Are We Over Dependent on Technology

So, it took the world’s most advanced nations over a week to conclude that Flight MH 370 crashed into the ocean. At a time when science boasts that it has conquered the world, that’s a shame. Or is it? What were they hiding? Pardon me for asking, but there are satellites in space looking at everything we do, apparently from how we take the shower to who we call and what we discussed. But a plane with 239 people on board vanished and the most essential satellites in space were caught napping.

Technology is our new God. Do you notice how lost you feel with your GPS acting up? Are we over reliant on technology? Would the next generation be able to cope, if all the satellites fail, the Internet somehow grounds and our tech-world comes crashing? That is the question.

Was it that we are so incapacitated because we were caught napping? Or are the big powers hiding the full potentials of their spying satellites to prevent a new arms race in the wake of spying revelations that frosted relations between the US and Germany?

To those who have watched science fiction turn into absurd reality, there are more questions than answers. It was so obvious that something sinister happened to that plane since it couldn’t have landed on Mars. But most of us nearly developed cold sores switching channels. Even with the sad news of the crash and the demise of its passenger and crew, we are nowhere near solving the riddle.

Our over-reliance on technology is affecting us in more ways than one. Kids can’t do simple sums without a calculator. Most of us can’t tell the time on an analogue clock. Except someone comes up with an app that reads cursive, Grandpa’s diary and will may amount to nothing to the Microsoft Word generation.

Technology helps and harms with equanimity. While we can now diagnose, treat, cure or manage hitherto unknown diseases, we have lost out in so many ways.

Our immunity has gone down. If you think am lying, try living wild for a week and see what crops up at your next hospital appointment. Science has helped us farm all year round, brought us genetically modified crops but increased our chances of dying early or living miserable lives from ingesting contaminated food that destroys vital organs. Obesity is now a health concern even in parts of the world where famine is rife.

The crashed jumbo jet was equipped with several gadgets that should report any abnormality; yet it plunged to the sea without doing so. Unable to solve the riddle, we are left with conjectures. We have no clue where it crashed or when it crashed. If we solve those riddles, we would still be left with the most difficult one – why did all the gadgets pack up at the same time leaving no clue? Maybe we need to integrate the old manuals with the apps, just in case.

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Pix: from Useoftechnology.com, courtesy Google

Cultural Imperialism – I

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Photos – Top – Author with a First Nation’s Chief
Middle – Two First Nation’s women in their traditional garb
Above – Some Fulani women from northern Nigeria (courtesy Aliyu Muhammad Bajaj)

 

The phrase ‘cultural imperialism’ took a new turn in Afro-american relations recently. Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni used it to justify signing the rehashed anti-gay bill into law. This is not the subject of this write-up. But it could well be.

Cultural imperialism is a way of presenting a different culture as superior to theirs. Some have argued that this is what led to the stealing of several African arts and cultural artefacts by imperialists. The west imposed its culture on Africans at colonization and continues to do so till date. If you think it ended with the arrival of Christianity or Islam, you may be wrong.

Check your television sets. Who taught little children to ‘swag’ or wear their pants way below the belt? Who thought of packaging other people’s hair as supplement in the form of wigs, and later Brazilian hair? Who packaged mercury as component of soaps for our women to bleach? Most Africans look at the Church or Mosque as the repository of cultural imperialism, it’s only an infinitesimal part of the jigsaw.

 There’s a lot to say for the advent of foreign religions in most instances. Some twins owe their lives to missionaries. So do albinos. But we are still behind when it comes to inclusion, and not just of gays for those who believe in that, but for children with peculiar needs. Diagnosing ADHD, aspergers and other diseases and teaching people to accept people with such conditions as humans with equal rights is, in my mind more important than what people do in their bedrooms.

Don’t get me wrong, a huge chunk of our continent and its people are deracinated. What was the mode of dressing in east, central and southern Africa before the arrival of the colonial powers? Are we better off wearing suits than our fluffy dresses?

Scientists have discovered that wearing certain types of pants (undies) can have bad effects on reproductive organs. It is widely known that odour-blocking deodorants are inimical to health and linked to diseases such as memory loss and Alzheimers.

Some of the chemicals in your eyelashes and mascara may soon be found to aid the development of certain skin cancers. It is believed that using baking soda in your armpits works better than most deodorants. It allows your skin to get rid of those unwanted secretions while keeping out the foul smell.

Your comments and contributions are welcome.

“Social media – a force for good?”

