"Smart Phones, Dumb People?"
A few weeks back, I had written a brief post on my cousin Paul Da (Parthajeet Sarma) after reading about a short story competition for a book on Indian entrepreneurs. On a whim, I had written the post during office lunch break, without pausing for a second. I did not know then that I would be writing about him again! Or rather, about his book ‘Smart Phones, Dumb People?’
Paul Da had kept his book under wraps and it’s only recently that I came to know about it. I wondered how he managed to find time to write the book considering his hectic professional schedule and the presence of two kids (the younger one just 18 months) at home. The book’s prologue answered my query – he wrote during the early morning hours. So, that’s what had been going on in his mind all those years when we were in Mumbai and found him awake at 5.00 am every day.
Now that his book is out and I read it, I don’t know if I should call this post a review. Principally because this is my first non-fiction book (excluding autobiographies or biographies). Till now, I had not dared to pick up any book that dealt with motivation, success, happiness, diet, health, career, spiritualism, et al. I thought most of them as ‘sermons’ regarding changing my attitude or lifestyle!
I was actually a bit scared to read the book due to the words ‘Smart Phones’ which implied that it would deal with technology. Now, I am a perfect dinosaur where technology is concerned. “Would I be able to understand the book?” was my number one concern. Thankfully, it turned out to be unfounded and the book is quite a comprehensible read, although dealing with complex matters.
The book is divided into 5 parts – Innovation, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Priorities and Corruption. It is peppered with personal anecdotes and perhaps that’s the reason I was able to connect well with the content.
The first chapter, Innovation, kept me chuckling quietly as I nodded my head along most of the content. I could truly relate to the example that he had quoted regarding a fast food giant where after requesting for some fries, he was asked by the girl at the counter if he wanted some fries as well (!). I face similar situations almost every time I call up customer care of my DTH service where inspite of telling the person that I am aware of the services offered, the person still goes ahead at jabbering those lines. I can’t actually blame that customer care guy since he is prompted by the machine in front of him to carry out these actions, step by step.
Predicaments like these have made Paul Da ask if gadgets have taken over our lives, if we have become less intelligent. He proceeds to reply to his own query by saying that “we are not dumber but actually smarter”, and yet we must remind ourselves that smartphones and other mechanical tools are there to aid our decision making and not vice-versa.
Image courtesy: www.facebook.com/ParthajeetNow
He also observed that innovations have largely stemmed from the Western countries while the rest have adapted fruits of such innovation. In the West, the importance of being original in thinking is ingrained into school children from a very early stage and ‘copy-paste’ or even ‘mugging-up’ is a complete no-no. This has resulted in several innovations to come out of University dorms (such as Facebook).
The book then examines the Indian aspect of innovation. According to a study, more than 50 percent of the total patents filed for industrial innovations in the US have Indian brains behind them. And yet, quiz any student from the famed IITs on what made him/her join the institute and most of them do not have answers relating to their ambitions. Consequently, there have been very few examples of innovation success stories in India despite the integrated ecosystem built around education-industry-government.
In the technology section, the book talks in length about Process Alteration by Technology which is the application of human intellect together with modern technology in order to improve and alter business processes to bring in efficiencies. This section is particular intriguing given the fact that parts of India live in the global 21st century whereas the other parts appear to still live the 19th century life. The book then goes about to talk how we can bridge this widening gap, the so called great urban-rural divide, with the help of technology.
My 17 month old nephew just loves browsing through the book!
I can go on about the other sections of the book, but maybe this is not what someone wants to read in a blog post. People would rather want to read the book than hear my own summations. But let me just touch upon the section ‘Entrepreneurship’. The more I read about this topic, the more I was convinced that maybe this is the need of the hour. Sample these lines:
“The quest for something new can emerge from passionate people and not from monolithic things called government….In a nation like India, which continues to be plagued by unemployment and poverty, increased entrepreneurship, will create more jobs. This results in a trickle-down effect with wealth, and often happiness, passing down to the bottom of the pyramid.”
I remember Paul Da’s ‘quest for something new’ had started since his school days when he was engaged in several extra-curricular activities, besides his studies. My uncle (now departed) and aunt had always supported him in those early endeavours. Later on, when my newly married sister-in-law told me about their ‘courtship period’ while studying in JJ College of Architecture in Mumbai, she would refer to him as one of a group of ‘geeks’ who spoke of big dreams. He was never to be found partying but engaged in progressive discussions with his like-minded friends.
I am glad that he decided to come out with this book, sharing his views and experience regarding such subjects which need to be understood and executed in real life, particularly in the present times. I feel the book would be quite invaluable to someone who is perhaps just starting out to question his/her career path and ambition. It would be a perfect catalyst to students - the emerging group of ‘nation-builders’. The book has been priced very reasonably, too, so that it can easily fit the budget of a student-reader.
I hope the book is just one of several dreams coming true for Paul Da. I also wish that he is propelled forward to come up with more such constructive steps in the future and that he never stops ‘innovating’!
PS: You can buy the book here.