Thursday, February 11, 2010

Technology Versus Life

There was a time I could multiply 196 by 832, call my friends, family, lovers without referring to a phone book, remember the birthdays of those who mattered most to me, spell every word I knew without the slightest hesitation. I never owned a dictionary nor a phone book. Yes, I had a calculator on my desk but that was not to add, subtract, divide or multiply. It was for multiple calculations, finding square roots of impossibly large figures which I needed while solving mathematical puzzles, my favourite source of short term amusement.

Today I use my cell phone to add and subtract, recall phone numbers and faces, remind me about birthdays. My laptop tries to correct my spellings, language, grammar and often makes mistakes itself. I can still beat the computer at chess but it's so easy I have long given up playing. No, I don't need to remember anything at all. Google helps me find it in an instant.

What was the song Bade Ghulam Ali sang in Khudita Pashan, Tagore's unforgettable ghost story that Tapan Sinha directed, for which Ali Akbar Khan wrote the music? Who directed Edward Scissorhands? When will Rajiv's assassins walk out of jail? Who was India's first Education Minister? Was Jailhouse Rock the King's first big hit? Which was the first big scam that shook Independent India? What did Mountbatten say when he first caught Edwina in Jawaharlal's arms? How does one become a citizen of Melchizedek? Google has an answer for most things, from curing your cat's diarrhoea to which old bookshop in London may have the 1921 edition of Lorca's Libro de Poemas. When Google fails, there's twitter. Somebody, somewhere will always have an answer to the question bothering you. The answer need not always be right. None of us look for right answers in life. We look for answers that comfort us. It's a bit like finding God. If he doesn't exist, we'll have to manufacture him.

No, it is not Alzheimer's nor stress (nor the refusal to eat fish) that's slaying my memory cells. It's this continuous acceptance of technology that's being thrust into my face, demanding it be used. I may not be as quick as a calculator but I'm certainly better than a dictionary or thesaurus. I may not be able to do Rubik's cube in under two minutes, as Aamir Khan apparently does, but I'm ready to take a Mensa test with anyone. The problem is not in my faculties. It lies in the dependencies being forced onto me by technology I have no need for. I am ashamed I have to remember my father's death anniversary by an alarm on my cellphone. Or that a website has to remind me two days ahead to send flowers to my wife on our wedding anniversary. I fear I'm becoming a technology victim.

I'm not alone. That's pretty obvious. I get flowers at least four times a year from friends and acquaintances. That's because different sites have published different birth dates for me and they stay in Google memory. I get anniversary cakes on wrong days. Google informs that these dates do not even match the date of my earlier marriage leave alone my current one. Many of my more famous friends now celebrate multiple birthdays and marriage anniversaries simply because they enjoy partying. I don't. What's worse, I get confused and have now reached a stage where I don't even remember my own birthday till Maria reminds me the evening before with a discreet sms.
Where not Technology is , Today ?
Do we need so much technology in our lives?
Do we really need taps that go off on their own or lights that come on when we walk into a room? Don't we want to do these things ourselves?
Do we really need 11 digit phone numbers that no one can recall without assistance?
What about simple, easy to remember word/number combinations like Maggie69Wow?
Must we perfunctorily celebrate all birthdays?
Why not stick to 20 people who really matter to you and call them instead of sending fancy bouquets to hundreds of people with notes from florists?
Why send a V-Day e-card when a simple kiss can do?
Why do I need 8GB of music on my iPod when running in the gym?
Why can't I let my imagination chase that gorgeous babe two treadmills away?
Why must technology isolate us instead of bonding us with a real world of real people, real passions?
How can internet sex be a substitute for The Real Thing? Yet porn is the biggest business on the net.
How can a Tamagotchi (or any e-pet) replace the love of a real pug? Yet the Japanese are hooked on it.
How can any cell phone chat (with a zillion call drops) be a substitute for talking face to face with someone you love? Yet 700 million cell phone users here cootchie coo on it.

Finally, Is it possible to live in today's world without technology ?

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