Gadgets and Robotics

BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 11 Jun 2018

Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

We are now in the age of Robotics or Gadgetics. We were earlier in the Stone Age from where we have in the recent past advanced to colonial, scientific, agricultural, industrial revolutions. Colonial when several countries of the western world — Portugal, France, Spain, England and a small nation like Netherlands went for trade to different parts of the world and slowly colonised them. Boats and guns were the principal factors behind this revolution. New countries like the USA, Canada, Brazil, and Chile, Australia and New Zealand and others were born as a result of this colonial process that dominated and almost completely wiped out the indigenous populations.

Industrial revolution started again in the West with coal and steam engine being at the forefront of factories and industries coming up to manufacture various household and industrial appliances such as automobiles, trucks, tractors , boats, aircraft and what not. Of course many scientific discoveries of telephone, petrol, electricity and mathematics helped in the process. Guns, ammunition and AK-47s have transformed modern warfare to its cruel efficacy.

Scientific revolution both preceded and still continues after the industrial revolution. Philosophers and scientists such as Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, are well known names of earlier epochs. The last century produced scientific giants such as Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, de Broglie, Feynman, C V Raman (of India) and others. This brought about a clear understanding of the atom, the nucleus and Quantum Physics that ultimately led to atomic and nuclear bombs that decimated Japan in 1945 and now pose a formidable threat to our civilisation. Recently the wheel chair bound scientist Stephen Hawking considered to be a genius in the same category as Newton and Einstein, died in England. His book A Brief History of Time has been a best seller and translated into many languages.

Science and technology have produced innumerable gadgets and applications in our lives. Can we think of modern life (at least for the western world) without a cooking range, refrigerators, TV sets, washing machines, hoovers for dusting homes, apart from electricity and large number of other appliances? Countless applications exist in the medical field  — thermometers, ECG and BP measuring instruments to name a few common appliances. One should also not forget the omnipresence of computers — laptops and desk computers

There are also robots for doing some manual tasks including guiding traffic on busy streets. It is predicted that these robots will drive cars and trains in future.

Today we are in the age of digitisation and miniaturisation with smart phones made by companies like Apple   and Lenova revolutionising our lives beyond comprehension. We talk with them; send messages and pictures and even videos with their help.   Not too long ago I heard an engineer of a reputed institution (IIT) in Delhi mentioning that Nano technology is where the largest innovations are being made. The smart phone is being developed to even smell drugs or weapons being smuggled by unscrupulous elements — a job that is being done today not only by security people but also by sniffer dogs.

Not talking about its potential, the smart phone or Mobile has become an inseparable part of most of us. Whether used for speaking to one another or sending messages or pictures on WhatsApp or for even seeking Google Guru’s help, the instrument has become unique and indispensable. It also helps in identifying the best approach to a distant part of a city. It is also being used to predict weather forecasts or for getting information about Government’s policies in India and for so many other applications.

It (smart phone) is being increasingly used for transferring  money to some recipient or for making payments for purchase of your groceries or whatever. The objective is to go cashless — not use your currency for your purchases.

Is there a flip side to the omnipresence of this gadget?

Of course, yes. Briefly, it is causing isolation and loneliness. While we may be conversing with a distant person, we seem to be ignoring a person sitting near us. The sight with two or three persons sitting next to each other and busy on their individual Mobiles is a familiar one. Another situation although a little far-fetched, is to note that the husband and wife lying on the bed and again speaking separately to some distant persons.

Then there is the sight of a person approaching you on a busy street and smiling. You wonder how is he/she smiling all alone. Well the answer is obvious — the smile is not meant for you but is in response to a distant companion.

Earlier and even occasionally in an Indian village today, one could see several people sitting together, conversing, joking and laughing together. The presence of Mobile phones has made this sight rare and a cherished one.

Another issue that is troublesome — how the language is being distorted. Since ninety percent or more, the language of computers and smart phones is English, one notices that you has become u; gift for you has become gift4u and similar other distortions.

Sensitive people may become irritated by what is happening to and by smartphones and wonder if there is a way out of this situation? Is meditation an alternative or giving up this modern burden and leaving for a remote primitive lifestyle?

I do not have any definite answer; I leave it to some readers of my discourse to suggest a better option.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 Jun 2018.

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