by December 5, 2007 0 comments

When PC Quest was launched twenty years ago, it was because the personal
computer was becoming a big thing. The personal computer has now
become the PC and will soon be integrated into a mobile phone. The term personal
computing still survives-but everything else has changed. For readers of this
magazine the magnitude and extent of that change should be obvious. And if it’s
not, it is only because you live with it everyday. Seen in increments the change
appears much smaller. To feel the magnitude one has to step out and look in. A
few moments of pause are all that is needed to do so. So I will not write about
the great changes. I will also not write about the journey of two decades that
PCQuest has gone through. I will also not write about the benefits of technology
that mankind has reaped. Only a fool would deny those. So what is left? Adopting
a contrarion position let me write about where technology has not done enough.
And that is not a problem of the technology handmaiden. It is a challenge that
the handlers of technology have to overcome.

Number one-technology has remained at the tip of the iceberg. For those at
the tip the positive impacts are frequent, direct and meaningful. For those who
are below the surface it is just the opposite. We all know how much of the
iceberg lies below the surface. If proof is needed many examples and statistics
can be produced. Instead one can just look around and see what I mean.

Shyam Malhotra

Number two- technology has not contributed to the quality of life. It was
supposed to bring in efficiencies and productivity enhancements that would
provide a multi-dimensional richness for those who embraced it. Instead, it has
converted many of them to 24 x 7 creatures for whom the 5 day week is a figment
of imagination. Work and play have become hopelessly intermingled. It became
obvious to me when sitting at a casino in Vegas, I caught myself placing orders
for shares on the National Stock Exchange at Mumbai as the stock market zoomed.
I lost money on both. And to top matters I got a call a couple of hours
later-when I was asleep-offering me a pre-approved loan from a bank in India!
Coincidence, no doubt, but an uncanny one.

Number three-technology was supposed to create a world of customer delight
through better service. It has created a huge service industry. It has created
numerous  options for service. You can now get it from your computer, from
the mobile phone, from your bedroom or from your workplace. Unfortunately, the
connections get mixed up. Yesterday, I was at the airport to pick up my
daughter. The website of the airline-rated to be one of the best in the
world-stated the arrival time at a very precise 2137 hrs. The television screen
at the airport gave the time as 2200 hrs. The voice recording on the phone said
2145 hrs-and the message that we cannot take your call personally at the moment.

Finally one had to resort to the good old method of visual sighting of the
person-which took place at 2255 hrs. I missed that one place where there was
confirmed and correct information. And the smile of the person providing it.

So is it time to slow down the pace of development? Or to put controls that
will limit the speeds of processors? That is neither feasible nor necessary.
Information technology-fortunately-does not have negative impacts like nuclear
technology, that it needs a close monitoring.

What it does need is meaningful implementation to avoid traps where the
objective is obscured by the power of  technology. That is the challenge
that technologists have to overcome.

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