Essay on the relationship between Tradition and Technology

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Tradition is like the flow of certain practices from distant past that receives both acquiescence as well as acceptability among social beings, without much grumble or grouse, even though it may not be fully free from the dust of many a flaw that might have crept into it without people ever realising or resisting.

In layman’s language, tradition stands for a set of beliefs or customs passing from one generation to the next (mostly oral or without being written in so many words).

Technology, on the other hand, too has its roots in the past, but not based on some hearsay or puerile perception. It is a result of constant questioning and experimentation that we call scientific study. On the face of facts, it seems that tradition does not obey the dictates of reason or analysis, whereas technology is trash if it is not put to the severest of tests that aim at proving it infallible and innovative. It may sound strange to see both tradition and technology as foes and friends of each other. Tradition ridden as most of us are, it rules the roost without being challenged.

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On the contrary, technology, with all its hi-tech gizmos and gadgets, has to improve itself every passing moment, despite the fact that no human activity can be conceived without the support that it provides.

No doubt, despite the all pervasive presence of technology, tradition still holds its sway and sweep over our daily chores and there seems no easy escape from its influence in our lives. Although logic is not the wherewithal of tradition, yet there is very little resistance to some of its absurd formats.

Tradition enjoys the privilege of being followed blindly, whereas technology cannot take things for granted, or the people for a ride. It has to prove its relevance and robustness, both among the common folk as well as among knowledgeable/techno-savvy people.

For obvious reasons like paucity of time in a highly competitive world, people prefer to fall back on technology even when faithfully performing a religious ritual or spiritual sermon. The age old practice of undertaking a pilgrimage or a visit to some shrine wholly or partially on foot has been gradually yielding ground to the faster means of transport.

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In matters of cremation as well, the tradition of burning a dead body on the funeral pyre made of wood is no longer universal. Here too technology has stepped in the alternative of electric cremation (crematorium). Star gazing, fortune telling, forecasting or even the making of horoscopes is no longer the monopoly of the traditional astrologer, soother-sayer or fortune teller. This function too has been usurped by computer, the most modern companion and trustworthy friend of one and all.

Traditions are followed as a matter of conformity, whereas technology is accepted as a telling tool that enhances efficiency and promotes self interest. If tradition is reactionary and regressive in nature, technology is dynamic and developmental. It is technology that has overthrown some of our bizarre beliefs in the breaking out of killer epidemics like plague, small­pox, etc. as curses sent by some unknown spirit or divine power to punish the victims for sins committed in previous life.

Similarly, some diseases like epilepsy, polio, etc. too have been handled in the most humane and effective way by technology.

Alas, the nastiest nexus between tradition and technology comes to light when an ultra-sound machine reveals the sex of an unborn child. With the obsession to have a male child at any cost riding high on our senses and sensibilities, the most repulsive role of technology in this regard becomes too vivid and vicious to be ignored.

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How this nefarious link between tradition and technology has adversely affected male-female ratio in many parts of India is a matter that should send chilling sensations down the spine of every sensitive and right thinking person. To fight this growing menace of terminating female foetus in the mother’s womb the reach and resourcefulness of the visual media as also the services of NGOs need to be put maximum use.

There is no gainsaying the fact that too much technology like too many traditions is fraught with dubious dimensions. In the words of Karl Polany (one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century): “While technological change has the potential to improve the lot of humanity beyond imagination, if its speed is not moderated to keep pace with the capacity of human society to absorb the impact of change, then society itself can collapse.”

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