Fusing Technology and Terror

EarthWe seem to have invented everything. Well, almost. Almost.

Whatever we have, we are just working to make it better. Faster. Super.

We just can’t do away with technology or terror.

The two words, ‘terror’ and ‘technology’ suddenly puts us in an awkward position. Doesn’t it?

Our brush with terror attacks and other forms of violence has revealed the indispensable usage of technology in it. Security and communications experts continue to argue the manner in which law offenders and terrorists have used it to disrupt our social fabric.

Even those hiding away in the barren caves of Afghanistan and other various parts of the world know about the miracles of technology when fused with terror. They have learned to gain access to it.

Access is certainly the key word here. How else can one explain how even in the most difficult terrain, people are able to record, tape and send documents? How are they alert to every other development?

The usage of technology to spread fear is a double edged sword. It creates a kind of social paranoia. Of late, there has been widespread debate about how Google Earth has helped many terrorists to pinpoint exact locations. Questions of security are being thrown to us in the wake of our demand for better technology.

However, a tool such as Google Earth is also not just about security. It raises important questions regarding our privacy. The authority of external agencies to derive all our personal details is alarming, making many of us vulnerable to a possible onslaught.

I am not trying to make it sound sensational. I am simply trying to make sense of it.

Technology is also about creating information networks. It allows us to share various kinds of information. It would only give us a heart attack if we were to think of every piece of technology as potentially life threatening.

Photo sharing, social network systems, mobile phones, digital cameras, chemical devices…any of these and more can be destructive just as much as we consider it to be constructive.

The crux of the matter leads us to two other words- use and misuse.

We cannot be quick to conclude that Google is the main problem. There is much more to it than simply that. How we use the modes of technology available to us is our own responsibility. We are the ones who tend to forget its implications.

Spreading terror in today’s world has become a widespread phenomenon. The paranoia that it has created in our daily lives is tough to decipher. Are we safe at all?

The closed circuit televisions, mobile tracking devices, and tremendous amounts of data mining of personal and financial information; everything exudes a sense of being secure and safe. But I think we are compromising larger ideals here. Privacy. Solidarity. Trust.

Have we become so suspicious of every other human action so as to render ourselves vulnerable to technology? Hasn’t our perpetual fear led to more frequent cases of insecurity and mistrust?

Many of the top wanted terrorists in the world are not merely those attempting to be acting through fundamental means. We ought to understand that here we are also dealing with people who are experts in the fields of management, electronics, cyber technology and several others. Careful planning and designing goes behind every attack on civil order.

From laying low in mountain hideouts to moving around amidst citizens — attackers have created networks and set up businesses to raise money to support themselves.

How easy is it to access hi-fi complex technology? Experts would argue that this access is made through contacts set up locally, who play a major role in transmitting important information.

Cryptic messages, photographs, videos, websites. Interestingly, top rung leaders prefer to use rudimentary means of communication, making the system complex when it goes further to the lower orders.

However, we shouldn’t excuse our all encompassing State structures that have also devised equally advanced technology to catch the ‘culprits’. For instance, the United States pays a great deal of attention to satellite images and phone conversations in far flung areas to locate offenders and ‘enemies’.

Terror has always been inherent in every society. But the terror we are now choosing to define is a more complicated phenomenon. It has made us turn hostile towards every human being. Anyone who does not look ‘normal’ is perceived to be a ‘suspect’.

The thought in itself is scary. Isn’t it?

The tyranny of technology has got us all tightly wound up.

The use and misuse of technology has shown us how everything we have created can boomerang on us. We cannot hide behind our layers of fear. Our responsibility would have to be towards using the same technology in a sane manner.

Blaming Google Earth is not the answer.

Divya Kannan