Overwhelmed By Technology

 

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Few years back when I was with my earlier organisation, an IT major at the cutting edge of technology, we used to have a monthly meeting with team leads of different projects. Every meeting, one of the team leads had to talk briefly on a particular technology or a technical aspect. After that the Director would wax eloquently about the upcoming technologies like 4G/5G, Connected cars, Digital life, Big Data, AI etc. and that how lucky we were to be in the midst of the next ‘revolution’.

Frankly, at the risk of sounding retrograde, old school or plainly out of sync and ruffling a few feathers of the techie readers, I felt the opposite. I felt and still feel that we are going down a sinkhole of technology, too much of technology.

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Seems like we are no longer living in ether space but in a sea of wi-fi. Always connected, GPS’d (located) and updated at all times. We eat and drink data, sleep in the internet and dream in the ethernet. We are stuck on the grid like a prey on the spider’s web.

 

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Ever since the technology has boomed and the internet speeds skyrocketed, we have been sucked into the never ending vicious circle. More the internet speeds, more content or data we consume and the more we consume, the more we pay for the data consumption! Consequently, the telecom and the OTT service providers and the ISPs are laughing all the way to the banks.

They have successfully hooked us on to fancy mobile phones, gadgets and the consequent data consumption. The techies or the geeks particularly take pleasure in wallowing in technology. I know geeks who proudly proclaim that they live their life in the IDEs.

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Of-course, the companies are driven by business and they salivate at every possible business opportunity, no complaints there. My grudge is against too much use and dependence on technology. Let’s run through a few examples here:

 

 

1. AI Assistantalexa

The Amazon Echo uses Alexa, Amazon’s voice control system to listen to your commands and fulfill them. Have we become so busy, lazy or dumb that we need assistants to do our daily routine jobs?? It can play music tracks for you, dim lights, create a to-do list and of-course order some stuff on Amazon! Naturally, it would be connected to the internet at all times and gobble gigabits of data!

Why can’t we see through the game here? The more dependent we become on these gadgets the more dumb and helpless we get and we still pay for it. Why do we need a AI assistant to tell us what to do, create a shopping list, remind us of birthdays and what not….? This beats me.

 

2. Digital Life                    digitallife-none

Another amazing phrase or a concept. It is being touted as if you would achieve Nirvana if you live the digital life. I remember watching this marketing video which depicted the digital life. It showed, you could remotely lock or unlock your home doors, move your window curtains, control the lights, control the temperature of your home, turn on and off the water tap, basically control almost every gadget or machine that can be connected to the internet. Now I don’t want to sound a spoil sport but what happens in the event of a malware attack or the internet simply goes down for a couple of hours?? This brings us to the third and more worrying example…

 

3. IoT (Internet of Things)

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As the name suggests, they are planning to connect almost every conceivable thing to the internet and to have them ‘talk’ to each other as well. The ‘thing’ here means mobiles, gadgets, home appliances, vehicles, sensors, actuators and transplants. According to Wiki, by 2020, the IoT could consist of roughly 30 billion objects. It also estimates the global market value of IoT to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020! Maybe humans too would become one of the IoT if they put transplants in us. Each of us could have an IP address then!

The connected car for example, would turn on the engine and the AC few minutes before you board the car so that the temperature inside is just right. As soon as you are seated, perhaps it could list out the things you need to buy from the grocery, provide you updates on the weather and traffic, remind you of a meeting or the upcoming dates to pay up your bills, the list is endless. Wouldn’t you rather just sit in the car, turn on your favorite music and just drive away instead of listening to irritating endless babble?

But wait, there is something more scarier coming our way…

 

4. Artificial intelligence (AI)      AI2

An obscene amount of data is being collected and crunched every day by the social media sites, search engines and the ISPs. The creative techies have written and continue to write awesome algorithms that enable the computers or the devices they reside in to constantly learn and improve on their own. They call it machine learning. The algorithms find out patterns in our behavior, find out likes, dislikes and traits and accordingly present us with suggestions on what to buy, what to eat, which movies to watch and so on.

