Imagine the scenario, wherein on a particular day, every piece of technology that we so conveniently depend on for our day-to-day existence fails to work. You wake up in the morning and after brushing, turn on the gas for a cup of hot tea, only to find the gas supply has exhausted. You turn on the heater and a nasty shock awaits you -the electricity supply is down and the inverter is not working. You are frustrated and as you are already running late for office, you decide to skip any idea of tea or breakfast and rush to bathe. And then you remember that there is no electricity. So, there is no way whatsoever of getting hot water. You make do with near freezing water and rush out. You just want to be doubly sure that you are not too late after all. So, you turn to your watch to check the time only to find that the watch has run down and ditto with your mobile. Seething with anger and irritation, you switch on the car ignition and the car refuses to budge. You decide to take the trusted rail route to work and the greatest shock comes in the form of a road and rail strike. Tired, hungry and frustrated, you return home and slump into bed.
This situation is not entirely hypothetical and is quite possible in real life as well. What happens then? Would we be able to run through such a day like any other day or would it actually affect us? Majority of us would say it obviously would affect us and that too, in a big way: We would be left totally paralysed, and our schedule would go haywire. Does this indicate that we have become slaves of technology?
Let us analyse what exactly technology means before arriving at an answer to this question.
Technology, though always associated with modernisation, is actually nothing new or modern, but is a constantly evolving process that had begun in the remote antiquity. It is definitely not something which has materialised overnight. It is the result of a continuous evolution of thought processes, triggered by man's constant and ever increasing needs for a better and more comfortable way of living. Man's need to improve the manner in which a certain thing was being done would trigger some ideas in the relevant direction. This would lead to the conception of a technique or invention of a tool to do the same work with less effort. These inventions and constant evolutions have been happening continuously from time immemorial.
The ancient man's need to keep himself warm, protect himself from wild animals, etc., led to the discovery of fIre. His need for cutting down trees for shelter, skinning animals for flesh and developing weapons for self¬defence led to the invention of the axe and the knife. Somewhere down the line, man felt the need of a faster and easier method of mobility. This led to the invention of the wheel. Things like the fIre, the knife and the wheel have become so much a part of our day-to¬day life today that we fInd it tough to digest the fact that there was a time when man did survive on the earth without using any of these things.
These discoveries and inventions by the prehistoric man could also be described as part of the process of technological evolution.
In comparatively much recent time, Alexander Graham Bell was probably just thinking of a means to make possible long distance communication, when he was working on the invention of the telephone. He definitely wouldn't have anticipated the gradual metamorphosis of the telephone into a cell phone, which has, of late, become kind of a lifeline for a majority of people, especially the younger generation. If we look at the uses of a telephone keeping in mind the intention with which it was invented, the transformation is mind blowing. The world without the telephone must have been so very different from what it is today. To deliver news-however urgent or important-people had to go personally to• the recipient to deliver it or fInd some alternative option for doing the same. The invention of the telephone enabled the same news to be delivered immediately. No doubt, it revolutionised people's lives and made life much more easier. But, what about today's situation? Youngsters are hooked to the cell ph~nes, to such an extent that they behave as if their very lives depend on talking over the phone. Now, one can't help but call this an absolute dependence on technology, to the extent of becoming slaves to it.
Benjamin Franklin wondered at the power of lightning and after lots of research and experiments, discovered electricity. Electricity, the basis of all modern inventions, was no doubt a very useful invention. For example, Thomas Alva Edison made use of electricity and invented the electric bulb. Edison must have just been thinking of a way to light up people's homes when he was working on the invention of the same. It no doubt added comfort to people's lives. But today, can we think of electricity and bulbs as just a means of adding comfort to our lives? Absolutely not. They have rather become absolute necessities in our day¬ to-day life. As discussed in the imaginary situation at the beginning, without electricity, our life goes for a toss. People in areas facing load shedding in our country can vouch for it. But, weren't people living equally or much more happily and peacefully before these inventions? They obviously were. So, why do we depend on these so much today? It is because we are so used to enjoying these comforts that rather than being just a comfort, they have become absolute necessities, thus making us their slaves.
Charles Babbage's obsession with tidiness and precision in mathematical calculations led him to go for one invention after another and finally led to the conception of the computer, the device which has taken over man's life at a much faster pace and a more incredible way than any other device ever invented. The computer, though invented purely with the aim of faster and more precise mathematical calculations, led to a series of inventions of computer languages as well as of related technologies like the Internet and got a huge grasp over people's lives today. Here again, the computer, with its original intention did make people's lives easier, and clumsy and cumbersome calculations faster, but it would have been good if it had stopped at that. But today, people have become entirely dependent on it.
The basic aim behind the invention of any piece of technology was to ease people's lives, save quality time by quickening otherwise time-consuming processes, add some comfort and enrich the overall quality of life. But now, rather than using technology to quicken processes and get some quality time to do some other useful work, people tend to use technology throughout and are left with a lot of time, with which they know not what to do. Rather than using technology just in places where otherwise manual slogging would be required to the extent of adversely affecting health, today people use technology so much that there is no room for. physical exercise and then complain about a whole lot of health problems. The problem basically lies in technology being used as an end in itself, and not as a means to an end.
At the same time, we can't generalise this opinion as well. There are many rural areas still where technology has not creeped in and~ taken control of people's lives. And people in those areas are also going about their lives and-so are others, who are dependent on technology. But, it is obvious that those who have got the taste' of technology are fast falling prey to its lure and becoming its slaves.
It would be better before it is too late, if we understand that technology was invented by man and is meant to be controlled by man and not vice¬ versa. If used prudently and wisely, it would enrich our lives as never before and if used excessively, it would degrade us equally. The ball is in our court and it is for us to decide how to use it to our maximum advantage.