Category Archives: Technology: Boon or bane?

Tech and Society 3: Fake news

Tech and Society 3: Fake news
Recently a BBC commissioned Research published a report that alleged that the largest contributor to fake news emanating from India was churned out from the IT cell that owed allegiance to the party running the Govt. Quite predictably, seemingly credible news report surfaced that countered the BBC Research claim highlighting the shortcomings of the published report including technical points such as sample size and sampling bias. We have seen a similar situation a month or two back with the outbreak of disclosure about the Rafeal deal.

With the advent of Internet, it has become easy to publish reports and their rebuttal with such conviction that it becomes a mind-boggling affair for the average reader to fish out the real truth in the stories.Political parties with an axe to grind are mostly instrumental in carrying out such misdeeds. A recent report about a newly constructed bridge in the National Capital actually carried a picture of a bridge from Singapore. Increasingly, the net is emerging as a platform for political slugfest with a mix of genuine and fake news with the factory involved in producing the latter category getting increasingly better at their jobs. In that sense, Fake news have a huge potential to sway public opinions and if they continue to prosper in this unregulated manner, one wonders whether the fate of a genuine article is similarly destined like the shepherd boy prone to playing pranks on the unsuspecting villagers till one day when they got tired …

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When your child commits a crime?

Recently when wifey returned one day from work, she told me about an incident that left her fuming. She said that during the day she had received a whatsapp message from the class teacher of our son. It showed him in a picture as one of the three students lined up for punishment. The picture was similar to the ones we see in newspapers, where criminals are made to line up and photographs are taken of them where humiliation is writ large on their faces. The crime the three high school standard boys have committed was of not doing their homework, which emboldened the subject teacher to take a snap and forward it to the class teacher, who whatsapped that same picture to my wife. When my wife strongly objected to this way of punishing a child, reasoning that such issues should be resolved at school, the class teacher informed us that they keep sending such pictures of insincere students being punished similarly, and hardly any parents have criticized this method. I don’t know how far this is true about ‘accepting parents’ but IMHO this practice is a blatant misuse of technology, where groups of classes are formed on whatsapp, activities and information and notes sharing happen therein. Imagine if the teacher posts and the child sees his picture flashed in his class group in whatsapp!!! It may damage his morale beyond measure. Thankfully, this didn’t happen in the case of our child.

Not without reasons, France has banned mobile usage for school work recently. I strongly believe that school kids should be kept away from gadgets and no matter how much the world is changing, foundational concepts are built only by reading school text books the way conventional education was imparted in earlier days …

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Tech and Society – I

When technology is all-pervasive in this age of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Robotics and Automation, how is it impacting us in ways that aren’t on a positive note…

  1. Ability to write – The use of the shortened form of language like ‘u’ for you visible in SMS-es and WhatsApp communication is making their way even into answer scripts of the students. Students and those who adopt the shorter route fails to appreciate the beauty of those words and the language which inevitably impairs their writing ability and appreciation of the language

 

  1. Imagination & Wonderment – Einstein has said: “Imagination is more important than Knowledge.” Looking three to four decades back, there weren’t any TV around and our world was full of stories and imagination and fantasy ruled whenever we thought of them. We would visualize our heroes like THE THREE MUSKETEERS & ROBINHOOD and their act of valor through the power of our imagination. The sense of wonderment that filled the life of a child immortalized by Satyajit Ray in the classic train sighting sequence by Apu and Durga in the film PATHER PANCHALI have disappeared from the lives of children these days.

 

 

  1. Communication – When all of us are connected in various social media groups the line of separation between professional and personal lives are gradually disappearing. While I am ignorant about the situation in developed countries in the West, in developing countries like ours, in the private sector, one is expected to be in WhatsApp group of the company or available 24 X 7 on their mobile devices. Family lives of employees may go for a toss… one can’t question the escalating requirements of one’s duty lest it should appear that the employee is not sufficiently dedicated and enabling the growth of the company. After all, in most cases, the employee has a family of dependents to feed…

 

  1. Greetings and Invitation – Greetings and wishes have increased manifold in our lives. People have started sending e-card invitation for marriages. Do such invitations carry the human touch associated with Invitation Cards of yore that you received through your postal system or when the family members dropped into your houses for the invite?