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Social media buttons (Courtesy, Google.com)

Forget about who Janis Krums is for a moment. He is neither Barrack Obama or the Russian ‘bully’ Vladimir Putin. Actually, he was nothing until his tweet of the plane that crashlanded on the Hudson River made him a Twitter sensation. Krums was just on a ferry to rescue the lucky passengers when he took the shot on his iPhone, Tweeted it by Twitpic and had the whole world looking for his telephone address. (http://www.editorsweblog.org/2009/01/19/twitter-first-off-the-mark-with-hudson-plane-crash-coverage )

Thirty years earlier, it would have been stale news before people saw what happened. Thanks to social media, Krums became not just an instant celebrity but a reference point for the importance of social media.

From celebrities to wannabes, people are taking to social media in the hope that they would receive global relevance. Only a few weeks ago, the servers of the world’s fastest growing social network, Twitter nearly crashed when Ellen Degeneres twitted her selfie at the Oscars. Minutes after the act, she literally had the world looking for her face. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1723346/elle-degeneres-oscar-selfie-crashes-twitter.jhtml

Wherever we are, social media is affecting our lives. It’s a revolutionary force that is so strong that its impact is undeniable. America’s Barrack Obama is one of the world’s most influential leaders using social media to advantage. He is the first American president to have a Facebook, Twitter and other social media handles that is regularly updated. The picture of his selfie moment at Nelson Mandela’s funeral nearly got the world talking about him and not the passage of an icon. It revolutionized the word – selfie, now admitted into the dictionary. http://www.forbes.com/sites/tamlinmagee/2013/12/30/what-obamas-mandela-funeral-selfie-tells-us-about-the-web-in-2014/

Everywhere we go, people are using social media. One of the greatest turning moments of this millennium was the impact of social media on the politics of the Middle East. Countless of articles have been written about the impact of the use of social media in propagating the so-called Arab Spring. One thing is certain, young people are using social media as a tool of social mobilization – from Tunisia through Egypt to Libya and currently in Ukraine. Social media is breaking barriers and bringing us closer to what is happening around us. Tunisians chased off their dictator, Ben Ali, the Egyptians unseated Hosni Mubarak and Morsi after him and with social media, Libyans broke the yoke of authoritarianism and dictatorship of the Gadaffi era. http://www.policymic.com/articles/10642/twitter-revolution-how-the-arab-spring-was-helped-by-social-media. Some might argue that it is not always for the best, there has been no lasting peace either in Egypt or Libya, but the young people who rose up against entrenched regimes say they prefer what they have now to what was.

On the entertainment scene, Justin Bieber became an overnight sensation after a video of him was posted on YouTube allowing talent scouts to pick and dust him up. In Britain, Susan Boyle had lost hope of ever becoming a singing sensation until her appearance at a talent show went viral. Her life was transformed. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSDoPY9B0wQ) That initial audition got over two million views. South Korean sensation, Psy broke all records grossing nearly 40 million views with his Gangnam Style official music video in 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIQToVqDMb8 More and more artists are turning to social media for fame and fortune.

Online platforms are money spinners. This year, Facebook announced it has bought Whatsapp for over $20 billion. https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101272463589561 According to Forbes magazine, Mike Zuckerberg; Facebook’s founder’s net worth rose to $28.5 billion by March this year. The social media is only ten years in business. http://www.forbes.com/profile/mark-zuckerberg/

But has all these been for good? That would depend on who you ask or who is responding. American youngster, Dana Snay got the wrong end of the social media stick after a Facebook posting announcing her father’s $80,000 settlement from Gulliver Prep School led to an appeal in which his Dad lost his keep. It has been described as the costliest gaffe on social media. http://www.forbes.com/profile/mark-zuckerberg/

Social media has become our friend, our confidante and our companion. Sometimes, it sucks in on our trust and innocence. Scam artists make use of our unwariness to hack into the pages of our friends and send us SOS messages which mostly people respond to without knowing. This phenomenon has raised the stakes and become a challenge for law enforcement. When angry fans decided to voice their disappointment at losing the Stanley Cup in riots in June, 2011, they did not know that innocuous tweets and posts would become evidence for the police. But combing through their posts, the police were able to arrest and prosecute a lot of the arsonists. http://www.canada.com/sports/Internet+doesn+forget+Managing+disgrace+digital/4992930/story.html

In March this year, the BBC reported the curious case of an unidentified 11-year old missing boy who was found after a Whatsapp alert was sent out by police. A passenger on a train found out that he was sitting close to the boy and called the police. As the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Flight 370 continues, CNN’s Brian Todd reports that Digital-Globe a digital imaging company was using satellite to send high resolution images of the area for crowd sourcing. Whether this succeeds or not, there is no denying that social media would be used to attempt to solve a mystery or reduce the impact of a global tragedy. (http://www.myarklamiss.com/story/d/story/crowdsourcing-being-used-to-solve-missing-plane-my/22830/7GF4rW1GyE2VLGNmFRA6eA)

Whatever our answer to the main question – one thing is certain, social media has impacted our lives, it continues to do so. However how it impacts our lives would remain a subject for social and even academic debate for now and a long time to come. Most would actually say to social media – thanks for coming, please stay and don’t go away. Others would wish it would just – go away!

