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Technology: A Commentary

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I just came across this, one of my random thoughts, written several years ago.  I suppose it got lost in my secure filing in a misplaced folder.  But I suppose it still holds true.  My niece in California had complained once about not being able to talk to her parents in India, because the phone wasn’t working back home and her parents’ Internet was down too.  We have come a long way.  Only a few decades ago I could not talk to my folks back home because they did not even own a phone.  Telegram, if it came, usually carried bad news.  And before arriving in a new land about five decades ago with one suitcase with all my worldly possession and eight dollars in my pocket, I used to travel by train packed with people,  inside, outside and on the roof, because that’s all we could afford.

The first computer ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer ) was installed in 1947 consisting of 18000 vacuum tube and weighed 30 tons. Transistor was invented only about 60 years ago.  After the discovery of fire and the wheel, this perhaps has had the most profound effect on the modern world.  Without  semiconductor, there won’t be modern day computer, cell phone, internet, video game, HDTV, live display of a distant war, iPod, YouTube, html, C++, and so on.  But we have gotten used to it.  If you tell a kid that we did not have radio, they would perhaps wonder why we did not watch TV.  And I don’t think I am quite that antique yet.

I grew up with longhand calculation, slide rule, vacuum tube, mechanical calculator, chart recorder.  Then graduated through heterodyne AM radio, FM, PCM, HF/VHF transmission, discrete circuit, integrated circuit, LSI, magnetic core memory, solid state memory, logic circuits, analog-to-digital conversion, Fortran, Assembly language, etc.  Now, hardly anyone talks about those either.  Now even babies who can barely talk or walk grow up using a hi-tech talking or giggling toy. iPod, iPhone, iTunes, i-everything, texting, clicking pictures, Facebook, Instagram, tweet, social networking – they are wired; they don’t meet face-to-face but talk to a Facebook friend for hours.  Young people loiter on the street or in the malls with plugs in their ears and staring at a cell phone unmindful of other pedestrians or traffic or crowds in a mall.  When they talk to that phone on their palm, from a distance they appear like lunatic persons talking to themselves; the kind of folks (but wearing ragged, dirty clothes unlike the ones I see now trying to make fashion statements) I used to see during my childhood in my old place.  No, they are not crazy; they are just disconnected from fellow human beings and seem to be married to that gadget.

Now we have more gadgets than we know what to do with.  There are people babbling on cell phones, texting, chatting on Internet, playing video games, dating a stranger from an alien land, clicking remotes to change hundreds of channels (and that’s not enough) on a huge screen TV, playing poker, sexual predator prowling for innocent victim, spreading lies.  They have invented a whole new terminology, abbreviations like LOL (because they have no time to write) and phrases like “phone sex” in this high-tech world.  People can today relate better to gadgets than they can relate to people.  They love things and use people instead of being the other way around.  Parents have no time for children, so they try to make it up by showering more hi-tech gifts.  You can order stuff online without talking to a person and get it delivered at your door step.  You can play the stock market from your phone to beat the odds and hoping to get rich quick.

We have more time saving gadgets, yet we are always short on time.  We drive like crazy while talking on the cell phone.  We get irritated at small things and show our frustration by showing the middle finger; we become impatient and honk at the car ahead because they seem to be too slow.  We use Humvees to be macho whether one is needed or not.  We live in the suburbs and navigate through crawling traffic for hours using onboard GPS.  We stare at a computer all day until our eyes go blind.  The gadgets are supposed to save time, but we literally stay on call 24 hours day.  The cell phone rings even in the rest rooms.  Our old parents grow old in a dark lonesome room, because we are too busy making money, buying new gadgets and competing with Jones. We express our love with pre-printed cards, e-greetings, and expensive gadgets.  We give less and less of a warm hug, a smile, a thank you, a sorry as if these words or feelings are losing out against modern technology.

Oh, how far we have succumbed to technology!  We can’t live without it.  If there is a catastrophe sending us back to primitive era, shall we be able to survive without these modern day miracles?  Or shall we disappear like many advanced species of the past?  Technology is like fire.  It is extremely useful, but if we abuse it, it can burn.


Lohit Datta-Barua (USA)

Dr. Lohit Datta-Barua has lived in Houston since 1973. As an inspiring writer and contributor to social justice he continues to touch people’s lives. As of 2019 Datta-Barua has authored eleven books, six in English, and five in his mother tongue Assamese. His latest book, “One Long Journey” is primarily a story of survival and hope in the face of of adversity and social upheaval, which Datta-Barua hopes can inspire his readers. All proceeds from “One Long Journey” go for orphan welfare.

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