Creative Thinking : Futuristic babies

Updated 18 January 2013
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Creative Thinking : Futuristic babies

I don’t know if you read a recent article in Arab News titled “Technology world: Crawling into the cradle.” I have, and cannot help commenting upon it.
The article, reporting on the Consumer Electronic Show on the newest technological devices being held in Las Vegas, starts by saying: “One is never too young to be connected.” It goes without saying that they are not referring to the importance of “connection” between parents and children, friends or human beings in general. Here they are talking about technology. So ... if each individual is never too young to surf the net, it is natural to ask, “How young”? The article immediately provides the answer: “.. a variety of apps aimed at the youngest audiences, even those unable to walk.” I already imagine babies, just a few months old, propped up in their “cradle,” with their little computers set in front of them, being busy clicking buttons here and there. No more cute little toys, fluffy plush animals or musical overhead merry-go-rounds. A tiny battery operated computer is ready to provide modern electronic entertainment to babies.
But this is not all. I also wonder — why should this kind of connection be desirable? A few lines below comes the answer: “... accessories and apps marketed to parents as tools to help children learn at a very tender age.” Wow! This is really interesting. Children need to be encouraged to learn at a “very tender age.” Learn “what“? What do a few months old babies need to learn besides imitating mom in uttering their first cute words? What else do they “need” beside mom’s love and caring? I don’t know you, but I am already envisioning a little pitiful army of tiny robot-like babies, sitting in their prams or chairs, unaware of the world around them, all concentrated on “being connected” and learning stuff they absolutely do not need at this stage of their life. But such devices make “it possible for a six-month-old to use a smartphone.” What an achievement! The marketing manager of a worldwide toy company said: “We see moms using such devices to occupy babies all the time.” Double wow! So now mothers, besides being busy with their own jobs and chores, need to keep their babies occupied constantly, even during the little time they could spend with them.
A more advanced option is to give 18-months-olds iPads that will allow them to “start a digital lifestyle.” Finally, a particular gadget is designed for four-to-eight-years-old but, as the manufacturers’ sales representative said, “..kids have the ability to use it at the age of two.” Still in a hurry, right...? Faster! Earlier! Sooner! I wonder if mankind is aware of what all this means. I don’t believe I am backward or antiquated if I feel worried about the world that is being created for the next generation, for the babies who have already been born and who are going to be the society of tomorrow.
The second part of the article, which concerns a different but not less preoccupying topic, reports on a new kind of TV that knows exactly what you are viewing, so “... this new interactivity opens up possibilities for advertisers who will be able to develop more targeted pitches.” A kind of Big Brother that also becomes a big marketer. No more privacy whatsoever. You will be watched, checked out, categorized, labeled so that your new TV screen will serve you all the programs you like and advertisers will show — brainwashing you toward buying — just the stuff you appear to be interested in. You will be, more than ever, an “item” that has a value only for its capacity of purchasing, while your mind will be numbed and you will forget that other choices are available.
Is this a real world, “our” world, or is it science fiction in action?

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Singapore’s deaf ‘bird whisperer’ forms rare bond with feathered friends

Updated 42 min 27 sec ago
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Singapore’s deaf ‘bird whisperer’ forms rare bond with feathered friends

SINGAPORE: Deaf since childhood, Razali Bin Mohamad Habidin has developed a closer bond with the creatures under his care than any other keeper at Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park, where other staff refer to him simply as the “bird whisperer.”
Razali, who lost 80 percent of his hearing after falling ill as a baby, started working at the park over two decades ago, and has risen to the position of deputy head avian keeper.
He communicates with the birds through grunts, gestures and body languages and said that he recognizes the birds by their “behaviors and personalities.”
“All of them are my friends,” he added, communicating through a mix of gestures and Malay.
Other staff at the park have dubbed the 48-year-old “the bird whisperer” — after Hollywood film “The Horse Whisperer,” starring Robert Redford as a trainer with a gift for understanding horses.
“He has a way of communicating with the birds that very few of us can,” said assistant curator Angelin Lim. “Just by a look, he knows whether or not the bird is well.”
Communication with his colleagues can be more challenging than with the birds.
Razali leads about a dozen staff and giving them instructions usually involves him making various complex hand gestures, and then reading the lips of his colleagues when they respond.
His way with the creatures at the park, which is home to more than 5,000 birds from parrots to hornbills, was on display as he brought a snack of palm fruits into an enclosure filled with parrots.
The hyacinth macaws, the world’s largest parrots, stopped squawking and watched him curiously before following him.
One of the giant birds perched on his shoulder, playfully rubbed his finger with its beak — a sign of trust and affection — and ate out of his hand.