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   Who owns the future?
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Jul 2013
The awe of network technology is overwhelming as it showers a variety of freebies, so much so that we wonder why stuff like music and movies were priced in the past. Such freebies come on account of us donating vital information and surrendering our privacy - like our interest, buying habits and cyber movements - that has created an economy in the hands of those who 'own the fastest computers with access to everyone's information'.

Little does anyone care because false hope is spread that the emerging information economy will benefit those who provide the information that drives it? If this were so, some 140,000 people employed with Kodak would not have lost their job when Instagram had acquired it; and Facebook would not have rested those 13 employees who made Instagram worth a billion dollars before buying it. Where did all those jobs diappear to and what happened to the middle-class wealth that was created? Havenít we been witness to recession and unemployment instead!

Digital visionary and philosopher Jaron Lanier argues that we have been psychologically victimized by technologies that we 'have chosen to adopt'. But has there been much choice? Internet technologies promote the strength of democratized wisdom at the cost of killing individual voice and intellectualism. What you say on the internet is converted into dehumanized data, which makes the information aggregator rich and not the one who produces the information in the first place. This is exactly the wrong set of values that Lanier has been concerned about. Having invented the term virual reality and having been part of the Silicon Valley, Lanier emphatically questions the self-destructive nature of the information economy.

Recognized as history's 300 greatest inventors, Lanier reasons the need for shaping technology to fit culture's needs and not vice versa. He suggests the following experiment: resign from all the free online services you use for six months to see what happens. You donít need to denounce them forever, make value judgements, or be dramatic. Just be experimental. You will probably learn more about yourself, your friends, the world, and the Internet than you would have if you never performed the experiment.' Only by leading absorbing lives, as an individual and as a part of the society, can we outgrow our addiction to technology-driven consumerism!

Who owns the future?
by Jaron Lanier
AllenLane, UK
Extent: 360, Price: £ 20

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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