The proliferation of digital technology with its innumerable contributions has made modern man addicted to it. The human race seems to be wedded to digital technology for eternity!
However, the question that needs to be asked is whether this digital revolution is the real and ultimate progress that the human race wishes to achieve.
Back in the 1990s, Dr. Sony Abraham, a medical practitioner, from a village called Thelliyoor in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, began working on a sculpture. The whole idea was to depict a human being highly influenced by information and communications technology: a digital man.
That was the time India jumped into the computers and communications technology bandwagon. There used to be intense debates on the impact of computers and computerization, particularly on jobs and its impact on employment generation. Public sector trade unions and organized workers took to the streets protesting against computerization. The public used to view these protests as an activity to get paid leave.
However, the work strikes by PSU workers, gazetted officers(GOs) and non-gazetted officers (NGOs), could highlight a number of issues through those protests and debates. Certainly, it was more than an attempt to get paid leave.
A fear of imminent large scale job losses at manufacturing sector with possible mechanization and a reduction of employment generation capacity in the services sector with the introduction of computers were the themes that they highlighted. These issues were particularly intense in the state of Kerala, to where Dr. Sony belongs.
Politically, communists were opposed to computerization due to the fear of job losses, while Congressmen defended, supported and promoted the idea of an ‘information-digital’ society and computerization, as it was a pet project of the then Congress government. When digital India is talked about, the names of Rajiv Gandhi and Sam Pitroda would come to mind, more than anyone else.
However, Dr. Sony was worried about the pitfalls of over dependence on machines. Social media and networking sites were yet to arrive in the early 1990s. However, most of the homes in Thelliyoor in Pathanamthitta district used to have landline telephones.
Dr. Sony noticed that when landline telephones became popular, people reduced one-to-one interactions like visiting neighbours and relatives and spending time with one another. Suddenly, gadgets became important and information could be passed on through the telephone then. If there was an emergency at a home, instead of calling for help from the neighbour or a relative staying nearby, people started dialling 100 and 101, or calling up hospitals. Smartphones even developed apps to make the virtual experience easier.
The speed and mediums of communication that emerged, contributed to making communities and people less dependent on each other. The need for physical movement came down as well.
People of all ages, without any exception, started becoming engrossed in desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and in android smart-phones!
Dr. Sony could then visualize the scenario that would emerge! With technology addiction reaching its peak, there would be minimum need for physical movement and real interaction!
With the extensive use of machines, computing tools, robots and digital and smart applications, we have successfully brought-down the need for physical movement, activities and physical interaction between people. E-commerce is fast replacing traditional stores. A visit to a neighbourhood store is not needed today.
By 1992, doctor completed his sculpture: Digital Man, which he installed in his garden, in front of his home, near Theillyoor. In the digital era, it’s our fingers, eyes and brain that works most. The sculpture depicts this reality: a shrunk body and more prominent fingers and face. The neck, stomach, waist and legs seem to have insignificant roles and are reduced in size and shape. What remains and prominent in size are head and fingers!
The Digital Man, sculpture made soon became a demi-God. Some people in the area began worshiping it. Interestingly, the local branch of a prominent socio- cultural organization started lighting lamps in front of the sculpture: ‘digital man’.
Dr. Sony could not reconcile with the fact that the sculpture that he made was being worshipped by someone. So he changed the location where the sculpture was placed and brought it to his garden away from the public eye.
Today, people across all the ages especially since the government’s push for a digital Bharat, are all getting skilled and equipping themselves to be part of this new technology revolution.
Fingers can move faster and together with brain power it can move the world in seconds! But how long can this fascination for digital and virtual reality last? Is it for eternity? If so, what are its implications?