Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Vanaja Malathy

The release of ChatGPT by California company Open AI will be remembered as a turning point in introducing a new wave of artificial intelligence to the world. ChatGPT’s ability to ape human speech and automate previously time-consuming tasks has generated a buzz. It’s astonishing that it earned 100 million monthly active users in early Feb.of this year, just a few months after its launch in Nov of the previous year. It is exciting to think how this powerful tool can revolutionize the world, and also depressing to anticipate the shadow of the great anxiety this tool is going to cast on us. What potential impact and disruption this highly articulate Chatbot could have on academia is blowing everyone’s mind. Will it make teachers obsolete? Could it contribute to a massive increase in cheating among students? Will it make lawyers and journalists antiquated? Is it going to replace humans? ChatGPT has caused more furore than any thrill an advanced technological development would bring. Will society greet ChatGPT as a brilliant device or a weird tool? Has its tremendous popularity come as something of a shock or awe?

Technophobia is an overwhelming fear or avoidance of new technology. It is believed that tech skeptics form one-third of the human population. They are concerned about the use of technology and the impact it has on the world at large. They often resist the invention of new tech gadgets and solutions. Some feel that technology contributes to greater inequality in society. Some others perceive that the benefits of new technologies will only accrue to a small section of society. Some more fear of unemployment that new technologies bring. The reasons are many.

Is Technophobia new to the 21st century?

Well, people have been worrying about the effects of new technology since the time of the invention of fire. The history of technology began roughly three million years ago with the design of stone tool kits that included hammerstones, stone cones, sharp stone flakes, axes, hammers, knives, and arrowheads. Perhaps there were stone worshippers then who opposed stone cutting?!

Let us try to trace the aversion to new inventions and new technologies in history. Socrates, the Greek philosopher of Athens, credited as the founder of Western philosophy had his moments of idiocy too. He believed that the invention of writing would produce forgetfulness. His student Plato had said, “Writing is a step backwards from the truth.” Further, the Philosophers and Mathematicians of the day opposed bound books by saying, “horrible mass of books that keeps growing might lead to a fall back into barbarism.” They felt that students would read a thousand inferior or more dangerous novels, and few would study Homer or Virgil.

Humanity has a long track record of fearing mechanical progress and blaming it for high unemployment rates throughout history. The Industrial Revolution brought the process of change from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. People began to fear for their livelihoods when machines started replacing skilled artisans. Mass fear and anxiety gripped people’s minds, and technophobia began to gain attention as a movement in England with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.  

When commercially successful printing press operations started, the cultural elite of the day wasn’t impressed. It was felt it would lead to information overload.

Electricity arrived on the scene. Benjamin Franklin was credited for discovering electricity. Many people were too afraid to use electricity at home with no exception of the U.S. President Benjamin Harrison who had White House staff turn the lights on and off because he was afraid of getting electrocuted.

There was a ferocious attack against Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. People then wondered if the machines might be used to communicate with the dead. Gramophone lamented the arrival of the radio. On Marconi’s invention of Telegraphy and Radio, the ministry of Post and Telegraphs referred Marconi to an insane asylum. Marconi wondered, “Have I done the world well, or have I added a menace?”

When bicycles began to rise in popularity, people found this new piece of transportation technology might wreak society. Physicians warned female cyclers that such an activity was dangerous to their health.

Vaccination for widespread diseases of smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, and MMR led to anti-vaccine campaigns. Edward Jenner’s ideas were met with immediate public criticism. The local clergy believed the vaccine was “unchristian” because it came from an animal. Influenced by Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur introduced the concept that vaccination could be applied to any microbial disease. Louis Pasteur faced opposition and was criticized heavily. Even the British government refused to believe that microbes were the cause of illness.

The 19th century was also the beginning of modern science with the work of Charles Darwin, and Alfred Russel Wallace, to mention a few. England’s highest-ranking Catholic officials denounced Darwin’s view as a brutal philosophy that there is no God and Apes are our Adam. Even Poets like William Wordsworth and William Blake believed that technological changes pollute nature.

Joseph Priestly is remembered as a scientist who discovered oxygen. His unorthodox religious writings and his support for the American and French revolutions enraged his fellow citizens, and he was forced to flee England.

After World War II, fear of technology was catalyzed by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the depletion of the ozone layer and the threat of global warming began to be taken very seriously.

We tend to wonder, “Are we fearing technological progress instead of celebrating?”

The first stage of the industrial revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The second stage used electric power to create mass production. The third stage used electronics and information technology to automate production.

In the 1980s, the personal computer age had arrived, and ‘computerphobia’ was suddenly everywhere. Computerphobia didn’t fall out of fashion until the 1990s when a new realm of technological anxiety became the target, …Cyberspace. IBM Chairman and CEO Thomas J Watson famously said in 1943, “There’s a world market for about five computers.”

In the early 1990s, there was a decry of the harmful effects of email.

Email anxiety is a deep-rooted addiction of looking through the inbox. There is a constant fear of keeping with its pace and as a result it makes people overwhelmed and under-accomplished, defeated and deflated.

Daryl Zanuck, an Academy Award Winner and American Film producer had a very low esteem of television. He had commented, “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” 

Come to think of mobile phones, people have also accused smartphones of making us jittery. It was also feared that cell phones make us stupid, lazy, narcissistic, and antisocial. Today, cell phones are no longer just communication tools. They serve as banks, schools, clinics, and vehicles for spreading transparency and democracy. Mobiles today connect billions of people all over the world.

