How often do you get stuck in a traffic jam ? Almost everyday right. Now, here is a car on the lane next to you. Both of you are headed in the same direction and have been immobile for a while. So you and the driver of that car get talking. You discuss various things, mostly it will be to do with the state of traffic itself.
Soon, the other line starts moving and the driver in the other car waves his goodbyes and gets going. You wave your goodbye and smile at him. You are actually happy for him. Because you know that soon you will be going too. Time passes and you get impatient. Actually you are not moving. On the contrary there is no change in your position at all. Looks like your neighbour's line was the only line to benefit. Your happiness turns to anger. You are upset. You now curse the other guy.
This, as Nobel Prize laureate Dr Amartya Sen described it this evening in Mumbai, is the tunnel effect. I hope I got his example right - if not, I shall modify. The ocassion was a small dinner hosted in his honour by IT industry association Nasscom and the Welsh Development Authority.
Staying Back In The Tunnel
What if the Indian IT industry represents the other car that you, in the beginning, are happy to see surge ahead. And your car, lets say, is the rest of the economy and the polity. What happens when you realise its only the IT industry or the other car that's moved on. You are not moving. First there is frustration and then anger. And then, who knows what.
Professor Sen is going to dwell some more on this issue, as I can see. I reckon he will raise questions about the IT industry's contribution to the society, to the nation. He will pose questions that I feel have been posed but not strongly enough. And raise issues that deserve greater debate than ever before.
India Versus China
Will India overtake China ? Everyone has a view on this. Professor Amartya Sen's view is as follows. He does not care. He does not find it interesting. "I don't have the slightest idea or interest," he says.
He would be worried, he says, if India started losing out in life expectancy and China began gaining. For instance, he says China was 40 years ahead of India in life expectancy in 1979. Now, its just 7 years. Mortality in 1979 was 39 years. Now its 28 years. States like Kerala do better on some of these counts, he points out.
Or developments in health care. China, according to Professor Sen, messed up healthcare by allowing everything to be handled by the government before 1979 and prematurely privatising and handing over everything by the private sector after. "You can't understand these things by comparing GDP rates," says Prof Sen.
IT and TI
Professor Sen used this evening's short address to refer to a favourite topic, the argumentative Indian. He ascribed the success of the Indian IT industry to the fact that Indians discuss, debate and of course argue. "I think whether the IT industry has done well because of TI, meaning, Talkative Indians," he says.
Morality Is Related To Knowledge & Information
Information Technology is the hub of social morality, says Professor Sen. But for more on this, you will have to wait a day !