Tech Quandary During the Pandemic
None of us imagined how our lives would be during the lockdown. The pandemic did put us into a lot of trouble. But technological advancement throughout the world has helped us keep up the momentum.
If it were not for the advanced communication systems, we would have not known instantly how to contain the virus in the first place. We wouldn’t even know that there is a virus spreading. Because of technology, the search for a vaccine becomes easy globally, the governments and the frontline doctors could think of medical telecommunication facility, a helpline for online counselling to women and children who face violence and to the stranded seafarers to comfort them psychologically. Online application makes it possible for conferences and meetings of businesses, schools, and associations to take place to meet their goals. And finally, we were able to virtually converse for long hours, have a party, and cherish memories.
Before the lockdown, there were priests and religious sisters from different congregations who used the media to share their homilies. But after the lockdown was imposed we never thought that the churches and priests would take up the initiative to live stream the Holy Eucharist. It was painful and boring for the regular attendees not to have religious services during the lent season and Easter. But technology made it possible for the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration atleast virtually. The theatres and malls have been closed and consequently the availability of internet access allowed entertaining and relaxing watching the comedy shows, movies, web series on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other online streaming platforms.
Students hungry for knowledge found an alternative in free online certificate courses already available or made available by some universities and applications like BYJU’s, Amity Future Academy, Coursera, Swayam, and MyCaptain. Data analysts could analyse and track the trail of the virus. Technology made it possible for them to enumerate and prophecy different human activity. Information regarding the virus could be procured instantly and therefore India could be the first country to have imposed a lockdown well in advance although in a haphazard manner. The test kits and the ventilators which are of the highest importance at the moment are being produced because of the advancement in 3D printing. Technology made it possible for most of us to do online payment transactions. On the one hand, if technology aids it, it can be used by the government and others for surveillance, manipulation, and control.
When you are virtually active you must have noticed that on Facebook automatically you are provided with friend suggestions, if you are watching videos you are provided with suggestions to watch the next video similar to the one you have already watched. If on YouTube the sooner you finish watching one video the next video auto-plays in line with the previous. The manipulative advertisements that appear on your screens are all because there is a Silicon Valley prophet who is monitoring and foreseeing every click. The algorithms note down our behaviour when we are active on social media. The immediate suggestions we receive do not help us make our own choices. They may provide us with options but they manoeuvre the way we think. As Tristan Harris, the director and a co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology says, “Even when you are not looking at a screen, the things you’re thinking about now, are very much dictated by the things you saw five minutes ago on-screen.”
Our right to privacy could be at stake, presence of fake profiles on every social media platform is confirmed, we have known of online stalking too which hampers the mental state of individuals. While technology is a blessing to us it can turn out to be a nightmare. It may help us connect but it could fragment us immensely. When technology is miscomprehended it can control us and turn a human into a monster. Connectivity should not be misunderstood with harmony. Harmony happens when there are similar thought processes, goals, and ideas.
The technology was made for us and not vice versa. As Yuval Noah Harari famous author of ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ and a history professor states, “Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.” Therefore its judicious use is mandatory.
Risky online existence but “the biggest risk is not taking a risk at all,” said Mark Elliot Zukherberg the American internet entrepreneur and CEO of Facebook. He optimistically assures us that the technology around gives us the power to make the world more transparent. The technology and especially the online platforms give everyone a voice. Only we shouldn’t get lost in the process.
In the words of Bill Gates, we might be changing the world with technology but we need to reassess the way we handle it. Humanity and ethics need to be kept in mind. An individual becomes powerful or dominant when one receives the cooperation in utilizing the technology produced. But the power here shouldn’t be exploited but employed for advancement. Human dignity and its common good with reasonableness should be at the back of the mind of the creators, and Digital Visitors and Residents (V&R).
First Published on the "The Goan Everyday" Newspaper