Technology is powerful, disruptive & just beautiful. It is one the best things that has happened to mankind. I truly believe it and let me tell you why.
As an Indian kid born in the 90’s, I was always fascinated by the idea of technology and the possibility of being connected to the world. I grew up in a town called Durgapur, 170 kms from Kolkata, but was one of the privileged few who had access to computers at a very young age (thanks to our family business).
After completing high school, I worked and studied in many big cities in India and finally landed a job at Google. Today I work in Google NY and my parents and the little community I grew up in couldn’t be prouder.
I credit my success to having access to technology, especially the internet, as it provided me access to information I could have never easily digested and consumed in the libraries. Orkut, Facebook, Yahoo chat rooms helped me make friends around the world at the click of a button and I couldn’t be more thankful.
Technology - The Boon
Imagine living in the pandemic in 1995 or even 2005 or as early as 2010. Having no Netflix to chill, not to mention the streaming boom with Disney+, HBOMax, Hulu and the plethora of options that have not only kept us immersed for hours all together but also helped us forget that Covid is waiting (if you step outside). You can still get paid because all your work is possible from home. Beautiful indeed!
The countless delivery companies built on technology that made ordering from our favorite place a click away and helped us support all the small businesses that were hit the hardest!! Amazon not only kept capitalism alive by gaining more Prime members, it actually helped countless people with essentials at the doorstep and one can totally say that it contributed to reducing the spread by letting people stay at home (comfortably).
And, of course we have TikTok and Reels and Snap and YouTube (for all the fitness and recipe videos). Not only it provides entertainment but also helps one become an entertainer (influencer).
I wouldn’t do justice if I don’t mention Robinhood - the confetti gave us the joy of being the next Warren Buffet by investing in stocks at the click of a button, while sipping Dalgona coffee on our comfy couch (tried to create a lousy lockdown pandemic visual).
Let’s take a moment and comprehend that this has all been possible only in the last decade. If only the pandemic came 10 years earlier, we were doomed!! Imagine the recession following the collapse of the housing bubble amidst COVID19.
Technology - The Bane
Now, take another moment to reflect on all the side-effects or the dark-side of technology (I’ll be remiss if I leave it out)---social media treated us like products, impacted our mental health and the algorithms influenced the news we consumed making us more partisan than ever, streaming services made us antisocial, delivery apps spoilt us and we lost money literally gambling on Robinhood because it made investing too easy.
Wait, what just happened? Did I really switch from boon to bane over a single paragraph?
Let us delve deeper and understand where we are coming from. Just because technology made everything easily accessible and better (it took a decade), it made it very easy for us to blame a lot on technology and make it the bane of our existence. We didn’t hesitate for a minute to install that Headspace app while we forced ourselves to practice mindfulness because social media was making us feel terrible about our lives when our single friend took our dream road trip while we were stuck at home.
Our attention span is only getting smaller and we are living our lives in constant validation of others, we as humans forget and need a gentle reminder that everything has two sides - there will always be something bad that comes with the good, even the best medicines come with side effect warnings.
Technology companies moving forward should have a huge disclaimer with all the things that could/may or potentially go wrong (similar to the medicine ads). In doing so, not only will they protect themselves but also help people see what they are getting into because apparently humans are unable to see both sides today by themselves. As I’ve already said, we are more partisan than ever. Everything has to be spelled out (now is a good time to blame technology for our brain deterioration too).
David vs Goliath
The next decade will be about decentralization and we are already seeing that with Koo vs Twitter and banning TikTok in India and Australia vs BigTech and Apple vs Facebook, Robinhood vs Wall Street so on and so forth.
In situations like this, the government plays the role of a middleman because in most cases they have no clue what to do -- they are just focussed on protecting the corporations that will pay for the elections and help them remain in power.
In the near term, we can continue to see these big companies strike deals amongst each other because they all have too much money to splurge (remember technology is bad, we are the products now) and fundamental policy changes will take another 5-10 years to firm-up but the only thing I request is in all your fights, please don't forget that it is the small business and the common man who actually bears the brunt. (News Corp - Rupert Murdoch, the king of media benefited the most with the Australia deal while most small pubs suffered.)
Technology is the only way small businesses can reach masses, make money, get known and survive.
Big Tech should take accountability for the role they play today since they rode the internet wave and not let small businesses suffer till we find the next wave.
My humble request is - Don't crush them, don't crush the internet, don't close the internet - Link sharing is the backbone of an open internet. If the government continues to play middleman and rich corporations continue to strike deals, there will be only one group that will suffer- it's the common man that is using technology to grow and earn.
I am thrilled for the privacy changes, it is the first step towards taking control back and not letting an algorithm turn you into a product. The ones with money will be fine striking deals and picking fights!!
Technology will always have side effects and we should continue to acknowledge and embrace the good.
A lot of things need fixing but let’s never forget that the internet should always be free and open and that little girl sitting on another side of the world should not be denied access to information as it is the only way we can all continue to grow and learn and evolve.
Comment below and share which side are you leaning towards - the boon or the bane?
Disclaimer: The piece is written keeping the average person in consideration. In no way is it an attempt to say everyone was able to work from home and reap the benefits. The pandemic has been harsh for everyone and my heart goes out to anyone who has lost something/someone precious amidst this craziness.