By Rohini Mohan
How long has it been since you wrote a letter in long hand and on a piece of paper?
Funny how we’ve wandered into an era in which we are more comfortable communicating with inanimate objects than we are in talking to live humans. We feel secure only if we are hooked up electronically 24/7. Laptop, Blackberry, and Cell phone, (read as I-phone), are as important for our sustenance as Dal and Roti. The only condition I have when I go away for my much awaited vacation is that my hotel room has wireless connectivity because I would feel unbearably lost and alone without my email and internet. No matter where I am on the planet, I am always accessible. Call me, Page me, Text me, IM me, you just need my number and you will track me down eventually. Of course I could be avoiding you thanks to the miracle that is Caller ID. In which case I could be totally inaccessible and you can do all of the above till you’re blue in the face and I am as good as on another planet. If you must spill your heart out though, you can always chat with my voice mail.
In today’s world, being a techno geek is nothing weird or wonderful. It is a bare essential for survival. If I have spent my commute up and down from work listening to my GPS & yelling into my Bluetooth in my car, interacted with a computer screen at my office desk all day, connected with my counterparts in a half a dozen countries in the world through teleconference and video conference, and I am still apt to come back home, put on my IPod and send out my emails and then watch hours of TV, let’s face it, I am living on an electronic island and happily so.
We are so comfortable with equipping our machines with near human intelligence and then exploiting them. Machines give us cash, pay our bills, collect our payments, spit out tickets and talk to us on the phone. Some of us have machines ticking inside our body, little computers that keep our hearts beating. In a few years those of us who can afford it will live in digital homes a la Bill Gates. I am sure there is an IIT-ian in Bangalore who at this very minute is devising a microchip that we can insert in our head to replace our brain and program out human error. ‘Discovery’ did a scary futuristic program about how man and machine will integrate so closely in the next 100 years or so and so much of our anatomy will be artificial that eventually we will be able to make backup copies of ourselves and store them forever (or some such crazy thought). There’s a one click of the button way to attain immortality…
And how does all this bode for the human relationship? We are already at a stage where we need a commercial to promote families eating together, wrapped up as we are in our own little tech-cocoon. Why do your kids need to spend quality time talking to you if they can pour their hearts out to the whole world on MySpace? This new generation is a product of this era; it has a thinking process very different from you and me. More precise, more to the point, no noise, no nonsense. They have everything literally delivered to their doorstep through the marvel that is the worldwide web. Our teens, tweens and even our pre-tens have the knowledge to make informed decisions about every aspect of life. They are qualified to advise you on purchases from your garbage bag to your car. They are smart and savvy but strangely distanced. It’s so different now from the life we led growing up in the good old days. This technology age is a good thing, yes, in how it has shrunk the world. But it is a bad thing because it has retired that lovely human connection that we all shared once upon a time. The need to talk face to face, to hear a human voice, to feel the human touch, these may never again be necessities. Lost as we are in our techno-maze it almost feels like our race is all set to evolve away from the emotional…your grandmother in that remote village back home has a long wait in store for the postman. Because how long has it been since you wrote a letter in long hand and on a piece of paper?
WNI would love to hear your point of view…