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HAVE WE BECOME SLAVES OF TECHNOLOGY?


HAVE WE BECOME SLAVES OF TECHNOLOGY?
   Over the past hundred years or so, humankind has made great advances in the sub-microscopic world of the electrons.  We have discovered our ability to transform the innumerable resources available all round us into the application that would bring fruitful returns in terms of better life, adaptability and the supremacy of human race over others.  We have increased the power and complexity of our electronic friends manifold and integrated them into our daily lives.
   I am, for example, using a computer which is thousands of times more powerful than ENIAC, to type this essay.  Just about everyone I know, carries around an electronic device of some sort: whether it is a phone or PDA or a humble wristwatch.  Even things that were traditionally mechanical in nature are being more and more controlled and directed by the unseen machinations of the electrons.  Cars now use computers to monitor and tweak everything from suspension to fuel consumption.  Washing machines have gone from a simple mechanical timer to glowing digital readout, hiding an electronic brain.  In other words, Technology has a splendid ability to be a great tool for taking more control of our lives as well as the ability to control our lives.  Today, it has melted borders and shrunk the world into a single common entity.
   Connectivity and communication have increased, making it easier than before to stay in touch with our friends, co-workers and relatives. We are now available for contact twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.  No matter where we are, our electronic companions  will find us.  Even staid kitchen items like refrigerators, ovens and even toasters have the ability now to make demands for us.  We willingly put our lives into these devices.  Our innermost thoughts get recorded into their electric memories.  Our appointment, our loved ones and even our work, all because data for these electron-pushing brains.  Many of us find it difficult to wake up in the morning without the strident call of the computerized alarm clock.  Our daily routines are defined by what we see in our PDA’s or computer calendars.  For some it is so much a part of life that holidays without our batter-driven companions are unthinkable.
   This brings the thought to my mind.  We may put our data into these devices, we may turn them on and off, we may design and manufacture new generations of them, but when the phone rings do we not rush to answer it? When the battery is empty do we not become agitated until it is plugged into a source of electronic nourishment?  When an alarm sounds do we not rush to that appointment? When the email comes or the chat bubble pops up do we not subscribe to its demands? We may be masters of our environment.  We may be able to direct technology in ways that achieve our wishes, but when technology calls, we also rush to answer.  When technology fails we scramble to fix it.  So to be somewhat Shakespearean in my tone, are we masters or are we slaves?
  Technology has the remarkable ability to be great tool for taking more control of our lives as well as the ability to control us.  We see this in numerous ways.  On the positive side, we can now connect to friends around the globe, making distance a forgettable obstacle.  There is the Skype ad showing how Paige and Sarah bonded over the platform, becoming best friends without ever having met.  Paige and Sarah are not alone.  The average American moves every five years, so technology allows us to keep up, no matter where that might be.  Then there are apps and technology focused on the quantified self to help us change our fitness habits.  Nike+ connects more than 11 million users to their workouts in more meaningful ways.  When we go out and get active, it invokes positive reinforcement from our communities, encouraging us to exercise more regularly.  While we might grow tired of those check-ins and fitness posts and hate them for making us feel lazy, they are a powerful motivator.  But we must not lose sight of the dark side.  We see families who cannot put down their phones at dinner.  Advertisements mock the break-up text, but we all know someone who has been one the receiving end.  Work is only an email away, making time off and vacations a distant reality.  Phones buzz, emails alert, but we are never satisfied with what we get.  Fear of Missing Out addiction, FOMO, is ruining people’s lives.  Technology is a dominant part of our daily lives for both good and bad, and we have become a slave to what it wants: it is demanding, intrusive and in many ways, regularly disappoints, yet we cannot live without it.
   What if technology could be used to help us achieve balance? Last year, Arianna Huffington developed the GPS-for-the-Soul to help us merge our physical, spiritual and merge our physical, spiritual and mental lives, creating more peaceful moments.  Then there is the new mobile gifting service BOND, which helps us be more thoughtful by making it easy to send personalized, hand-written notes and gifts in seconds from our phone.  And there is Headspace, an iPhone and Android App, which is on a mission to get as many people in the world as possible to take 10 minutes out of their day, to practice simple and easy-to-learn meditation techniques.  Nokia launched Nokia@Work to share how to get the most out of your day and enhance your productivity with simple tips and tricks.
  Technology is all around us.  Right from a paper pin to a surgical tool, we have been taking the help of technology.  It will not be wrong to say that we are living in a cocoon of technology and its applications.  It has become our closest friend, a constant companion.  By technology it does not mean the sophisticated gadgets.  It can be simple as a nail and hammer.  It is not the gift of modern world, but present from time immemorial.   It has been assisting man from the very early days in making his life more comfortable and helping him survive against the odds.  Invention of wheel was one such remarkable fruit of investigating mind of man. Man is curious by nature.  It is his curiosity only, which has given birth to one discovery or invention after another.  And with time, science has become an inseparable part of all our endeavours.  Modern man has become so much dependent on science that is impossible for him to live without it.  The irony is that technology gathers knowledge faster than the society gathers wisdom.
  This is the era of machines.  Our day-to-day acitivity has become more and more mechanized.  In this mechanical age, machines are gradually replacing man.  The imminent danger lies not in the fact that machines will begin to think and act like a machine.  So is technology bad?  As someone wise has said, “it is not the technology that is bad – it is the way it is being used, which makes it bad or good?”,  Where a nuclear technology can destroy generations of mankind in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there it can also bring peace and prosperity to millions of homes through its constructive applications.
   Technology can be unforgiving and uncompromising in terms of how much we are controlled by it, but we do not have to let it treat us this way.  We can still have control.  If we want to harness the positive and admit that nothing is more important than how we engage in the present, then we can start to focus more on the positive, productive and human-centric side of this wonderfully complex thing have grown to love so much.
Ferris Beuller has correctly said, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it”.

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