Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | May 23, 2011

Being “smart”

Once a Korean friend of mine, who has long been residing in New Zealand told me that he fears going back to Korea. When quizzed he told me that life in Seoul is so technologically savvy that he fears that it would be too much pressure on his brain if he has to remember so many things about smart cards, buttons etc. He enjoys the much laid back life in New Zealand where he can enjoy the sun, beach, rain and nature rather than remembering passwords.

Apparently, Seoul is a “smart” city with smart cards and smart phones everywhere. While these things are meant to make life easier and probably it does but my friend does not think so.

I think I belong to that category too. Perhaps, a country like New Zealand which is a bit technology challenged does that to you. I am not sure whether I would have been away from smart phones etc, if I were in Delhi at this time but here I have not touched such a thing ever. I do see likes of iPad and phones in the shops but never ever a thought came across my mind that I may need one. They seem so complicated to me. Hence, when I see my facebook friends discussing the latest gadgets and software etc, I feel a bit left out.

Sample this, when one friend of mine asked another over facebook that he needs to speak to him. The second friend suggested at least six different website/messengers/software. To me, this kind of decision making is troublesome.

Here in New Zealand, people generally are tremendously challenged in terms of technology. I think the expensive communication systems do not help promotion of technology either. While there are innumerable Asian people carrying the latest gadgets but the queues in front of KFC introducing a new Burger is sometimes bigger than queues in front of an electronic store introducing a new iPad. There are a huge number of people here (including me) who carry the cheapest versions of mobile phone and do not really care, if the phone can be used to talk and text. (I cannot even text properly any longer)

Things are not so simple for the Asian population here though. They need the latest version of everything. They play funny games like milking a cow on their iPhone and feel proud about milking it quite fast! I have met few people, who do not mind being in debt but still they need the most expensive things in life. Strangely enough most of them come from Asia.

Having said that, the need of the hour are changing things in New Zealand. How can this country remain backward when everyone is moving forward with technology? Though, it will be difficult to hook Kiwis indoor with internet etc when there is slight opportunity to do some outdoor activities, but there is a huge attempt. I think this is what changing times is all about.

Hence, now we have new swipe cards systems in buses which created quite confusion today morning. Queues of people tried to swipe their pre-loaded cards to a machine inside the bus which kept on saying in grim voice “please try again”. The bus driver (previously also the ticket collector) was disgusted but was trying to tell me that we should accept the changing times. When I tried to accept changing times and swiped my card – the machine said “Go away, you old-fashioned fool”. Just kidding, it is programmed to say “please try again”. So I had to pay my 50 cents manually.

I know you would say minor issue on an unusually cold and foggy Monday morning, and this shall pass with time too. As soon I got off from the bus and entered our new”5-start rated Green” office building I was informed by a kind security personnel at the reception that some machines which were not working have been fixed. As a result before entering the elevators, I need to swipe my work card twice at two gates and as soon as I reach my floor I have to swipe my card again to open the door. Amazing!

Summarily, on a Monday morning, in order to reach office, I swiped cards twice in my apartment, then twice in the bus and then again thrice at office already. I have some plans to withdraw money and buy something. Not to my surprise I have to swipe a card not only to withdraw money but also swipe a discount card at the shop. As I return home, I have to swipe cards thrice at my work, at the bus and then at my apartment. If I have to go out for a meeting the number of swipes will increase.

God save me and my friend who thought they were hiding in New Zealand from technological advancement. Plastic cards and software have invaded us here too. Very soon, I may have to know about milking a cow on my phone, to feel upmarket and smart.



  1. Here’s one older man whose vote you have, Tanmoy! Let the boys have their fun pretending they are men because they have cute gadgets at their disposal on which they can milk cows. And if it’s someone’s case that the world is filling up with boys who never grow up, I will only click my tongue contemptuously. Here’s a link that you might enjoy reading – – I hope you see the connection. On a darker note, if all these tech-savvy kids were literate, they would have already read Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi story about how in the not too distant future, a man’s all-purpose smart card may stop functioning because some computer glitch has tagged the owner as ‘deceased’, and the man is left with no choice but to jump off the bridge, because his right to live has been taken away by a ‘smart’ tool. And by the way, have people not watched movies like ‘Minority Report’ and the ‘Matrix’ series, that they are all so keen to get ‘smart’?

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