Sunday, March 1, 2009

End of paper NEWS ?

...a deep sound strikes like a rising knell! Did ye not hear it?
—No! 't was but the wind

This time it is not the wind. The catacomb are being dusted and readied for the eventuality that is striking everything around us in our passage in time. This time the victim are the newspapers. 33 newspapers in the USA have sought bankruptcy protection. The NYTimes probably used one of its lifelines in the $250 million investment - only time will tell if the Kohinoor of the news world will win the Who want's to be a survivor contest. Buy and store San Francisco Chronicle issues ... any day could be its last. The LATimes, the Chicago Tribu,e the Phil. Inquirer ... the list does not seem to stop.

Any toddler of generation Z could have predicted this. Internet, the jekyll and hyde child of technology, would wipe out many seemingly less efficient adornments of our modern civilisation. Who but hast resource to waste ?

Like audio/visual-cassette and book, newspaper face the imminent danger of being obsolete in the 24 hour timespan of a human day. It occupies precious space, in both the domain of time and desk space. Both are precious. Handling a newspaper requires more than a single key press by a single finger; never mind the chance of carpal tunnel syndrome which we smartly sidestepped by the dreary invention of speech-recognition software. Who needs fingers anyway ?

The end only came sooner. Usually the rich only gets richer and poor poorer. Millionaries are the product of natural selection said Andrew Carnegie. 2008-2009 would be remembered for a long time for bringing down everyone to similar level. The highrises are still there, this time rich and poor alike look at them from outside. And with no money and no time, who can afford to read newspapers ? Even more, print them.

I wish I could blame technology for the current economic debacle, some kind of software failure, like the ones that blew the space shuttles in midair. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is due to the collective failure of a group of minds. It is our joint responsibility, and I am sure, we, the human race will win over it. Maybe this year, maybe next. But on the way, we will leave behind some of our friends, dead or crippled.

There will be in future, a human race who will wonder how was it to flip a page of a book ? How was it to feel the paper with our fingers, read the words printed on a white page but sounding just like the author's husky voice ? How some people were irrationally biased towards one particular edition of a book because of its cover ? There is concerted effort in denouncing feeling from our actions. Evolution is not a consequence, a necessity. I miss horse carts, vinyl disks, but what replaced them was not lacking in warmth. Convenince came only in lieu of nostalgia. But a Kindle cannot replace the closeness of a book, an mp3 rip is no match for the affection I have for a V Balsara audio CD.

There is a redundancy in physical medium which makes it beautiful. Beauty is not for the mind to appreciate, it is beyond rationality and can only be absorbed by the synergy of our senses. There is no how or why for a great deal of things in humanity and these make our life worth living. Like a drunkard who knows not why he drinks, he merely drowns till the click of the door to tranquility sounds. Like parents who raise their baby without expecting anything in return. Like the unknown vagabond tramp helping the unknown blind whom he will never see ever again. Like the selfless love between two individuals, timeless in essence but packed in time in 2 days. Like the music of Beethoven, who composed 9th symphony when he was medically deaf. These are beautiful because they trespass explanation. Their essence is in their existence which can only be felt but cannot be justified by any balance sheet.

Is it too late to take control of technology and re-shelve it where it belongs, as a tool, an invention to make living memorable ? As heard in The Great Dictator,
Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

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