Sunday, October 2, 2016

The space in between!

The author of this article (on "Docker") makes his case on how automation would complement human skills. I quote below the second para from that article.

"Contrary to the belief of folks who live in the fear that "machines will overtake the world!", I believe that machines and automation will actually make the world better, efficient and exciting to live in. Even if that were NOT the case, the solution would be NOT to fear, but step up your game and get ahead of machines (Do you have another option?). So regardless, I feel we should embrace technologies with optimism and view machines as complementing human skills."

My focus is only on that particular para and NOT on the rest of the article which completely discusses Docker. I didn't want to disturb the theme of that article by leaving a comment would seem entirely out of place I'm writing it here.

I think that particular fear of machines overtaking the world is outdated. Perhaps it belongs to the break of millennium...some time during 2000. Or maybe some people are STILL living in that fear and I don't know. But there is a problem that bothers me and others who share my ideas (about this particular aspect). Machines might well be complementing or even extending human skills, but it is human lives and human psyche that are being altered by machines to a point of no return.

With the advent of computers, our goals have changed so much. So so much! Our professions have been altered greatly. A job is not just a job, it's at least 10 hours going into it. Keeping sleep-time aside, more than half of the time you are awake is spent on your job. The way we are engaging our time has changed greatly. Even keeping aside the jobs, the patterns of our lives have been altered greatly - the kind of goods and services that are produced, the way they are produced and consumed, the way we derive entertainment in our lives, the way we spend our leisure (if it exists at all), the way we are interacting with people around, the way we are interacting with nature - all these have changed so much...and those are just to list a few and the list could go on.

Nevertheless, change is inevitable and if the advent of computers has brought in such a big change, the onus on humans is to embrace it, not resist it, I agree. There's really no control because the pattern of growth is all so distributed and if within just two decades the world has moved on such a high pace and brought us here now, we have no choice but to accept the challenge. There are no fixed anchor points to exercise control on and streamline the growth the way we want and that's the real problem.

Our needs have changed. Our endeavours, our aspirations have changed and so did our dreams and passions. Our relationship with our spouses and our families have changed and so did the equations with our society. And let me not even talk about how our connection with nature has changed. This somehow comfortably seems to have been forgotten. And nobody even cares to see what impact this whole system of automation has on Earth.

Can you even imagine something like this - when you prepare your Project Specs can you think of dedicating a section on what costs, what burden that project places on Earth (and it's resources)? Come on, think of it, may be automation is making life easy for man*, but maybe it places a ten-fold burden on Earth and taking forward that project could mean a very bad trade-off? (if this particular factor of "Costs on Earth" is taken into account). Looks like, the ideal destination of automation would be to make this world a group of spaces each harbouring a Rube Goldberg machine and what more, it can also be aimed to make this world itself as One Such Huge Rube Goldberg machine!

To start with, it was to accomplish something for human comfort, then it's to accomplish something simple through complicated means...later it's "something for nothing" and now it can perfectly evolve to be "everything for nothing!" Now, that sounds like a perfect destination!

If one reads closely, what we (the bothered lot) think about machines and technology, one can see that we are NOT making a case AGAINST technology. We are worried about man, not as much about technology. We are actually worried that man is becoming a bad master of his own creation wherein he is allowing technology to corrupt a part of his self and taking great strides towards corrupting his self entirely. It is not at all about machines overtaking the world or something like that. By saying that we need to step up our game and get ahead of machines**, the author there is placing a lot of power on machines, as if they are a separate breed, a separate race to compete with, while after all the machines and technology are man's pets! They need to be tamed and domesticated well, not let loose wild! I can't understand why the creator would ever have to compete with his creation to stay ahead of it!

Why is it that any discussion that focuses on a certain problem, say here the side-effects of technology, always gets dragged to one side or the other? Like, one is either for or against technology but can be no where in between! We are not living in a black and white world, are we? There's a lot of space in between***, I hope!!!


*It doesn't as far as I'm concerned. Because a life wasted doesn't become an easy life, but let's just assume so, that automation makes life easy, for this case in point.

**And we don't have a choice other than that? Really?

***Most of the random talks at home spiral into such debates and I'm really tired of it. Thank God, I quit FB, otherwise it would have been a hell of a virtual forum for me!

For instance recently, in response to the Indo-Pak strikes, I was just passing a comment saying the real problem is that a good portion of people in Kashmir are not happy with the identity of belonging to India and pat comes the response - "Oh! Did they come and tell you they are not happy?" Why would they come and tell me, they are telling it through their acts to the whole country! There's no awareness of the whole history - the problems during partition, the way Kashmir was integrated into India, Article 370, separate constitution for J&K, their unwillingness to accept laws that are common to the rest of India (even the recent GST and laws related to civil servants' allocation) and to top it all, this recent happening - the ideological popular support shared by a large segment of Kashmir and Pakistan towards Burhan Wani - which shows there is an identity crisis and a sociological conflict in J&K. There's no interest to know when that history is shared, but again pat comes the response to make a statement that would badly offend me - "Oh! So you mean Pakistan can carry on all those attacks?" But when did I imply that? I was just trying to say there are certain problems that are hard to be resolved, yet only a compromise from both the sides is needed, failing which this will go on forever or end in a war. Why is it that the person who talks about a problem is dragged to one side or the other? There's a lot of space in between, if only one could see!

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