Friday, April 24, 2009

Old Habits + New Technology

I accidentally found myself watching a TV presentation titled “An Inconvenient Truth” last night. It is hosted by former unsuccessful (American) presidential candidate, Al Gore who has a passion about Global Warming and the consequences. Part of his message is reminiscent of “State of Fear” but another part is about hope for the future. The numbers on carbon emissions and the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are positively and horrifically scary, but he also offers hope in that he believes that the problem of the near future can be averted if we change some old habits and act now. I commend anyone who hasn’t seen this ‘Inconvenient Truth’ to see it.

One major point of his presentation is that Old Habits together with New Technology creates a potential problem for mankind. Old Habits plus Old Technology is not a problem because people with old habits using old technology are not going to create a crisis for themselves or the world. But Old Habits plus New Technology is a potential problem because people with old habits using new technology may create conditions for potential chaos. So if we are going to use New Technology, says Gore, we have to change out of the old habits and generate some new ones.

My mind moves from global warming to the problems of Africa. Is this – old habits plus new technology (and systems for that matter) – the problem of Africa? Take the commuter omnibus driver in Johannesburg or Harare for example. The driver is using ‘old habits’ to drive a motorised omnibus (new technology). This explains to some degree why the commuter bus driver stops anywhere and everywhere that he sees the opportunity for a passenger to board or alight. His passengers (using old habits) stop – not at a safely placed bus stop – but at the nearest point of relief –invariably on a corner, invariably inconveniencing other motorists and frequently causing accidents. It explains the commuter omnibus drivers’ complete disregard for other motorists, for in the old world where the old habits worked, there weren’t any other travellers to be inconvenienced.

Now extrapolate this analogy to ‘Justice, Law and Order’ where in the old world the Chief dispensed justice as the Chief saw fit without recourse to some new fangled ‘Roman-Dutch Law’ with rules for everyone, lawyers, innocence until guilt proved and the like. A member of the tribe who transgressed was probably treated with some degree of leniency, while a non-member of the tribe who transgressed was simply put to death or expelled.

What about ‘freedom of the press’? Is this not just another new system (technology) that old habits find impossible to accept? And what about Democracy – yet another new system that Africa is trying to accept but cannot change the old habits?

Food for thought!

No comments: