Tête-à-tête Technology

I wanted the heading to be a deliberate alliteration. No, I didn’t get up with it in my mind or my mind in it. It was thoughtful, intentional and engendered by a recent development of technology by Google that aims at creating every-thing aficionados (the every-thing is as literal as it is). You scan any-thing with your phone, within a matter of seconds you know every-thing about it. Yes, any-thing and every-thing! A recent talk by the CEA(Chief Economic Advisor) of our nation, Arvind Subramaniam, urges everyone to accept objective analysis and criticism with cheerful acceptance and support. Adding to that, an article in the Times of India aptly explains the difference between a democracy and a republic. A democracy has its people elect its own leaders with the conviction of them being the most suitable with or without trusted interests, the leaders being level-headed individuals capable of running the country. Once elected, the people are relieved of the duty of decision-making towards their country since they have handed over the reins of supremacy to the elected leaders. A republic on the other hand has its people involved in any and all decisions pertaining to the country. India being a democracy and a republic for the namesake has its calling to each of its individuals to embrace objective criticism and analytical thinking (I think I swapped the words but they are important regardless) to every decision made. I hope I have justified my obligations though I don’t feel obliged very often about any-thing and every-thing. This one aims at criticizing technology for slowly expunging the innate traits of human race of humility and of brooding patronization.

Google Lens guffaws at the old-school modesty of asking. The modesty is knowing you don’t know every-thing and respecting somebody who knows that some-thing. WithGoogle Lens, we now have walking-talking know-it-alls. A child smugly announces that an encasement of two rotary objects of black coloured tape is a cassette that records and stores audio using magnetic tape, played in a tape-recorder. A parent could have never explained it better when their child asked, “What’s that?” Dismally, the question is never going to be asked. Though independence is revered, when it transforms to temerity, it metamorphoses into a humility-feasting disdainful termite. Controlled independence is more what is needed. Shah Rukh Khan in his TED talk couldn’t say it better, “When the internet was first envisioned, it was envisaged as a world exchanging strikingly exceptional ideas, talents and thoughts. What it turned out to be is a world that exchanged mockery, sinful insights into self-proclaimed superiority and sowing prejudice into young minds.” I didn’t quote him exactly but that’s the way I would want to put it. Technology is to be brewed for independent thinking rather than brewing technology-dependent thinking. Technology is killing thought provocative conversations with peers and cross-age groups. This is how I imagine Google Lens to evolve. Before imparting information about any-thing, the individual is to fill in 5 different ways he perceives any-thing to be. He can ask his peers or the experienced or take a totally offbeat perception detailing what the thing is, its uses and how it can be used otherwise. You are not obliged to be correct but you cannot be a couch potato and demand information. You contribute to make it better. This will make  technology insightful with human touch and experience and make it smarter. If most people agreed on a particular utilization of some-thing, there is a higher probability, it will be shown when scanned. This will inbreed a sense of responsibility in an otherwise cynical world of callousness. A tête-à-tête technology that encourages conversations.

When I was very young, we took an annual summer holiday break to my grandmother’s house. Buying a ticket was a manual-on-the-counter task. My father instructed my sister and me on the process of buying a ticket. He instructed us to be equipped with a pen, know the exact details to be filled in the form, carry the correct change and how to locate the correct counter to get queued at. And last but not the least, ask for help when not sure. Of course, we didn’t get everything right during the first attempt and got an earful from our father but we learnt to accept shortcomings. We learnt that we cannot be infallible at all times. Technology has effaced the asking-for-help virtue. I don’t remember the last time I went to a counter to buy a ticket and helping and empathizing with somebody who didn’t know his way around, in short, doing my part of value redemption. It is empirical that technology is emphatically patronizing helplessness. Being helpless brings in humility and inculcates co-operation. Without technology’s aide, I knew that not everybody has a moral obligation to be nice to me. I had to bear the brunt of the man at the counter when he had a bad day. I had to empathize with senior citizens, with un-abiding citizens. I had to deal with real-world conversations and deal with people. A tête-à-tête technology for booking tickets is far-fetched, some may even find it a little over the top. There is no denying that dealing with real conversations is an integral part of personality development. Another trait that is inculcated in the absence of technology is forming judgments with a sense of responsibility. I was enthralled when I first saw the rear-view cameras and parking sensors in tech savvy automobiles. Our first car was a second-hand Maruti 800 which had the essential definitions of a car. An extra person accommodated blocked the rear-view for the driver entirely. When we had guests we (rather my father) had a hard time reversing and parking the car. My sister and I had the duty of helping him park and reverse. We had to use our own judgment and guide him efficiently. He had to understand our synchronization and follow directions. We were solely responsible for our judgments as well as making sure our father understood the indications and gestures. We knew that a mistake was an invitation to wrath. We were expected to have a sense of responsibility, of judgment and making sure our intentions were understood correctly. It is surprising that simple situations imbibed such meaningful traits in the personality of an individual. With rear-view cameras and parking sensor technology, I don’t have to elaborate that such situations will never occur. Flippancy is reasoned to have technical roots. We need to make the world a better place not by making things easier independently but by inviting credible contributions to build magnanimous human meshes that understand borderlines of cohesion and coupling.

One interesting conversation I remember goes this way. In school, my friend called my home number, said “Hello, get my geography book to school.” and hung up. Yes, hardly a conversation. But it outlines a very essential crux of conversing- prioritize what you want to speak. With minimal resources at hand, you learn to prioritize the utilization. With prolific technical capabilities at hand, we fall short of prioritization. I place a free call to somebody and I get carried away talking about non-essential everyday knick-knacks and miss out the actual purpose of contacting and why I wanted to reach out for help. The other person also converses nonchalantly, abrogating the fundamentals of networking. Oh yes, you now know where the stress is coming from, from incorrectly prioritizing the lowest deserving details in conversations.

Even though being technology driven is a thwart to personality development the resulting hindrance is an unintentional effect. There are numerous situations that rob us of learning simple life lessons with tech-savviness that further engenders a need for technology that in turn dilutes the need for  tête-à-tête s.