Many such examples portray a darker side to technology, as perceived by those who are technophobic.

The fourth industrial revolution is building on the third digital revolution. The fusion of technologies blurs the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. Artificial Intelligence is a technology affecting our lives, reshaping our economic, social, cultural and human environments. Computers, cellphones, I pads, fitness trackers, wireless earphones, electric cars, virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google, etc. are redefining our social networking. NASA published its official plan for human exploration and colonization of Mars.

There is a massive and almost impossible acceleration at which the world is progressing. Every gadget or tool will be short-lived as new inventions take over. The best example is that Netflix has lost thousands of users from the United States to the new service called MovieFlix very recently as it provided a streaming service identical to Netflix but with a lot extra.

We cannot deny the intense influence movies have on young and old. Technophobia achieved its commercial success in the 1980s with the movie The Terminator, in which a computer becomes self-aware and it decides to kill all humans. The films Robots of Death, Cybermen, and Avatar project the thought that our blind pursuit of technology only speeds us quicker to doom.

Do we fear technological progress instead of celebrating?

Do we agree with the American composer who aptly said,” I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I am frightened of the old ones.”?

Innovations in technology have put us into a tremendously fast-paced world. A lot of people appreciate the changes brought by technology. However, some people have reservations about how technology is transforming society.

Are we technophobes or technophiles?

Educating oneself about powerful technologies is not only for curiosity but to prepare ourselves for the social changes they might cause. AI has the potential to ‘robotize’ humanity and thus deprive us of our hearts and soul. At the same time, it can also lift society into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny.

Getting back to our discussion point, we are all aware that ChatGPT is a threat to humanity. From lawyers to writers, from coders to journalists, everyone is waiting breathlessly to feel the disruption caused by ChatGPT, the biggest threat ever to Google Search. At the same time, we are also aware that ChatGPT has its limitations. It can engage in human-like dialogue based on a prompt that is prepared by humans. We can now understand who is dependent on whom.

Technological changes have had a massive impact on every facet of our lives. Humanity has little power to resist the influence that technology has on society. Our role as humans is to give information meaning to life. Our part is to provide connections and to point out bias and racism that exists in information and knowledge.

How can we use this tool ethically and safely?

Should we either ban or embrace new technology?

Our wisdom lies in redefining human intelligence as an evolving concept and reaching beyond what any tool of the moment offers. Let us recall that it has always been more manageable for a critic with his job of throwing negative emotions on the novel changes of the day. But let us not forget that we also have been witnessing again and again that the practitioner always wins.

Human creativity coupled with AI creativity might produce results that are truly empowering. The great enthusiasts and early adopters of technology sometimes wonder whether the unstoppable integration of technology in our lives would abate human capacities such as compassion, cooperation, perseverance, and empathy. It is high time we examine ourselves to see if we have ignored the values of life, such as giving time to pause and reflect on and being open to discussions instead of adopting a rat race mode of life.

Psychological and Neuroscience research tells us that our brains are wired for morality. The moral sense is said to be innate in humans and morality is the product of evolution. The culture in which we live influences what we think. Morality is developed by socialization and is also shaped by families, friends, and educational institutions. Parents and educators play a greater role in identifying, reflecting, and understanding innate morals to challenge the impact of new technologies.

We must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of the surge of new technologies. Each one of us both the young and the old, have a responsibility and a pivotal role to play in building a peaceful world around us.

The secret to change is to focus all our energies, not on fighting the old but on building the new.




As a doctorate inclined to academic writing, Vanaja Malathy found poetry and Prose writing helped to tap her imagination and find the sublime within the mundane.

Her works are featured in The Nightingale Poetry Journal, The New-England Monthly Poetry Digest, The Poet’s Showcase,, The New International Poetry Digest, The Literary Yard, and the Academy of Heart and Mind

 Her Interview in the Author Talks is published in The Literary Yard at



  1. Vanaja Murthy takes the reader through all the times humans have opposed anything new. Reading the article made me realise how as humans we fight anything that may bring about change. The uncertainty of change makes us uncomfortable and fight it. The succinct analysis of the history of new inventions and technologies make for an excellent , engaging and absorbing read.

  2. Vanaja Murthy takes the reader through all the times humans have opposed anything new. Reading the article made me realise how as humans we fight anything that may bring about change. The uncertainty of change makes us uncomfortable and fight it. The succinct analysis of the history of new inventions and technologies make for an excellent , engaging and absorbing read.

  3. “The only constant is change” and we will resist some and we will accept some. Some changes may be accepted eventually and some never. Every individual will have a threshold of what they accept .
    Maybe not all change is good for us as a society or as an individual – and we will make those choices . M’s. Vanaja thanks for a very succinctly written peice on the history of technological changes and oir response to those.

  4. What an enlightening poem, Vanaja! The questions in your poem served as prompting questions even for us, through the screen, making us think deeper about something so simple that I, personally, use everyday. How you quoted from highly philosophical artists such as Plato with such finesse, is really amazing. I watched your video as well. There is no doubt you are a highly educated individual. Keep it up, Vanaja!

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