Swinging that interview

So you were over the moon for that letter or phone call inviting you for an interview. There are diverse ideas out there by people who have either sat on interview panels or are authorities on the subject. The jury agree that the most important thing is to be knowledgeable about the firm.

 Who are they? What do they do? Where are they located? How long have they been in business? What are their strengths and weaknesses? If they have been in the news lately find out what it’s all about. But don’t be trapped to give an opinion, because you might not know the whole story.

When it comes to how to comport yourself before your panel, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to being interviewed. What do you wear? Well, it would depend on the culture where you are being interviewed. Note that if you wore a sari in India and you are not Indian, it may not be seen as comportment but perhaps insult. So, be natural.

 The universal rule is – be smart. Most firms prefer candidates in a well-ironed shirt and pants (trouser). I have been on a few interview panels where the candidate comes in a suit; sweaty and reeking like a skunk. They have travelled by public transport in 35-degree heat with no opportunity to refresh. Don’t go smelling like a flower garden, it’s offensive, besides most people are allergic to pungent smell.

What are you being interviewed for? If you were not going to work for the bank, where the requirement is to wear suits and ties, by all means get in character. But otherwise, there’s no need donning a suit to interview for the position of a motor mechanic. Heh, don’t go in your soiled overalls either.

Most people say that jeans is not in. I will agree with them even though we’ve found smart ways of wearing jeans. Of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ recommendations I have read, one hilariously stands out – don’t eat beans the day before the interview. But if you have irritable bowel syndrome or some other allergy-induced conditions, make excuses if your tummy rumbles or if you have to itch. You’re human, like the rest of the panelists.

So, best of luck with that next interview.

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   Smart dressing speaks for itself

Next week I begin a series on Cultural Imperialism, what it means and why it’s the new buzz word in political circles. In the meantime, your experiences and comments are welcome.

Who Should You Hire – Old or Young?

For most parts of the globe, the economy is in troubled waters. Companies are folding up and the ones with employees are either downsizing or laying people off. There are more qualified young people in our world today than there are jobs. Perhaps the unnecessary wars we have fought in the last two decades hasn’t done enough damage to reduce the global population.

On the other hand, advances in science has increased life expectancy for most developed nations. Yes, there seem to be an exacerbation in the number of diagnosed diseases but the sheer diagnoses itself opens the road for early detection, management and sometimes cure. What this means, is that people tend to live longer than they did way back then. More and more young-at-heart retirees are rekitting and returning to the job market.

Yes, most laid-off workers have returned to school to learn new trades. This decreases the chances of younger people landing that job of their dreams. Most job adverts require more than paper qualification, they want experience. The young are qualified, even tech savvy, but they usually come short on the experience side. Medical issues apart, older and experienced workers are likely to fit into a work environment better than their restless younger counterparts. Experience apart, older job seekers have reasons to stay on the job and to remain loyal. Most of them have a family to look after, they have mortgages or other financial commitments to meet. Sitting down in limbo is not an option. The old cannot afford to be out of work for long. The stakes are just too high.

When it comes to making a choice on who to hire, there may be other considerations depending on the focus of the employer. Older workers might be at a disadvantage when it comes to mobility. Am not talking about driving the Rolls Royce or the Ducati. Some job positions come with lots of travels. People with extra social baggage such as a wife and young children hardly ever want to be out of town for a long time. For the young, this is an opportunity they hardly want to miss. They are upwardly mobile, could put all that they possess literally on a backpack within minutes and be gone for days, months or even years. 

Job openings that people build careers on are not likely to be in their backyards. Developing economies are always on the lookout for yuppies to inspire and help build capacity. Sometimes they hire the old guns, but in most cases, they prefer young blood. The young blood is not usually just a short term contract employee, sometimes they are so fired up they discover that they have hit a goldmine in another land. So, after their contract, they stay back to explore their new environment and to test their skills and guts on running private businesses. They usually leverage on the contacts they’ve made in the duration of their contracts. The older person is usually in a hurry to leave town;  return to familiar terrain and to friends and family.

The choice of who to hire is entirely that of the employer. When it comes to jobs, once the applicants were the brides. The economy has caused a gender operation and the employer is the new bride being wooed by many suitors. 

Next week, we would be looking at dressing to kill that interview.