Deconstructing The Image Of Reality
THE TECHNOLOGICAL FIXATION: DECONSTRUCTING THE IMAGE OF REALITY IN THE AGE OF PANDEMIC
By Ayush Majumdar and Dr Gouri Sankar Nag
The sudden familiarity of the human beings with the zoonotic disease of COVID-19 has created a pandemic (the earlier cases inter alia being Plague, Cholera Pandemic, HIV/AIDS, SARS, Swine Flu, Polio, Western Africa Ebola, Zika Virus and COVID-19 is but the new entry in the list of pandemics) which has dealt a fatal blow to the normal functioning of the global economy as the global supply chains and also value chains are disrupted like never before due to the stringent restriction on trade almost to the point of closing down of international movement between people and goods across national borders since most of the affected nations have imposed lockdowns to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease. This sudden realisation of the temporary nature of the world-order crafted by human beings over a period of time raises certain important questions. This pandemic clearly displayed our subservience to technology. The world is anxiously looking for a cure, that is, a vaccine to temporarily relieve us of this virus, albeit more deadly versions might crop up or waiting to follow later on. Hence it is almost predictable that if a vaccine is created, the nature of diseases is such that a higher form of zoonotic disease will again arise and again disrupt our ordeal to put us henceforth into a new normal for perpetuity. Hence, technology has become mankind’s permanent refuge from any kind of disaster. But when our arsenal gets enriched with more sophisticated fifth or sixth generation technology a deeper question to probe is how this newly developing dependence could be a matter of benign bliss or rather a ‘success trap’ lay hidden underneath.
There was a study conducted by a small research team focused on seven case studies by a group consisting of Archon Jung, Hollie Ruson Gillman and Jennifer Shkabatur between July and September 2010 to see the effect of ICT interventions on people’s lives ranging from socio-cultural, economic to political aspects. The study pointed out that technology has been able to drastically alter the lifestyles of people in the field of socio-cultural and economic sphere, but the effect of ICT on people’s lives in the political sphere that consists of citizen experiences in the parameter of political governance and decision-making realm has been relatively lesser due to the fact that politics is a collective and aggregated activity which cannot be reduced to, but to be seen by going beyond technological factor alone. Politics engages in authoritative allocation of values and, therefore, for any meaningful change in society to take place political change and the concept of legitimacy are of paramount importance. However, what technology has been successful in doing is transforming mankind to the informed consumers ever by extending the domain of marketplace to our own domestic sphere of life because technology has ‘drastically altered the pattern of commercial transactions’.
It’s not intuition alone, but empirically made perspicuous that this fascination of humankind with material opulence and sophisticated technology has limitations too, which has been displayed from time to time. Our technological prowess in front of the forces of nature has only finite capacity of manoeuvre. Therefore, any radical fantasy or envisioning a post-COVID-19 world where technology would rule supreme and inviolably to further fuel mankind’s insatiable appetite to pursue material wealth is but very shallow Post-modernist figment or a snippet of impractical ambition. Yet, we seem to have been so much carried away by the Technology Industry that we have started vaingloriously to busk in those rosy waves of flamboyant ideas as to how we would be left with upcoming novelties of high-tech savvy solutions in future to render life almost immune from pandemic-like disruptions and in doing so been fed by the image of sophisticated techno-cultural city with flying taxis all around as the future roadmap of a world led by AI.
But can’t we see how this pandemic has jolted the first-world candidates for such a futuristic high-technological world into a humongous clamour for necessities and also paves the way for an imperative to look into industrialised-polluted third world countries for reliefs and models of eco-friendly and local community’s ‘social capital’ based therapeutic trust. Therefore, the question that arises is that if the first-world countries are nowhere near achieving such high-tech status of material abundance then how come the same image applies to the Third World countries lagging and trailing far behind in catching up in the race? Thus, squarely we are left in lurch with the moot point to face up: Are we following the right roadmap for our future generation? Or what is the alternative? Here the idea of alternative does not preclude or exclude the use of technology but if anything is discounted that is shift towards ‘technology fixation’.
Hence, we would urge to consider a factual corollary and rational extension of the present trends that would inevitably impel one to create an image of a future human civilisation to a poisonous-shanty city of high rising sky-scrappers leading to nowhere but an unstable atmosphere where climate change is the only grim reality to put us on tenterhooks.
Therefore, a futuristic technology dominated world will be a Post-modernist world of scattered truths where the proportionate technological reality in the form of IoT (Internet of Things), seamless connectivity driven by Light Fidelity could only be a reality, at best, of a few corners of the world where the purchasing power of the haves would matter the most to feed the circuit. For the rest of the world (the have-nots), technology would be few and far between. In a nutshell, the Post-modernistic outlook of the future would be one of highly segmental space where tradition of manual and slow-motion won’t vanish but probably it might find its way into a highly moulded structure to marginalise human beings by robbing of their independent agency. So, the effect of representation might be spectacular while the irony remains in its fluid character resembling material opulence coexisting with the pockets of deprivation. The dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots cannot, however, be erased in entirety because it is a teleology. The core-periphery model of Immanuel Wallerstein exists not only in the international level defining relations between nation-states, but it exists in the micro level classifying relationship between classes. The material richness of the haves exists because the have-nots are castrated though the technology of their future mobilisation amid adversity might not be a spent-force also. Moreover, the intensifying cloud of recession triggered by the pandemic might further rejig the animal spirits hidden inside the minds of human beings which could push them further towards the verge of new lines of resilience and resolve.
We accept that a near-perfect world order characterised by equality is hard to achieve, but the current pandemic provides an opportunity for humankind to shift their gear from trying to achieve ceaseless material growth to higher level contentment, if at all we can redefine happiness in that way. This endeavour does not, however, manifest a reality without technology but in the projected view of reality that we envision technology can only be a means to higher development. The notion of scarce resources cannot be brushed aside at all. We have limited non-renewable resources and we cannot wait for technology to provide us with the tools to transform the non-renewable into renewable resources. Again, there is an end to natural resources if it is extracted incessantly… but, there is no end to human psychological depth. If we really need to explore something to infinity then it should be our psychological means and choice permeated with a sense of purpose rather than some technological tool-kit to fall back on as ‘imposed definition of reality’.
One thing which this pandemic has pointed out is that there cannot be a quick relief solution that can come from technology because the race for finding a vaccine is still on with more than five million cases worldwide and more than three lakh people dead. Therefore, technology cannot save us in entirety. The perception that climate change already posing potent challenges that can only be solved in the present to avert a future crisis.
Boundless Ocean of Politics has received this article from Dr Gouri Sankar Nag and Ayush Majumdar. Dr Nag, the Professor of Political Science, Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University, Purulia, West Bengal, India & Coordinator of the Atish Dipankar Srij’nan Centre for South Asian Studies, S-K-B University, while Mr Majumdar is a student of the Atish Dipankar Srij’nan Centre of South Asian Studies, Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University.
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