Exploring the relationship between technology and society
On Day 2 of the Symbiosis Literary Festival held on 20th & 21st November, 2021, the students had the pleasure of attending a book reading and discussion session with Dr. Rakesh Kumar about his book ‘Reluctant Technophiles: India’s complicated relationship with technology.’ A renowned technologist and Professor at the University of Illinois, USA; Dr. Kumar’s research has been widely recognized and covered by BBC, Fortune and The New York Times.
Dr. Kumar began the session by reading a couple of excerpts from his book’s first chapter: ‘The perfect scapegoat.’ He narrated in detail the horrific killings of fifteen innocent people due to rumours circulated through messaging application, WhatsApp. The second excerpt dealt with disinformation prevalent in India.
Continuiting with the book reading, Dr. Kumar read a few paragraphs from the chapter: ‘Faith paradox;’ which portrayed India’s intertwining technology and antithetical beliefs and practices. He concluded with a final excerpt from the last chapter of his book, ‘The path forward,’ which aimed at the goals required to achieve technology-based prosperity.
As the book reading concluded, the audience was encouraged to ask questions they wished for Dr. Kumar to address.
Ms. Namarita Kathait, the host, began by asking Dr. Kumar why he decided to write about India, to which he replied, “India is a country with a large population where technology acts as a promise to end poverty, unemployment, inequality and various societal issues.” Through the book, he aimed to understand how technology could be helpful for the people of India who could not afford necessities.
Furthering the discussion, Ms. Kathait posed the question about how Dr. Kumar’s book is different from the many other existing books with the same theme. He replied, “All the other books either trace the historical evolution of technology or rather talk about the current state of technology in India. My goal was to examine the relationship between technology and society. Technology is a big part of society.”
As the session concluded, Dr. Kumar responded to a question about the significance of the book title. He went on to explain that the contradiction in the title was intended to represent the similarity of contradictions that exist in India. As the transformation of India continues with the expansion of technology adoption, the societal impact will likely be paradigm-altering for many its citizens owing to the nation’s diversity.
by Shaivya Singh