Life in Cyberspace

With the dizzying and dazzling developments in the world of science, and particularly in the field of information technology, there are some scenarios which could scare some, but which could as well be a fact of life in a not unforeseeable future – if we go by the saying that the future is here now

By all accounts we must take life seriously, so as to be able to enjoy this precious gift which has been granted to us.

That means preparing ourselves through formal education to acquire the knowledge and skills which are needed in the world of work, which we all aspire to join. But there is also the world at large outside of our work environment, which has its own demands and pressures – and we also need to learn the values and principles which will help us to cope with them.

Basically we need to learn how to live with others, starting from home in the cocoon of the family, where our parents and grandparents lead us through example and guidance – and this is the foundation of our general education. For a start, therefore, parents themselves must be fully prepared to assume this – their – responsibility, and be available to the children.

However, relationships between children and parents are undergoing a major change – but then, others from earlier eras could also claim the same. Historians of social life are best suited to give us a picture of this evolution in mores and behaviours, which must surely represent a fertile field of study. For lack of time – here I go again! – to look up any material in this regard, I will confine myself to what is happening at present, and there are some interesting indications of things to come. Perhaps they provide some humour to lighten the weighty seriousness of living, humour which is absolutely necessary for us to maintain balance and preserve sanity.

Nonetheless, with the dizzying and dazzling developments in the world of science, and particularly in the field of information technology, there are some scenarios which could scare some, but which could as well be a fact of life in a not unforeseeable future – if we go by the saying that the future is here now.

I was therefore quite amused when I received this forwarded email, having a good laugh at first, then giving it some serious thought. Please do begin by laughing too! Here goes:

‘Girl: Dad, I’m in love with a boy who is far away from me. I am in India and he lives in Alaska. We met on a dating website Match, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on Whatsapp, he proposed to me on Skype. Now we’ve had 2 months of relationship through Viber. I need your blessings and good wishes, daddy.

Dad: Wow! Really!! Then get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango. Buy your kids on e-Bay, receive them through Gmail. And if you are fed up with your husband… sell him on Amazon.’

I don’t mean to be nasty or cynical, but given the spate of killings we have been witnessing, the thought just occurred to me whether marrying and selling in cyberspace might not be a better solution than maiming or killing? When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World almost seven decades ago, in which he fictionalized about in-vitro fertilization and the production of designer human beings, it was never thought that this would actually happen some day in future.

It did – in 1979, with the birth of the first test-tube baby. Almost 30 000 have been born since. And with the mapping of the human genome – the complete genetic profile of a human being – it is no longer wild imagination among scientists to assume that one day, not that far away, frozen designer embryos with chosen characteristics (colour of hair and eyes, of skin, level of intelligence and so on) may be available off the shelf. On e-Bay…

Hey, for that matter who knows that the embryo’s genome might be even mailed to the recipient at the other end of the world and be made to come out of a three-dimensional printer?? What would happen to conventional sex then? Oh dear … anybody’s guess – but no dream is too wild given the speed of change which, after all, is occurring today at the speed of thought.

Another piece which I read with great interest – and for me personally some apprehension – was about the world’s first paperless, therefore bookless, public library in US Bexar County, Texas. So, ‘instead of taking home books, registered residents of the south Texas county of Bexar – which has never had a public library or a bookstore – will be able to access over tens of thousands of titles from e-readers for free.’

The mission ‘is to give the county’s 1.7 million residents with “necessary tools to thrive as citizens of the 21st century” for the “purposes of enhancing education and literacy” and “promoting reading as recreation”.’ It is true that ‘traditional libraries require much larger load-tolerances in construction due to the weight of materials, so are more costly to build. Book collections also require environmental controls that are costly to maintain.’

I will not live to see this happening at the Carnegie Library, Curepipe, which I wrote about a couple of weeks back. While I still prefer the conventional shelf laden with books style of library, and which I think personal libraries will still retain for a long time to come, I do appreciate that public libraries in developed countries will perhaps all be inevitably transformed into cyber libraries.

By extension, I hope that one day we will have virtual fights and killings/cleansings rather than physical ones. Do we know what reality really is?

 


* Published in print edition on 14 February 2014

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