Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Logging off, deliberately

What's the longest you can stay without your mails ? Facebook ? Even Google ?

I stayed away for a week, yes a week. And it was not because I was bogged down by work which didn't leave me so much time as to even take a peep at the internet, it also wasn't because I was in a nook of the world where there wasn't any net connectivity, and definitely not because there were any restrictions in place.

It was a deliberate decision. Despite a high speed wi-fi available at my residence with no cap or restrictions on the usage, I didn't log on. Reason : I wanted to see how far was it possible to stretch it, how far was it possible to remain isolated, online.

A brief background. I have been using the net since 1999. My GMail address dates from the second half of 2004. I am an avid C programmer and Google-fanboy. I have worked on Linux distros, wrote apps for Android, hacked into systems and am an IT professional.

( To English experts, should it be an IT or a IT ? )

Yet, I believe we have gone too far.

Yes, computers are here to stay, the internet is here to stay. The day is not far when every system, including living beings, would be parts, components with their own IP addresses in a global, if not planetary, internet. A network which is always on, ever active.

Unfortunately, the road won't be happy.

Agreed, I too have been sucked in. It's really difficult to break off once the online cell starts crystallising around you. We put more faith in what we read online, what we see online than the real world. Posts on Facebook, comments, counter-comments, in no time at all we start judging people and issues depending on the few lines or words or characters they used.

So, is the keyboard, real or virtual, more powerful than the pen ?

Yes, and on one hand it's a good thing. Maybe one day our world will really work like the very first democracies, the opinions of everyone who cares to voice his or her opinion on any issue will be factored into a system before any decision is taken.

One day, not today, yet. The road is not happy.

How many deaths and accidents occur worldwide just because the guy at the controls was too busy talking, tweeting, texting or what have you ?

And it doesn't just happen on the road. Turns out that the biggest train crash in Spanish history which happened in July this year was due to high speed and the driver who should have put on the brakes didn't do so on time because he was on the phone with a colleague discussing on which platform the train should call.

A call which was never made. 79 people died.

Yes, the ERTMS system wasn't in place at that section of the track. If it had been in place, the system, powered by it's own network, would have taken over and put on the brakes while the driver could have put up his feet and kept yakking away.

If so, why keep the driver ? Automate all trains, all mass transport, no drivers, no accidents. Right ?

Now think of all the 'brainless' jobs you can think of which can also be automated. I will wager that your own job may be one of them.

I will leave that thread for another day, let's take up something more human and more poignant. Ever seen children trying to get the attention of their elders who are too busy exercising their thumbs on a touch screen ? I don't have children, I have a Galaxy tab but when I see such scenes it makes me sick. Is listening and amusing your own child less important than what's online ? I am not a peeping tom but I believe the majority of such people aree just playing some stupid game, not even Angry Birds, it's the game where you have to line somethings up which when it happens results in a flash and you get points.

So you blew all that dough to do that ? And you fathered/mothered that child so that he/she would cry to get your attention while you did something more important like move virtual things around in order to earn virtual points ?

I am what people call a techie, a geek, a nerd but it sickens me when technology is used so senselessly by people who consider themselves cool. Is this what it takes to be cool nowadays ? To be more connected online than it is to make the effort to connect with real things ?

Again, I admit that in the eyes of the world I am not cool, I will even call myself shabby and ugly but even though I believe in technology and make a living out of it, I believe that we are becoming slaves to the machines we created to serve us. We are becoming more integrated in the Internet and disconnecting ourselves from the very first network we created, our own society.

I learnt a lot of things while I was logged off. I learnt that the light which reaches us from the Sun may have taken thousands of years just to reach the Sun's surface before it finally reached us. I marvelled at the works of Dali and Van Gogh, among many other artists, first hand. I learnt a lot about Greek culture and of the Greece today from a Greek to whom I also gave an honest view of India and Indian culture. I learnt that although the rest of the world may think that Alexander never lost, the Greeks themselves studied in school that the Great Warrior actually lost many battles before local kings agreed to help him against each other.

I learnt that the weed which is legally sold and consumed in the Netherlands is actually grown illegally, that the Govt. looks the other way because it's more interested in collecting tax. I visited the ancient cities of Nijmegen and Dordrecht and found that not all of this country is flat and that very unexpected things can often be found right in one's own backyard.

Yes, these are things I could have also known online, thanks to Google, thanks to Wikipedia, Facebook etc. etc. and I am sure I would have forgotten them just as fast.

This debate is never ending, it is hard to strike a balance, for me, I am glad I stayed away, it was a great experience, I learnt a lot about this world, this universe, and myself.

Once in a while, log off, you will be amazed.

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