That technology will change us and transform our lives is a given. What is not completely clear is whether we will accept the change willingly and without any resistance.
The Indian telegraph service will soon be put to rest, with the last telegram slated to go out in mid-July. The news of its imminent demise may have taken those who didn’t know it was still around, by surprise. “I wonder when they stopped the pigeon mail service”, someone remarked on a prominent social media site.
However, if you have ever received a telegram with its helpful cues to ‘stop’ during its reading, this news might make you a wee bit wistful. Letting go of long-lasting technology that was revolutionary in its time is never easy. Sometimes our nostalgia for the technology fixtures of the past leads us to force fit them into our present lives. Hence, vinyl records and their players still have a market, as do many other retro gadgets.
The telegraph case is just one example of how dated technology can linger for a while and co-exist with newer ones. In this case, the longevity of the service could be explained by the fact that it was part of a government department that doesn’t believe in unnecessary or hasty overhaul.
Sometimes a technological process persists because it’s still capable of turning in desired results. For city dwellers, a washing machine may be an essential household appliance. But not for a person in rural Tamil Nadu where a bucket of water, a block of granite and a bar of soap will do the job just fine, thank you.
Technology and How it Moves Us That technology will change us and transform our lives is a given. What is not completely clear is whether we will accept the change willingly and without any resistance. Of course, one good reason that older forms of technology linger is that many people are still reluctant to move away from them. From e-books to smart phones, the stubborn resistance of tech laggards keeps old variants alive and kicking for a good while longer.
Still, change is inevitable and it seems safe to say that certain shifts just can’t be postponed forever. The first time you download that book onto your Kindle or tablet will mark the beginning of your transformation as a reader. That’s not to say that you will never read a small print paperback again. It just means that you have entered territory you had previously avoided and thereby, yielded the title of the ‘real book reader’ that you had clung to for so long.
We are used to viewing technology as transformational. And it is true that it often leapfrogs us into new ways of living. The music industry’s wholehearted embrace of digital technology and tools is a case in point. It has not only changed the way music is created and recorded but also how it is consumed and shared. Ask anyone when was the last time they walked into a store to purchase music and you will see how quickly things have shifted here in a relatively short period of time.
Other industries are in less of a hurry to change. Take education. Yes, smart boards and iPads are being touted as logical learning tools for a generation of digital natives. But paper and pen continue to dominate the classroom experience. And while the online classroom is widely regarded as the future of education, it is still a fraught topic for educational institutions trying to figure out how to price and manage this commodity while continuing to run their brick and mortar operations.
All of this highlights just how complex our relationship with technology is. We hail the informative power of the internet but rue its addictive hold on us. We are happy that mobile devices have freed us from our desks but worry that the on-the-go productivity they enable comes at the expense of personal time. We need our everyday household appliances but wonder if a life without them would be simpler, cleaner and healthier. We love the convenience of quickly downloading a catchy song we have just heard but feel a twinge of guilt that we are not paying for it. And we push for the ideal of online instruction while wondering how education is going to emerge from its current confines of paper and concrete.
In the midst of this ambivalence, we may write off some forms of older technology a little prematurely. Or herald an emerging one as the next big thing before it really has a chance to pick up steam. But the net result of all the pushing and pulling is still to move forward.