The problem with AI starts when the machine starts developing its own logic and judgement and down the line there are chances that it would simply get out of hand. As an example, if you need to go to the airport to catch a flight in an autonomous car and for some reason you start late and instruct the car to take the best possible route and speed up, you could end up  with a siren blaring police vehicle on your back.

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On the other hand, if it decides to obey the traffic lights and rules, effectively means it is developing its own judgement and logic. Think about it, as it develops on that logic one day, it would start arguing and ultimately override you. Still worse, if the AI technology falls into unwanted hands, you have a sure-shot recipe for Armageddon.

Now am not completely against technology. Let us use it on need basis like weather forecasting, diagnostics, research, simulations [or WordPress blogs  🙂 ] etc. But when it comes to our personal lives, shouldn’t we be better off on our own deciding what to do, what to buy, what to eat and what to watch? Shouldn’t we be driving our own cars and riding our own bikes? Why do we need some smart alec  machine to subtly influence or dictate our lives?

I haven’t even touched the topic of ‘privacy’ here. Would be happy to know your thoughts.

Can’t help but sum up the addiction and dependence on technology with these apt lyrics from Def leppard’s White Lightening:

You wanna leave but you can’t let go
You wanna stop but you can’t say no
You’ll never laugh about it
You just can’t live without it
You had enough but you just want more
You never get what you’re lookin’ for
You’ll never laugh about it, never…

 

 

If time travelled backwards

nature-images-86Sometimes I get weird ideas, so weird that they qualify to be labelled as thought aberrations rather than ideas. But the mind refuses to be reined in and continues to run amok. One such thought aberration was what if time travelled backwards? Now Einstein would be surely turning in his grave saying it’s all relative and there is no such thing as forward or backward. However, with my current frame of reference and the way my mind is programmed to think, “clockwise” is time travelling forward and “anticlockwise” is travelling backward. With that issue settled, let’s embark on a journey “back in time”, literally.

I would start my life as an 80 year old, with standard complement of medical complexities, whiling away my time, cursing others, creating occasional nuisance and ogling at women third my age, boys will be boys! Not a bad start, considering the fact that I would already be retired and the onus of my responsibility (actually burden) would be on my immediate family rather than other way round. After spending couple of decades, I would have gradually regained my health and would be about to join the workplace.

The medical complexities would have ebbed and I would be joining the workplace at the pinnacle of my (erstwhile) career, with its full baggage of pressures, responsibilities et al. It would be cool to have all the knowledge and the experience prior to joining the workplace. No interview, no tests. Over a period of few years, I would gradually “move down” the corporate ladder.

Though I may have a settled life, the customary midlife crisis would make it appear as if I am the most unsettled and the most unfortunate of them all. While desperately trying various options for course correction including retirement, I would essentially stay on the same course just procrastinating. While the midlife crisis would die down, I would still be doing the tight rope walk trying to balance my personal and professional life.

Meanwhile my full grown, full-fledged family would be progressively getting younger each day. The kids who had just got a job and were independent would now be attending college and then “graduate” into school. While in school, wouldn’t it be amazing to show them their own photographs and videos when they were older? Same would go for me and my wife when we would look at our photographs and videos when we were old and have a hearty laugh. One immensely satisfying thing would be to lose the flab around the waist and get the foliage back on the head.

As I would progress back in life, one day I would get married and the next day I would be a bachelor! Oh how I yearn to be a bachelor….if my wife reads this, am sure to get killed or maimed. Subsequently, it would be the good old college, sun in my eyes, wind in my hair, no studies, no worries….just friends, fun and movies. Next, it would be time to go to school. The energy, the insatiable desire to learn new things, the innocence and excitement would return. I would find joy in small things like jumping in puddles, playing in dirt, chasing insects and butterflies, making paper boats and airplanes.

