What Price Advancement?

Say, black and white are two destinations. And en route are grey areas – our future? 

Quite recently, Stephen Hawking made a statement citing AI’s adverse effect on human life and how it will lead to our doom. The former is correct to an extent and the latter – well – I know this is clichéd – but only time will and can tell. I have personally, grown up in the computer era and, to tell the truth, feel the rate of development of the world around me in general and technology in particular has been overwhelming. Accounts of people older than me by two generations or so speaks volumes – of course a whole lot larger than mine – they have lived to see the radio era, television era, computer era and, now of late, the internet era. Their accounts emanate awe at the pace at which such developments have taken place. But, in equal amounts, and sometimes more, doubt and concern whether it is all for the better or worse.

And that thought, I am confident would have crept in the average, curious young mind. If not now, it certainly will, in the near future.

On a personal note, I would call this era of ours the smartphone era – more so than the internet era. The reason for which is most definitely self explanatory. From mere calls & texts to bill payment, binge-watching, cab-booking and flirting with voice recognition services, the phone certainly has come a long, long way. And will continue to go a long, long way further – and could possibly take us further, even further than itself – by aiding mobility and auto-mobiles directly and/or indirectly.

But at what price?

I want to cite a hackneyed example at this juncture. There was a time, not long ago, when all bills of a household had to be paid in person, with the person in context having to go all the way to the relevant organisation and get it done. Ah, but now, there is no such hassle, is there? It is all so easy – at the click of a single button! But that single button multiplies to hundreds of buttons over a period of time. And thousands, with further ado. What is happening is not just the multiplication and proliferation of simplicity & ease, but also multiplication of expectation for simplicity. And laziness too, in equal measures. Human beings are adaptable creatures, much like all the other creatures. And when the adaptability in question is that towards simplicity & comfort, we are all too ready to abide – me included. End result is that we get lazy. We want everything to be spoon-fed, ready at the table. We do not want to struggle. This might be a bit odd, but back in the days, there was a kind of romance attached to going all the way to a bank, waiting for our token number to be called out, and then trotting towards the counter and caressing the wood finish of it, etcetera. Yes, queer though it may seem, it is quite true. It may be a mundane thing to do – wait in the bank for hours sometimes, unproductively. But all things in life have their own romance attached to it, do they not? Much like train travel – in a way maybe.

But there is no such romance involved when everything is done from the same screen, same chair. People romanticise with places they see, travel, and people they meet. All of that is lost when all roads lead to one destination nowadays – internet. 

Do not get me wrong, I am not against the internet in any plausible way – if I was, I would be the biggest hypocrite to advocate my views by using it myself for this handle of expression. There are two sides to any coin, yes?

Although healthcare has increased multi-fold for the better, it has not been able to prevent the arrival of new diseases. Every year or so, we hear of deadly, contagious sometimes, epidemics. So many new diseases with the onset of the modern era. To be fair, they have all been nullified to an extent – I am no medical practitioner – with the advent of advancement in healthcare technology. But then again, take for example, skin diseases. Many of which, are said to be caused due to ozone layer depletion. Now, ozone layer depletion – how was that caused and why? Because of our wonderfully ecologically friendly waste that we emit from various sources on our planet. Yes, I was being sarcastic there. And what was the cause for the wonderful (read harmful, I was sarcastic again) waste to be generated in the first place? Advancement in technology – industrialisation, urbanisation.

To every effect, there was a cause. Luckily in our case, the ill effects of technology advancement are balanced by subsequent advancement in healthcare et al. But how long will it last? How long will Mother Nature sustain? And when she decides to strike, it is more often than not – disastrous.

Centuries ago, is a different case in point altogether. Fair enough, healthcare development was poor, but, so was technology advancement and consequently the damage it caused to the environment. The lesser we hurt the environment, the lesser will be the backlash from it in the future. So here again, it is even. But the question is for how long?

On a human front, technology advancement takes away many romances that we had before its omnipotence & omnipresence took us by storm. The bank example is a just a drop in an ocean.

What is ocean, but a multitude of drops? – Cloud Atlas (2012) 

Another famous quote strikes me: We have not inherited the environment from our forefathers but borrowed it from our children.

Every coin has two sides – sometimes one side is less shiny – it is up to us to decide and accept which side it is.

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