If technology fails by Sovon Manna
|Helpless situation: A TV grab shows the 2003 blackout in the US|
My father once vowed that he would never use a cellphone in his life. Now, he swears by the gadget and thinks that he is in a mess while not carrying it. Things have changed so fast in the last 5-6 years. With the burgeoning use of technology, we are becoming over-dependent on it.
Ill-effects of this over-dependence are thriving in tandem. We tend to fumble on occasions we never used to. Be it with our cell phones, TVs, or the escalators in Metro stations ? anxiety goes up after a slight of disruption in our daily ‘technology routine’. Terrorism, global warming, super-storms, record-breaking floods and droughts are crippling overloaded electronic systems all the time. And everything comes to a standstill.
Remember how a 12-hour load-shedding (the Great Blackout) shocked the Americans in 2003? We saw the same thing after two consecutive hurricanes ? Katrina and Rita ? rocked the world’s richest nation in last two months. As all the technical assistance systems got defunct, two states in the US became incommunicado and lawless for some time. This may happen in India too, and the chaos here will look almost the same, if not worse.
This is the so-called ‘Information Age’. Information technology rules almost all aspects of our lives. Virtual computers are storing data online, doctors are using telemedicine, satellite-based systems are monitoring cars and drivers on roads to avoid jams, Wi-Fi environments are providing ‘anywhere-anytime’ electronic connections and Internet telephony is replacing the handsets. We are steadily getting into the groove of an ‘online’ lifestyle.
But what we have forgotten is that the more the tentacles of technology spread, the more we have to keep alternative options open. Ban-king entirely on a particular technical model may prove to be a huge blunder. It’s high time we think of alternative survival strategies. An emergency preparedness should involve renewable energy, alternative healing, sustainable agriculture, green-building technologies etc. Low-tech methods may come handy.
When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance and Planetary Survival, written by Matthew Stein in 1994, threw light on those uncanny situations we face after a technical disaster. The book provided a ‘how-to’ manual that helps people prepare for and deal with disruptions in the normal course of life. MIT graduate Stein spent 15 years compiling information for the title. We may need more time to find out really effective user-friendly methods that will ensure a self-reliant living in today’s world.
Going by our increasing dependence on newer technologies, it seems we are not at all interested in devising alternative strategies, let alone practise them keeping in mind the unforeseen problems that may befall us some day in future.