Getting younger and younger, I would lose weight and height, would start wearing colourful clothes with images of cartoons, slowly losing my vocabulary. Instead of saying full words and sentences, would start blabbering in monosyllables. My routine would now be eating, sleeping, crawling around and again eating and sleeping. The diaper would take care of the rest. Finally it would be time to say goodbye to the world and get into my mother’s womb!

 

Walk in my space

IMG_20160308_104835852_HDRIt has been a few months now that I started my early morning walks. Well, at 10am, it is not exactly early morning when most of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood are well past their early morning chores, having reached respective schools, colleges and offices while some are on their way. Thanks to my work hours, which allow me to call it a day not before 12:00am and my inefficiencies which allow me to wind up only at around 12:30am and the icing on the cake is provided by the 1 hour commute time from office to my abode.

Once at home, my confused body clock still thinks it’s too early to sleep and then my newfound hobby(?) of reading a book or freshly published blogs takes over. I manage to barely get past few lines when the eyelids revolt and begin dropping down. I do offer a symbolic resistance by reading next few words even though they appear like some smokey figures and before long, am knocked out.

The next thing I remember is getting up bleary eyed at around 09:00 am in the morning. By this time my daughter is already halfway through with her morning school and my wife after having despatched our daughter to school tries to make the most of the ‘space’ she gets subsequently. However, we do exchange customary updates over piping hot tea which I call my turbocharger, that carries me through at least in the morning.

Another thing I do religiously is read the newspaper. However, even after reading it regularly every morning, I find my general knowledge and awareness going down. I have no qualms about blaming it on the lack of genuine news and the burgeoning advertisements. The habit persists, though it is not adding any value.

After devouring the breakfast, I am ready for my morning walk. Isn’t that what I started talking about at the begining of the post? Glad that I came back to it, thought I almost forgot!! Well, my morning walk is what I call ‘my space’. That’s because this is the time am on my own, all by myself, esconced in my thoughts. The weather is usually pleasant at that time in the morning though the sun does make an effort to make it difficult for me. However, its efforts are thwarted by the multistoried building where I live and the adjacent trees.

The walkway encircles the housing society and is lined with well grown trees. The gentle breeze creates a rustling sound as it blows through the trees which has a soothing impact over the frayed nerves battered by the previous day’s travails. The trees are home to a good number of birds and squirrels. The chirping of the sparrows and the cooing of the cuckoos is pure music to ears. The squirrels too descend down from the tress to nibble at anything they find interesting and scurry around from one place to another which is nothing short of poetry in motion.

These morning walks have now become ‘my space’ where I can take stock of my life, gather my thoughts, try to think something new (though I haven’t had my eureka moment yet) or just observe the surroundings and watch life go by.

 

A stab in the past

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Even though some characters are real, the story is purely fictional.

The door bell was ringing frenetically and persistently. Igal reached out for his clock at the bedside and his strained eyes could barely manage to catch the glimpse of the unearthly hour, it showed 02:30am in the morning. Suddenly, he was shaken out of his slumber by the loud and violent pounding on the door.He instantly froze, knowing fully well that it was the SS, Schutzstaffel or the German Secret Police. Before he could gather his thoughts and composure, there was a loud thud, indicating that the door was now broken and in the darkness he could make out four dark figures armed  with semi automatics right in his room. Two of them pushed him to the wall, got him handcuffed and the third one brusquely did a body search. In no time, he was bundled into a waiting truck full of other Jews including women and children, some crying some wailing and some too shocked to react.

As the truck began to move towards the concentration camp, loud beeps were heard in the background and the images began to get hazy and blurred. The beeps seemed to increase in volume until Ofir was completely stirred from his uneasy sleep. Ofir squinted to catch a glimpse of his watch and strangely enough it showed 02:30am in the morning. He was shivering with the effects of his nightmarish dream, his mind still struggling to decide which one was real. He got up and turned on the lights, his pillow still damp with the perspiration on his face.

