How does society impact the rewards and problems of technologies?

How does society impact the benefits and challenges of technology?
A new e book by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign electrical and laptop or computer engineering professor Rakesh Kumar examines how a country’s society and culture influence its adoption of new systems and vice versa – applying India as a circumstance study.  Credit: Wesley Moore and photo illustration by L. Brian Stauffer

Know-how is a major aspect of daily life in India. For case in point, road sellers and rickshawallahs use cellphones, the online and Aadhar cards—12-digit identification quantities presented to each individual citizen primarily based on their biometric and demographic info. However, charismatic gurus and superstition nevertheless prosper in India. In the new book “Reluctant Technophiles: India’s Complicated Romance with Technological know-how,” College of Illinois Urbana-Champaign electrical and laptop or computer engineering professor Rakesh Kumar offers an account of India’s frequently contradictory romantic relationship with technological know-how. News Bureau bodily sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with Kumar about these contradictions, and how India’s scenario is equally unique and common.

Why is India this sort of a excellent circumstance analyze for analyzing how tradition impacts know-how?

India offers a excellent case analyze for a number of reasons. Initial, the problems that engineering purports to address—poverty, inequality, accessibility to health, instruction and infrastructure—are all manifestly present in India. At the similar time, the worries that modern-day systems present—impact of automation on careers, risk to democracy because of to disinformation and compromised social harmony thanks to despise speech and radicalization—are notably stark for India because of to its large populace, comparatively volatile (or vibrant, if you desire) democracy and often fragile social fabric.

India is an appealing circumstance study also thanks to its contradictory attitudes toward engineering. Although there is a potent affinity toward working with and benefiting from technologies, engineering is also typically blamed for numerous issues that go erroneous in the nation. This contradiction extends to the way individuals reconcile contemporary technological know-how with some of the superstitious and spiritual factors deeply ingrained in the lifestyle. It is also attention-grabbing how India’s technological past is often glorified, re-imagined and sometimes fabricated for national pride.

Eventually, India serves as a fantastic petri dish to see how efficient technologies-dependent solutions can be, given stubborn societal troubles this sort of as deep-rooted inequalities. For illustration, if a smaller fraction of a population enjoys access to engineering and advantages from it, while some others struggle to get their primary wants met, how handy can technological know-how-dependent interventions be in that context?

Do Indian modern society and politics affect its mind-set towards engineering, or is it the other way all around?

It is really both of those! A modern society decides its technological priorities. If you just seemed by the record of technological know-how in India, you would see that the concentrate on specified engineering areas—computing, place and nuclear power—did not manifest purely as a consequence of happenstance, but via deliberate policymaking. Rapidly ahead to today, India’s greatest know-how projects—unique electronic ID to each Indian, seamless countrywide electronic-payment platforms and broadband access to every village, etcetera.—reflect the social and political priorities.

The effects of technological innovation on society and politics is also clear. The use of social media to encourage viewpoints, together with politics, is rampant. Technology-dependent successes this sort of as financial inclusion and immediate subsidies have arguably served political parties earn elections. On the web radicalization, disinformation and dislike speech have experienced a lot of unlucky true-entire world penalties.

How is India’s romance with engineering influencing its financial system and the worldwide economic system?

We occasionally overlook that one out of 5 individuals are Indian. So, alternatives that India tends to make for its financial state affect the planet. For a region like India with a significant and growing younger populace, the strongest motive to undertake and establish technological innovation is that it can assist travel the financial system and elevate people today out of poverty. As the charge of engineering keeps falling, the fruits of innovation are becoming obtainable to an ever-rising quantity of persons.

How can the classes acquired from India’s experiences be applied to all nations?

The key lesson of the book is that the benefits and worries of technology count on the unique context that it exists in—its heritage, inequalities and society, and so forth.

In the U.S., for example, we normally blame engineering for quite a few points that go mistaken in society. Troubles, these kinds of as the impression of automation on employment, menace to democracy because of to disinformation and compromised social harmony owing to hate speech and radicalization, have been entrance and heart for really some time. Algorithmic bias is previously a significant dilemma. Inequalities have been raising, which has presently commenced impacting outcomes from engineering-primarily based interventions. A further discourse on technological innovation-culture conversation will be helpful.

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How does culture impression the gains and challenges of know-how? (2021, December 9)
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