I clearly remember it. The new millennium was around the corner and Y2K buzz was in the air. May be just one year before that or so, I had my ‘own’ email id, the first one. My friend who guided me for creating the new one, had already it on ‘yahoo’ and hence I chose the same brand. Going to the internet cafes was a ‘cool’ thing and what exactly to do there beyond 15 minutes was surely a dilemma for some of the dumbos like me. Google search also used to be a fascinating thing then. So, this was around year 2k. Within four years from then, I had my individual cell phone, gifted by one of my brothers and I was still in college back then.
Things on the internet and technological front changed very fast in India. I represent the generation which grew with this transition. From 386,486 to Celeron and then to generations of Pentium to tabs to keypad phones and now to smart phones, we have travelled a huge distance. From a simple email-id or DOS based computing system we are witnessing the increasing dependence of the planet’s most intelligent animal on artificial intelligence.
On information technology spread front, the situation changed rapidly after 2005 with the availability of smart phones, and after 2015, we witnessed the explosion. Artificial intelligence is now at our fingertips. The late actor Sushant Singh Rajput, in one of his interviews, had mentioned that within five years, we would have to learn coding, and that we have already arrived in future. Technology has started impacting our behaviour, family, personal and social life, thought process, interpersonal relations, work ethics, work process and what not.
And yet in this same age there are people who are deprived of this and are lagging behind, if we might to say so. 15 years back, they said that the world would be divided in two categories; computer literates and computer illiterates. Now, we are witnessing the same divide in terms of smart phones and internet connectivity. These two things are rewriting definitions of development.
Some ten years back, I was speaking in a training programme organized for government employees. They had recently joined the Agriculture department, and I was discussing with them about communication and increasing its effectiveness. All of those were graduates and 99 percent of that batch did not have their own email id. And why ten years back, even today, I personally know many college-goers who don’t have their email ids and social media accounts, imagine, in the year 2020.
With the advent of Covid-19, all our enlightened educationists have suddenly started promoting online education using smart phones. Some are in a real haste and want to bring all revolution in these two-three months only. This online education thing has highlighted the gap of technological proficiency amongst urban and rural children. Even in cities there are so many children for whom this online education would be difficult to grab just because they don’t have mobile phones at their home. Some of them have one phone and that is obviously used by the father in the family. With the advent of the new normal age, would these children be kept deprived of education because they don’t have smart phones? Or would we think about those lagging behind technologically? This is a million-dollar question.
The Digital divide is a reality and we all are witnessing it at our homes too, with our elder folks around us. No doubt, each one of us needs to accept technological advancements and adapt accordingly. In human history, technological changes have been seen many times and those have made the humans change their lifestyles. Those who acquire new skills, survived and the others lagged behind. This happened during the stone age, at the time of typewriters and also on the arrival of computers. But those who would fail to adapt according to situation, would they be wiped out or would we take them along with us? Would theory of ‘survival of fittest’ win again or humanity would superpower it? This is a question I would like to ponder upon. Would we walk ahead together holding each others hands? Would equality be seen in real or would it be again proved as nothing but Utopia?
Communication is the need of all who are alive, and technology is no doubt an essential medium. But let us not allow the medium to decide our future, our emotions, thoughts and living. Do you remember the movie ‘Castaway’? The story of a protagonist caught alone on an island, his struggle to survive and to return to his home? The character I like in that movie is ‘Wilson’, the volleyball. The relationship of the protagonist and Wilson is what I adore the most. I sense the message of humanity in it. Whatever technological advancements the human race would achieve, we certainly would need one such Wilson to have personal contact, touch, one to one communication and to feel alive. ‘Alive virtually, isolated actually’ is the status we are heading towards rapidly. Was this the ‘progress’ we, as a human race, strived for? Certainly not. No matter how many Alexas we have around us, we would need at least one Wilson in our life. The Wilson, who might not have intelligence, but someone who would not be artificial too! I believe this would be our future……but not convinced!