Sunday, May 20, 2012

Too much data

                     "Data,data everywhere,nor any byte to devour".A modern Mariner navigating the high seas of the web, would have this cried out in desperation.It is estimated that the data generated by us doubles every year.Creation and dissemination of data has never been so easy and so instant as it is today.Everyday we produce millions of smses,emails,blogs,tweets, videos,news articles with accompanied comments in their billions and all other forms of digital junk.From being on the lips of buzzword-savvy IT industry, "Big Data"entered the policy discussions of powerful governments.Let us here understand how this data deluge affects our mental harmony.

                        As Jeffery D sachs observes in his book The price of civilization, "Our brains hence personalities,decision making capabilities,and values are subject to extensive and continued neural rewriting over time.We are also what we see and hear,since these literally change our brains,minds and future judgements".

                       We are consuming more trivial information than is necessary for the sane functioning of the mind.A forwarded mail flashes until you are forced to open it.We are  exposed a portion of a shared video even we are least interested in viewing it.As over exposure to easily available porn induces men(includes woman) to crave for more of it,for the same level of short-term dopamine boost  which affects their social behaviour,or just like the ubiquitous availability of  fatty foods and refined sugars that appeal to our tongue and assault our health,overexposure to digital information affects our mental make-up.
                       The interconnected maze that is the web,makes us difficult to seek the content selectively without consuming some of the related offerings.When you search the you tube for a particular video,you seldom come out without watching at least one of the suggested video.Cometh the digital social network,that promises to turn each of its member into an ego maniac narcisst,where maintaining social relation reduces to performing in a circus show organized in a vanity fair.In this virtual world you are measured by the size of your uploads.You are what you brag.Every one can become an armchair-anything.You can be an armchair patriot,an arm chair social activist,an arm chair humanitarian,an armchair art afficinado,an arm chair sports analyst,an arm chair economist,an arm chair culture critique,in short a life size hypocrite.Only here you  will have the opportunity to experience the sort of tranquil bliss when you are instantly made aware of "what's on the mind" of your friend's friends's friend's distant relative.When you are greeted by  many on your birthday,you would start wondering for some time(if not, it is not your mistake),what made your birth worth remembering its day by so many friends.No!, I don't say it is the remainder that starts flashing on the dashboards of every one you befriended that alerted them in advance.Because,be it is in fact a daemon they configured,that greeted you automatically.You return their(the automatic programmes') well wishes with a heartful thanks for "making your day".

                               You would naturally "like" in a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling" a few among the million  photographs of your friend's puppy uploaded on the occasion of her(the dog)finding her mate.Oscar Wilde would have attributed this reflex action to "emotions recollected in the rebirth".            

                                Reading news paper was once a simple and short affair of reading some  news,editorials and op-Ed.Not any more in their electronic avatar.Lot of news on the homepage,with loads of trivia.With links to videos and blogs by experts.pop up of news items related the one being read.some analyses like five ways to  impress your boss to 10 ways to endure this crap sold in the name of news et cetera.
                              In an increasingly philistine world that storms us with information,what we need now are effective filters to save us from junk.Wish my browser intelligently alerts me if I navigate deep into the interconnected links from where I have begun.Pray my conciousness guides me in limiting my web usage to moderation.

Disclaimer:This writer is found to suffer from delusions of supreme grandeur,hence rightfully considers himself not only an expert on everything but also as the brightest beacon whose light  will illuminate the oncoming world civilization in the moments of its darkest moral crisis.He is not in anyway responsible if your mental harmony is afflicted beyond repair after your reading this blog post.



Monday, March 12, 2012

From Palm leaves to Palmtops - An elegy to the physical book.

The printed book as we know it today,is on its death bed.The book in its present form,since it was first brought forth by the Chinese Buddhists to propagate The Diamond Sutra,or perfected later by Gutenberg to publish The Bible has been man's most convenient companion to disseminate knowledge.

Long before script came into vogue,man relied on his memory to store large sequences of meaningful sentences that could run into hundreds of pages.Advances in the scientifc analysis of phonetics and skillful use of meter proved to be essential in this endevour.This is the first physical form of the book.The poetic raptures of one of the ancient man's of awe and excitement,fear and gratitude towards the enigmatic nature surrounding him, have been passed down to us in this form.Changes in the networking of neuronal synapses of the human brain is the only hardware employed in this form.

The invention of script for the language and subsequent discovery of certain leaves like palm or papyrus that allow in making the impressions of the alphabet on them ushered in the second generation in the avatar of the books.

Advent of the printing press brings in the third generation.Books of this generation,can be felt,can be smelled,weigh and occupy physical space.Also position of a certain sentence or paragraph is always fixed and remains the same once the book is printed.

These books can be borrowed;especially before the examinations,they can be easily photocopied.They can be easily stolen and required pages can be tored off comfortably from university libraries.Used books are also sold in the second hand market.At times,one may find a rarebook offered almost for free of cost on the pavement.Pages of the old books,like the ones bought by great grand father,turn brittle,mellow into yellow tinge and break at the slightest stress.

Digitization is the latest trend in the evolution of the physical form of the books.These fourth generation Books,or ebooks as they are reffered to,are stored in the large clouds of the internet companies, sold and distributed wirelessly.To borrow a book,one may need to borrow the tablet of the owner,or may be credentials of his account.Nothing much can be said at this stage, as the etiquette has not yet evolved.No longer a future Tolstoy would need to borrow shelves to keep his borrowed books.Nolonger a Vivekananda of the coming age could resolve the exact page number of the topic he was asked from the encyclopedia books,though he could reproduce verbatim,to the consternation of the awed enquirer,it's content.Gone are the days, when a studious law maker like Ambedkar needs a spacious house in order to accommodate his half lakh book personal library.