Information Bureau | ILLINOIS

Technological know-how is a large component of life in India. For instance, avenue vendors and rickshawallahs use cellphones, the world wide web and Aadhar cards – 12-digit identification quantities provided to each individual citizen based on their biometric and demographic information. On the other hand, charismatic gurus and superstition nonetheless prosper in India. In the new guide “Reluctant Technophiles: India’s Sophisticated Romance with Technology,” University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign electrical and computer system engineering professor Rakesh Kumar delivers an account of India’s generally contradictory romantic relationship with technological know-how. Information Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with Kumar about these contradictions, and how India’s condition is each distinctive and universal.

Why is India these kinds of a excellent situation research for analyzing how tradition impacts technologies?

India presents a very good scenario examine for a number of good reasons. To start with, the difficulties that technologies purports to address – poverty, inequality, obtain to well being, education and infrastructure – are all obviously present in India. At the exact time, the difficulties that present day systems current – effect of automation on employment, threat to democracy due to disinformation and compromised social harmony due to detest speech and radicalization – are notably stark for India due to its large population, somewhat unstable (or vibrant, if you choose) democracy and generally fragile social cloth.

India is an attention-grabbing scenario analyze also due to its contradictory attitudes toward engineering. Whilst there is a robust affinity towards working with and benefiting from technology, technology is also typically blamed for a lot of points that go mistaken in the region. This contradiction extends to the way individuals reconcile present day technology with some of the superstitious and religious features deeply ingrained in the tradition. It is also interesting how India’s technological earlier is often glorified, re-imagined and sometimes fabricated for national pride.

Finally, India serves as a great petri dish to see how powerful know-how-primarily based options can be, supplied stubborn societal issues such as deep-rooted inequalities. For example, if a modest portion of a populace enjoys access to technological know-how and positive aspects from it, although some others struggle to get their essential requires achieved, how handy can technological know-how-dependent interventions be in that context?

Do Indian culture and politics impact its attitude toward technologies, or is it the other way all over?

It is the two! A society decides its technological priorities. If you just looked via the background of technology in India, you would see that the concentration on specified technology areas – computing, room and nuclear electrical power – did not take place purely as a final result of happenstance, but by way of deliberate policymaking. Rapid forward to today, India’s major engineering assignments – unique digital ID to each individual Indian, seamless national digital-payment platforms and broadband entry to every single village, etcetera. – replicate the social and political priorities.

The impression of engineering on society and politics is also obvious. The use of social media to advertise viewpoints, which include politics, is rampant. Technology-dependent successes this kind of as economic inclusion and immediate subsidies have arguably aided political get-togethers earn elections. On the internet radicalization, disinformation and hate speech have experienced numerous regrettable real-environment effects.   

How is India’s relationship with technological innovation impacting its financial state and the world-wide financial system?

We at times forget about that one out of 5 humans are Indian. So, alternatives that India would make for its economy have an effect on the world. For a country like India with a large and rising young inhabitants, the strongest motive to undertake and create technological innovation is that it can support drive the economic system and raise folks out of poverty. As the expense of engineering keeps falling, the fruits of innovation are becoming available to an ever-increasing variety of men and women.

How can the classes realized from India’s ordeals be applied to all nations?

The vital lesson of the e-book is that the positive aspects and troubles of technological know-how rely on the one of a kind context that it exists in – its background, inequalities and modern society, and so forth.

In the U.S., for case in point, we normally blame engineering for a lot of factors that go incorrect in culture. Difficulties, this kind of as the influence of automation on work opportunities, danger to democracy because of to disinformation and compromised social harmony owing to dislike speech and radicalization, have been front and centre for pretty some time. Algorithmic bias is presently a substantial difficulty. Inequalities have been rising, which has currently started affecting results from technologies-based mostly interventions. A deeper discourse on technologies-culture conversation will be useful.