The thought for this Tech Talk was sparked off by a column Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times recently and my visit to CommunicAsia in Singapore. Let us start with Friedman. He wrote in The New York Times (June 1):
In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the U.S. lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They “make you feel so unwanted now,” said Mr. Das. America was a country “that was always reinventing itself,” he added, because it was a country that always welcomed “all kinds of oddballs” and had “this wonderful spirit of openness.” American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. “If you go dark, the world goes dark.”
Bottom line: We urgently need a national commission to look at all the little changes we have made in response to 9/11 – from visa policies to research funding, to the way we’ve sealed off our federal buildings, to legal rulings around prisoners of war – and ask this question: While no single change is decisive, could it all add up in a way so that 20 years from now we will discover that some of America’s cultural and legal essence – our DNA as a nation – has become badly deformed or mutated?
This would be a tragedy for us and for the world. Because, as I’ve argued, where birds don’t fly, people don’t mix, ideas don’t get sparked, friendships don’t get forged, stereotypes don’t get broken, and freedom doesn’t ring.
As I thought about Friedmans points, I also considered my own feelings. There was a time when I’d look forward to visit the US. I would find any excuse a conference, some meetings to make a visit there. [For the record, I lived in the US from 1988 to 1992 studying at Columbia in New York, and then working at NYNEX in White Plains, just north of New York. I also spent six months in the Bay Area before returning to India for good in May 1992.]
I found the US a great way to re-charge the brain. Meeting people, visiting trade shows and conferences, walking in malls and bookstores, there were ideas aplenty. There was an infectious energy that I did not find in India. The US was the epicentre of innovation and I was an avid student.
Something has changed in the past few years.
Tomorrow: USA (continued)