Arindam Chaudhuri
The Human Unfriendly Internet
Finally, let me draw attention to some aspects of human friendliness and the Internet.

It seems between the time I started thinking about writing this article and this point (30 min.) 1800 pages of valuable information has been uploaded on the net! Yes, that's the speed at which things are happening on the net. The other day I needed some information on one particular aspect of marketing and thought of netsurfing. After going through search engines etc. finally I reached about 2000 pages of information and tomorrow it would be 2 million. Already it seems that one can find about 2 lakh pages on cigarettes itself. My question is, is it actually 1800 pages or 2 million pages of valuable information for enhancement of consumer choice or thousands of pages of trash trying to make the consumer confused in the name of current internet frenzy? As far as I am concerned I preferred going to my library and picking up 2 latest books on the topic to solve my problem. It's actually a pathetic job trying to read on a 1 sq. ft. computer screen and scrolling page after page. I think when you have a choice of choosing 2 books out of 20, it is 'choice' but when you are to choose 2 pages out of 2 million its 'chaos'. Already today to reach a site you have search engines, tomorrow to reach a search engine you will have "super search engines" and where it is going to take us to is a scary thought.

People might like the idea of free books on the net but very few actually like the idea of reading on a computer, nor do people like the idea of taking out print outs of 100 of pages and carrying them around in a plastic bag. As far as I am concerned, personally, I like the idea of possessing a normal book,  for, I can carry it around wherever I feel like specially to the loo where I like to do some reading the most. Imagine carrying your computer to the loo early in the morning!

It is the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility that makes attractive products of today redundant tomorrow and allows new companies to come up with new products giving the consumer better choice. But today, the more you have of Microsoft the more you need to have more of Microsoft and its products because if you need to shift to Apple products you need to change a whole lot of infrastructure, software, hardware and people who need to be Apple oriented. That's a big cost and therefore very often even if the competitor has a better product to offer, we as consumers may not have the choice/capability to shift over. Thus, tomorrow, in a world without competition, Microsoft is under no compulsion to give us quality. Thus, just like in the case of qwerty keyboards/typewriters which are not necessarily the most rational and consumer friendly, a lock in effect may happen, where shifting to a new more consumer friendly product (as the ABCDEF keyboard of Apple) may be impossible. Already the era of Mergers & Acquisitions is leading to similar fears and adding to it the growing monopolies in the IT industry. This growth is facilitated by the fact that cost curves no more seem to be 'U' shaped in the IT industry and instead seem to be downward sloping as the marginal cost seems to be negligible (it is only the cost of R&D which goes into the value of a software and afterwards it is only the cost of copying it in a floppy) thus making monopoly possibilities stronger. The internet works on the basis of similar principles which in the long run does not comply with interests of the consumer.

My final fear arose, when I attended a seminar of Dr. Craig Barett the CEO of Intel Corp. on his and his companies ideas about the consumer friendly aspects of the net that the future holds. He described in details how shopping tomorrow would become a pleasure wherein if say a woman wanted to shop all she  would need to do is to click "southex.com" for example and the visual of the whole of Southex market would be there infront of her. Then she could click on "Benneton" and enter the shop and immediately a 3D image of the shop would flash on the screen. Then she could actually scroll through all the shelves with the help of the mouse. If she happens to like a skirt and a top, she could click on them and take them to the changing room (again with the help of the mouse). Inside the changing room are kept to figures of a man and a woman. She clicks and the woman and flashes questions about her hair style, figure, shoes etc. She types in 'blunt cut, 36:24:36, 4' high heels etc. and there comes on the screen almost a similar looking creature as her, wearing the skirt and the top she had chosen. Then comes the next question about what she plans to do wearing these clothes and a choice of three situations viz relax, play, party flashes on the screen (thank God for not having more and exciting options). If she happens to choose 'party', the computer screen turns into a 'Discotheque' and she can see the figure dancing on the screen. If she likes it she can press the purchase button and enter her credit card no. and wait at home for a few hours till 'FedEx.' delivers it to her. The situation that I depicted is exactly without any exaggerations the way Dr. Barett demonstrated with the help of his latest software on the huge screens during the seminar. My question is who is he or for that matter Intel to decide what makes life better? Given a choice I and I guess most of us would actually prefer to go to 'Southex market' have some "Chole Bathore" try to enter the shop with an ice cream in hand and pick up a fight on not being allowed entry then finally enter the shop look at things around including smart boys and girls and finally may be come out of the shop empty handed after a lot of bargaining and window shopping. And I argue that this is human friendly. In the west don't people buy costlier products just because they are eco friendly? Would someone please talk about what is human friendly? And I say even if the Intel software makes products a little cheap in the name of humanity, these products should perhaps not be allowed in the markets. Today, an average man in the west doesn't have any emotional security around a happy family etc., man is living more with animals and dogs than with humans. Now, do we want to take away even that and replace the dog with a virtual pet or for that matter computers and its associated addiction? We already know about the other exciting sites that the net already offers. Tomorrow with the help of virtual reality  do we plan to replace "the last of human activities which require human contact", too? Already, people sitting next to each other in big organisations communicate through e-mails instead of talking to each other! Given a chance for the sake of profits the net won't mind turning humans into "Zombies" just like for the sake of profits the consumerist west has destroyed the ecological balance in this earth. Must we always form a lobby and take actions after the harm is done? Or should we for a change at last think about "people for people" instead of people for animals/people for dogs/people for environment etc. for it is sad to see more people gathering for a cause related to environment/ animals etc. while calls to support causes for poverty etc. meets with a lukeworm response.  May be, it would be a wiser decision to buy something at a little additional cost in the name of human friendly products