Creative Thinking : Futuristic babies

Updated 18 January 2013

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, “ 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?

E-mail: [email protected]

Delhi’s last elephants await marching orders

Updated 21 September 2018

Delhi’s last elephants await marching orders

  • Authorities have ordered the seizure of the elephants
  • Fifty years ago the Indian capital housed more than 200 elephants

NEW DELHI: The mighty Heera marched through a crowded slum chewing bamboo, oblivious that freedom from life as one of Delhi’s last six elephants at work in the polluted city could be just around the corner.
After years of pressure from activists who accuse the animals’ owners of flouting wildlife regulations by keeping them in a city, authorities have ordered the seizure of the elephants.
They plan to move the 40-year-old tusker — along with Dharamvati, Laxmi, Gangaram, Moti and Chandni — out of the smoggy Indian capital but warn it could take months to find a new home for them.
“They are kept away from their natural habitat,” a senior Forest Department official said, highlighting “reports of insufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary care, all which could expose them to disease.”
Fifty years ago the Indian capital housed more than 200 elephants, covered in garlands and carrying grooms to weddings, or being sought by the faithful for blessings at temples.
But now the city — overcome by cars, a population of 20 million and choking on pollution — is no longer a suitable home for the animals, with Heera and his five bedraggled companions the last elephants to live there.
Media reports say authorities are struggling to relocate the elephants because four are sick.
Officials hope to find a new home resembling the luxuriant farm belonging to consumer goods tycoon Vivek Chand Burman in Delhi where a seventh, female street elephant was recently taken.
She has her own mud pool and quarters complete with fans and sprinklers, a world away from her poorer relatives who wade in the Yamuna, one of the world’s most polluted rivers.

Animal Rights

But while animal rights campaigners welcome the move, it is a difficult moment for their owners — who deny any neglect.
Mehboob Ali likened it to snatching a legacy passed on by his ancestors.
“My family has been keeping elephants for six generations,” he said. “They are like our family and have been with us through thick and thin. We cannot live without each other.”
Heera’s keeper Mukesh Yadav has been looking after elephants since he was a child.
“I was so in love with elephants that I even decided not to marry. I felt that I must dedicate my life to the service of this holy animal,” he said.
The animals hold a special place in Indian culture, and elephant-headed Ganesha is one of Hinduism’s most revered gods.
Yadav bemoaned the loss of traditions that once allowed elephant keepers like him to work freely across the country.
“Earlier, people had a genuine fondness for these animals. A single village could have up to 20 elephants.
“We used to take a parade to graze in the fields and leave them to roam in the jungles. We would proudly present them at weddings and feasts. And now the government comes to us claiming that they are their property?” he said angrily.

Constant Inspections

Ali is infuriated by constant inspections of his elephants, which he believes are being done under pressure from activists.
He claimed that he has been harassed on several occasions by animal welfare groups.
“They are behaving as if we have stolen these elephants whereas they belong to us,” he said.
“Do you know that my great-grandfather was often given elephants as gifts by the maharajahs? And we have continued to trade them at animal fairs in various parts of the country.”
But activists counter that such claims mask a murky nexus of commercial exploitation, where little interest is paid to the animals’ welfare.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said the elephants had spent most of their lives in deplorable conditions and must be taken back to the forests.
“If people are actually made aware of the brutal methods used to capture, tame and bring these elephants to the city, they would never want to see them here again,” he said.
“What would you choose, the joy of seeing an elephant rolling in the mud and walking the jungles, or seeing an abused and captive creature on the streets of Delhi outside a temple or a circus?“