I read a report in NEW YORK TIMES a couple of months back or so that Companies in Silicon Valley are complaining of Bandwidth problem because Indians are clogging the Internet with abundant ‘Good Morning’ wishes…

Recently my mother had made a request. She wanted me to buy a ‘Get well soon’ card for her sister who underwent an operation in Kolkata. Trying to comply I went into the Gift shop in our colony. It was reasonably big in terms of space and crowd and availability of items. I looked around for the Recovery card, but to my discovery, I couldn’t see a ‘single card’ anywhere in the shop. I asked the owner and he informed me that since last three years he has stopped keeping them since there are no buyers and he incurs a big loss in stocking them…not surprising since with the advent of the Internet, there are dime a dozen sites where one can send greetings for gratis. Only a fool would spend money on them. Very much like the way email has reduced our cost in sending postal mails …I returned and told my mother about what had transpired… Cards were a part of my growing up years and the thrill of receiving one after a ‘year-long wait’ for Birthdays and New Years can’t be calibrated with any yardstick…Likewise, the man who used a Typewriter to make a living and the person who had typed my post-graduate dissertation more than three decades back on the streets of a metro city have all disappeared from our lives in the age of word-processing software in computers.

A passing thought engulfed me. All of us want to live in a better society. A truly evolved society need to emphasize the importance of human relationships. Ironically, Technology that has the capacity to make life better have contributed immeasurably towards its decline …

      5. Cyber War and Cyberterrorism – seems to be in the realm of possibility and a threat facing every country.

  1. Trade and Commerce & Electronic Payments – E-Commerce and newer modes of buying and selling and making payments (web/mobile) are changing our behavior and usage of time. There exists now a mind-boggling array of apps through which one can transact. All such changes are being foisted on a nation with a large adult population averse to new technology. My mother who is a graduate with a remarkable memory and spends at least an hour every day with the newspaper asked me some days back – “Does Paytm and ATM mean one and the same thing?”

 

  1. Teen addiction to gadgets – My teenage son have been advised by the doctor to stop the use of smartphones but weaning him out of his habits is proving to be quite a job for myself and his mother. Millions of teens are caught in similar addictions and coupled with stress in their lives owing to academic pressure are getting afflicted with migraines and such ailments.

 

  1. Education – Many educational institutes are investing in automation and software and envisioning a future where the staff and even the teacher in the classroom can be dispensed with… imagine paying through your nose for the education of your child where he/she is going to a classroom with a robot education dispenser replacing the teacher in flesh and blood…

Virtual University has already gained currency.

 

  1. Fake death news – Recently I read on the Net that the famous actor Sylvester Stallone had passed away. Later I found that it was hoax news. Similarly, sometime back, the news was in circulation that the eminent director Mrinal Sen had passed away. That too was a hoax… in the pre-Internet days, one rarely came across such untruth spreading at an exponential rate …
  2. Selfies In, Autographs out – Currently Selfies seems to be a rage and people would rather click selfies with celebs rather than take their autographs as memento…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How technology is changing our lives? – I

Yesterday Ma (Mother) made a request. She wanted me to buy a ‘Get well soon’ card for her sister who underwent an operation in Kolkata. Trying to comply I went into the Gift shop in our colony. It was reasonably big in terms of space and crowd and availability of items. I looked around for the Recovery card, but to my discovery I couldn’t see a ‘single card’ anywhere in the shop. I asked the owner and he informed me that since last three years he has stopped keeping them since there are no buyers and he incurs a big loss in stocking them…not surprising since with the advent of the Internet, there are dime a dozen sites where one can send greetings for gratis. Only a fool would spend money on them. Very much like the way email has reduced our cost in sending postal mails …

I returned and told Ma about what had transpired… Cards were a part of my growing up years and the thrill of receiving one after a ‘year long wait’ for Birthdays and New Years can’t be calibrated with any yardstick…

A passing thought engulfed me. All of us want to live in a better society. A truly evolved society need to emphasize upon the importance of human relationships. Ironically, Technology that has the capacity to make lives better (and has delivered benefits beyond comprehension) has also contributed immeasurably towards its decline …even though AI is trying to map every human emotion with their machine counterpart, I am not someone who believes that all of it can be captured effectively …

 

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