Ofir  belonged to a generation that was born after the holocaust but felt very strongly about it since the SS took away his grand father Igal and grand mother Yael. He had heard about the horrors of the concentration camps from some holocaust survivors. Since then, he had been regularly suffering this nightmare. But he was no ordinary Israeli citizen, he was a Mossad Agent, determined to correct the past.He brushed, took a quick bath and headed straight to the Mossad headquaters.

The present world situation with ominous terror threats had forced many governments to embark on certain secret programs like time travel and mind control to counter this menace. The CIA, KGB and Mossad had made some progress on these initiatives in collaboration with respective cutting edge tech corporations. Like many holocaust survivors, Ofir and some of his colleagues harboured an ambition to correct the past.

A unit within the Mossad was a entrusted with the ultra secret mission to send someone in the past to eliminate Heinrich Himmler and his deputy Reinhard Heydrich. Himmler was in charge of the SS and was responsible for implementing the “final solution” envisioned by the Fuhrer.

Ofir had readily agreed to volunteer for this dangerous and almost suicidal mission. Though the scientists had succeeded in sending a dog and a sheep in the past, both were never retrieved. They had mastered the logic and technology of sending a subject in the past with accuracy of within an year of the targetted date and few miles of the targetted location or that’s what they thought. However they had yet to find a way to verify this or get the subject back to the present.

Ofir was made well aware of these factors but he agreed anyways since the only thing on his mind was to avoid the massacre of millions of people.He reached the Mossad headquarters at 04:00am sharp and proceeded immediately to the remote corner of the building where the secret lab was located. The doctors did a quick check of his blood pressure, heart beat and other vital signs. He was briefed about the mission, given photographs of Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, their addresses in Berlin(of old times) and also the address of SS headquarters. He had to memorise all the addresses and photographs to carry out the execution with any means available and possible.

The lab was now buzzing with activity, the super computer at the corner was crunching huge amounts of data and alogorithms. The huge screen in the middle of the lab had a split display with one side displaying the relevant information with the current time and another with January 1929 timestamp and maps of old Berlin. This was the time when Himmler had assumed the position as head of SS. By taking out Himmler and Heydrich during that period when SS was being expanded and given sweeping powers, Mossad planned to change the course of Jewish history.

The activity in the lab had now reached a feverish pace. The IDF chief was now in the lab after getting a “Go” from the political leadership to personally oversee the operation. Ofir was now taken to the chamber called the time capsule which had an array of instruments lined up and sensors connected to Ofir’s body.There were lights blinking all over the lab and a palpitable tension was felt all over. After all this was the first time travel mission undertaken with a human as the traveller. The chambers door was closed and Ofir gave a thumbs up to indicate he was ready to go. The time travel equipment now came to life, all eyes were rivetted on the chamber. It was filled with a bright flash of light and after a few seconds, Ofir had disappeared. The chamber was now dark and empty.

There was hushed silence all over the lab and all eyes anxiously shifted to the huge monitor in the middle of the lab. After about 2-3 minutes which seemed like eternity, a bright blip appeared on the map of Berlin. Everyone let out a sigh of relief but they also knew that they had no control over what happens now.

January 1929, Berlin……

Ofir felt a mild headache and was thirsty. He opened his eyes and found himself sleeping in bed in what lookied like a bedroom in a small apartment. It was a cold wintry night. The room was dimly lit and the furniture looked like in the 1920s. His vision seemed blurred. He rubbed his eyes and looked around and found a pair of circular glasses beside the bed on a small table. He put them on and it seemed to help but the room was still dim so he fumbled around the room trying to locate the switch for the lights. Finally he located one besides the cabinet with a mirror. As he was switching on the light, in the cabinet he saw a military uniform with a ‘swastika’ sign on it. With the light turned on, he glanced in the mirror and found Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler staring back….!!!