Friday, 8 December 2006

Anti Tech

I worry that I might be an anti-technologist. That I might be here under false pretences. I feel suspicious of my own fascination with gadgets. And slightly relieved that it's a fascination I seem to be growing out of as I enter my forties - in the same way as the raging fires of my adolescent sexuality are dimming and allowing my senses to adjust to subtler glows. It's not a loss but a gain. Or perhaps that's just the dessicated ascetic in me speaking out of some weirdly distorted view of the middle way.

A fact is that I used to go everywhere with a Palm V, writing notes in Graffiti. Now I'm happy to flick through notebooks of random jottings and sketches, in colours and spacings and moods of handwriting that reflect much more than the mere words can.

I wanted to write on the rickshaw this morning but it was too jerky. I've become thankful for the five-minute traffic lights, even if they mean sitting in the sunlit swirl of incense from the exhausts of a hundred vehicles. I've now filled up a notebook that was a departure from my usual moleskine. Its a wire-o bound book which has enough space inside the hoops of its spine to hold a biro. It's the perfect combination of pen and paper, constantly to hand. Now I'm starting on a new moleskine which means I'll have to carry a separate pen. This is always a problem. Loose pens mean the danger of ink. So now, in the search for the simplest solution I'm thinking of going back to a pencil. My old Palm V isn't even in the running. I coveted an iPod for months before I got one thinking it might be good solution for carrying notes. Somehow I've always come back round to the always accessible, rapidly scannable, universally applicable, infinitely responsive, maintenance free, rugged, cheap, pen and paper. Of course my phonebook is in my phone and I can live without my entire database until I can open up my laptop, so my notebook is just simple enough. Fifteen years ago I used to carry around a fat filofax.

I'm thinking of all this now in the context of simplicity and with a spirit of awe for the beautiful solutions to basic needs which have been developed in India over thousands of years. This is a place where an old way of doing things is not dropped just because something new and supposedly better comes along. People do not scrap fridges and cars and computers just because a new model is out. On the other hand this place has an amazing capacity to absorb new people, new cultures, new philosophies and new technologies and make them seem completely natural. Which layer of this country is the real India? The jungles, plains and mountains? the tribal? the Dravidian? the Aryan? the Mughal? the British? the American?

John Maeda talks about stuff being as simple as possible and as complex as it needs to be.

I need to get to the bottom of this to work out what I'm doing in a company committed to technological solutions to India's problems.

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