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HAVE WE BECOME SLAVES OF

TECHNOLOGY?
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which
hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology”, said Carl Sagan,
an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and highly
successful science popularizer and science communicator in the space and natural
sciences who during his lifetime, he published more than 600 scientific papers and
popular articles and was author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books.
Unfortunately, what he said has a smattering of truth in it. How many of us can claim to
have a deep understanding of the workings of a television? Even graduates from
professional colleges sometimes do not understand the nuanced workings of the gadgets
we use in our lives with regularity. Even technical subjects harped upon by the media,
and thus brought to the attention of hoi polloi in long drawn-out debates and discussions
by news channels, like the 3G standards are not well-known to the public. In this milieu
of universal ignorance, we are practically blind. “Omne ignotum pro magnifico”, is an
old proverb which means everything unknown is magnificent. We seem to be following it
faithfully, and are so in awe of this rumbling colossus called technology that we stare at
it, impressed and open-mouthed, ignoring the fact that this ignorance may get us
trampled.

With ignorance so common, we seem to be in the mercy of technology and not the
other way around. For who can be the master of something one does not know anything
about? With technological advances taking place at a breakneck pace, it looks like the
“aam admi” cannot keep up. However, one facet of this technological development to be
noted is that the development seems to be accelerating.

If we lie back and relax for some time and watch or rather observe the world
around us, we get to notice a few things. With technology moving ahead by leaps and
bounds, we try to take advantage of these advances. We buy various gadgets and try to
incorporate technology into our lives so that our lives become simpler. We become used
to having things easy and with time we lead lives utterly dependent on advanced
technology. When new technology is developed, we try to introduce it into our lives and
make it easier. “Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient
means for going backwards”, said Aldous Huxley, an English writer and one of the most
prominent members of the famous Huxley family. By the end of his life, Huxley was
considered, in some academic circles, a leader of modern thought and an intellectual of
the highest rank, and highly regarded as one of the most prominent explorers of visual
communication and sight-related theories as well. Well, he would know.

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our
humanity”, said Albert Einstein, often regarded as the father of modern physics whose
great intelligence and originality has made the word "Einstein" synonymous with genius.
A witty man too, who had a penchant for delivering gems like the one above. Well,
Einstein’s remarks were done with the dark shadow of nuclear weapons in mind, but the
same holds good even now. With technology expanding now at a surprising pace, there is
no telling what may be discovered now, or more importantly, how it will be used.
Nuclear power is both destructive and useful. Several apocalyptic yarns have been
weaved over the years of scientists developing technologies that can be cataclysmic to the
world at large. The basis of all these stories deals with mankind’s lust for power and
individuals trying to control the world for their own ends with the hero trying to stop the
villain. While this may sound too frivolous to happen in the real world, one can never
say.

With life now becoming synonymous with computers, mobile phones, ipods and
other gadgets, we seem to consider their presence as ordinary and their absence as
something unnatural. “I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that
life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours”,
said John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the U.S. Kennedy's youth, energy, and charming
family brought him world adulation and sparked the idealism of a generation, for whom
the Kennedy White House became known as “Camelot”. A charismatic personality, his
life was tragically cut short before his time by Lee Harvey Oswald. Supposedly, anyway.
Murky rumours still abound as to his murderer or murderers, but well, that is beside my
point. He was also known as a brilliant orator and had a way with words. Technology can
be very dangerous too as can be evinced from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Recent efforts to
decrease the number of nuclear warheads notwithstanding, we still hold our own
destruction in our hands, but the question is how long? With rogue elements and terrorist
groups hankering after WMDs, logically it looks like it is only a matter of time before
they get a WMD. There is theorem called as the infinite monkey theorem. It states that if
a million monkeys are given typewriters and set to work, they'd eventually come up with
the complete works of Shakespeare. This frolicsome theory basically shows the power of
large numbers. It we factor in a large amount of time, who knows what terrorists will be
able to do, or get hold of, taking in human error also into account? Pretty much, as one
can imagine. So here we are at the mercy of terrorists, where we cannot destroy them
completely as they are mutable and fluid in their approach, but they can deal out heavy
damage to the world at large. Here technology is dangerous to both the sides.

“All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the
automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his
laziness”, said Mark Kennedy, an American businessman and politician who was
a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007.
Technology as the above statement implies has made us a lazier and lazier. With
technological advances making our life easier, we tend to take life easy, depending
almost entirely on these devices and we feel lost if these devices are taken away from
close propinquity. Life seems impossible sans these devices. We are heavily
inconvenienced if there are power shutdowns and we feel helpless. Technology these
days directs our actions and our decisions and sometimes we do things based only on
technology. This has become especially prevalent over the last few years. Reading the
last few lines, if we replace the word ‘technology’ with ‘master’, doesn’t it read like the
words of a slave?
PRATHEEK PRAVEEN KUMAR

prytheek@yahoo.com