situation.