Monday, April 07, 2008

Modern Marvels

I love the program “Modern Marvels” that comes in History channel. The last episode was on gadgets and geeks. The show introduced the Los Angeles international gadget fair, commercial stores like Brookline and Thinkgeek that sell gadgets that are uncommon in market and a geek would love to hold. The show also brought into light amateurs who think and try day-in day-out to invent a gadget that would make a small daily task in the man’s life better if not change it drastically.

I was awed by the out of the box thinking and intelligence of these innovators. I wondered how they get such thoughts, their persistence, never give-up attitude, it’s simply amazing.
The show has made me to constantly think two things-
1. Do we really require so many gadgets in this world? How much toxic non-degradable waste they cost to the environment?
Two points from the same TV program -
  • An average US household had 9.1 gadgets in 1997 whereas it shot to 23 gadgets in 2007.
  • The average life of a cell phone is 18 months.

330,000 tonnes - E-waste produced in India in 2007. Source: today's Eenadu (Telugu newspaper)

Sadly, I am part of the band wagon – cell phone, laptop (3 – personal + 2 official), home pc, digital camera, 3 headphones – don’t know how many CDs, DVDs, floppies I have.

2. As a Computer Science Engineering graduate, have I done enough to use my skills properly? Have I ever made use of operating systems, artificial intelligence, language processing, computer networks? What did I contribute this world using my technical skills (if I have acquired any)?

Unfortunately, as a person coming from an Indian middle class family from a remote Indian town, I had taken the typical path my tribe follows – Complete graduation, join a company for a decent salary, and now a bonus – a trip to US to earn some dollars.

Probably, I would do the job for 30 years – bring up children – put them in the same cycle – school, college, job, retirement. It is not only me, but I bet 95% of my generation have followed the same path and our juniors are following – Whatever might be the specialization in engineering, join a IT service provider company and settle for a high income salary. We are not paying back to the country that spends on us.

In 70s and 80s, the middle class youth sole aim was to earn government and bank jobs and settle for a decent salary for 30 years. Though the impression is current Indian generation does not stick to a single job, it is incorrect. They do not stick to a single company. Ultimately, they will do more or less similar kind of job and probably would do so for 30 years.
There is no wonder inventions/discoveries happen rare in India. But, I shouldn’t complain. I am one of those 100 billion. Will I make my life count? Unfortunately, it will be a big NO whatever I might think and would try.

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