Advancing technology has brought a lot to modern society – for better or for worse. Which is it? Would anyone care to admit!
“I have three telephones on my desk!” The fat man said to me, puffing out his chest. Tactful as a tank, I asked the logical question, “Why? Are you a telephone operator?” “No, no! I am the Manager!” He said indignantly, making a mental note to strike me off his Will – if we ever became relatives. Luckily, we didn’t. My petit sister refused to marry his overweight son!
But seriously, the time when the old rotary phones ruled the communication world has long passed into oblivion. Today a single device, thinner than a chocolate bar, is capable of significantly more than just a vanilla call. Also today, if you had three phones on your desk, you really could be a telephone operator!
Technology is clearly a domain on a permanent sugar-high! It’s probably the single biggest disruptor of business and social life – ever. Already deep-rooted into every aspect of living, it is hungrily looking for new avenues to replace human effort. Soon, the brain would be the only relevant body part! Apps would run everything else!
Folks feel good showing off the latest gizmos that add to our snob-value. They think these help them communicate better, work better and do things more efficiently. Cocking a snook at old-fashioned geezers (like ours truly!) who hesitate to embrace technology, who live in a nebulous, ‘tech-nostalgic’ reverie, constantly comparing today with a yesterday no one can relate to!
To be fair, in the past two decades alone, technology has given rise to several new segments. A few of them are:
- The BPOs: An altogether new industry made possible by 21st century telecom technology. Now millions make a living from this space.
- A younger workforce: Since sunrise sectors like BPO, private insurance and private telecom required vast armies of young talent, the age of economic independence dropped and workforce mobility increased. This metro-sexual Generation Y, lives mostly for today.
- The Device: Smartphones, tablets, phablets have transformed the way we work and communicate with each another. ‘In-absentia’ means nothing. Virtual presence is what matters now!
- Online Commerce: Brick-n-mortar is no match for the fast-growing online commerce. According to Forrester Research, the e-commerce market in India is set to grow at a CAGR of over 57% between2012–16. Wow!
- Corporate Healthcare: Technology has driven huge advances in healthcare technology – at a huge incremental cost. Coupled with 5-star hospital facilities, state-of-the-art diagnostic set-ups need to be optimized. The ROI being delivered by the healthcare providers themselves. Doctors with targets?
- Global Education: Snob value or not, World Schools are the new Mecca for educating the next generation. “Smart’ classrooms, online homework, email communications…for kids! Is the quality of the domestic education system so poor that international substitutes are in big demand? Subtly, this question has already been answered.
There’s plenty for which the world has to be ‘grateful’ to technology! But some ‘advances’ bring out memories of times gone by. Four things that, for me, evoke pure technostalgia:
Public courtesy: Everyone’s heard of PDA (Public Display of Affection). But what about PDC – Public Display of Courtesy? So, mobile phones are terrific! But certainly not people yelling into them – in cinema halls, hospitals, even places of worship. What if mobile phones could deliver a sharp electric shock when people’s voices went above a certain decibel level? ZAP! If inconsiderates, jabbering carelessly on their device, entered places where radio-silence is the expected public courtesy! Awesomely radical no? Wonder why no one thought of it?
Excuses: ‘Unable to contact’, the excuse for shirking work. It’s been around forever! We should have progressed, right? What with mobile phone numbers, email addresses, LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friendships, Twitter handles…? This get-away-with-it phrase still echoes nonchalantly around the workplace! Could technology create some kind of new-excuse generator App? Folks, some 21st century creativity, please?
Reaching late: Oh, it’s always the traffic, never the attitude! No amount of technology, modern solutions, transportation advances, telephony or Skype – has been able to lick this one. In fact, despite all these ‘advances’ we haven’t realized that the simple solution is…to start a tad earlier!
Belligerent honking: The old Ambassadors and Fiats had muted horns that often never even worked. Today’s horns disorient the brain and pierce the soul! Designed to penetrate glass and steel, human eardrums just don’t stand a chance. And, given the growing number of vehicles, the cacophony is beyond the unbearable!
These new behaviours attributed to modern-day technology spill over into the workplace as well – impacting climate and culture. Can we challenge technology to create an App that can change people’s attitudes and bring in some PDC? Until that positively disruptive change happens, I’ll enjoy the technostalgia.