In the last 70 years, Indian society and the world at large have progressed at a remarkabe pace. During the earlier centuries, humans invented tools and technology that allowed us to expand the capacity of the human body – weapons to hunt, the wheel and later the steam engine and aeroplanes to move us faster, homes, buildings, clothes to protect us and such like.
In more recent times, with the consumerization of technology and the advent of the digital age, we are augmenting the capacity of the human mind. Technology is used to communicate, compute and imagine faster and better. Technology is used to overcome the limitations imposed by time and space. Media and the internet has converged to expand space, compress time and usher in new behaviours. Human powers have been multiplied with the power of computing accessible to almost everyone.
The human mind is on steroids and the past seventy years have unleashed the imagination of the next generation to shape the future of our civilization. The world today responds interestingly to bold human aspirations and imaginations. In the past, we humans used to harness nature to derive benefits from it. Today, an attempt to question every limitation that nature imposes on us is visible.
Some of the best minds in science and business are engaged on how we can build colonies in Mars and beyond. Perhaps we will consume more than what the Earth is capable of producing and hence we want to “print” food. Our horizons are broadening and so is time. We wish to live longer, challenge the biological clock and even achieve immortality! We humans want to be able to predict, control and measure every small and large aspect of our everyday life. We want to code or manufacture our offsprings as well – inputting in them everything we understand to be perfect. The attempt to take over from nature is visible in almost every facet of life. Everything that man prayed from God – whether it is to give us food, bless us with children, protect us from natural forces and give us a secure and predictable life – no longer requires divine intervention. We are in control of our destiny. Humans are the new Gods.
In Indian mythology, when the flow is controlled, nature is defied and when man takes on the role of God, the tenth and final avatar of Vishnu is born. Kalki is known to banish existing systems, mark the end of time and create a new world order. We have conquered a lot of diseases, flown outside the Earth and taken on the challenge to create artificial intelligence. Over the next seventy years, as we conquer death, colonise outer space, code our offsprings, replace human labour with robots, design human interactions and create our own Galapagos, we will see the arrival of Kalki. We will usher in a new age wherein man overtakes the design of God and challenges principles of the nature. What next? The arrival of Kalki, as evisaged in Hindu mythology, also marks a time of disruption and destruction.
The Hindu trinity celebrates Brahma as the creator, Vishnu as the preserver and Shiva as the destructor. Hindu philosophy states that destruction is necessary for creation and establishing a new world order.
Yet, in India, change is resisted and stability is preferred. Change happens along the axis of expanding tradition. Unlike in most other parts of the world, we as a nation or as a civilization have rarely faced huge or sudden disruption. It is the reason why we are among the few places in the world with a continuous civilization of over 4000 years. There have been plenty of wars, famines and diseases, but these were largely localized and never pan-Indian. Even colonization was a gradual phenomenon. For good, or for worse, we have been able to negotiate with change and deal with it at our own terms. We are thus incremental thinkers, reactive to change rather than proactive towards it and believe that in due course, everything will achieve its own course.
However, the world is going far ahead at a rapid pace with new imagination and bold thought. The age of Kalki will bring with it tectonic shifts in society with immense disruption and destruction. But in India, we have barely been able to take cognizance of it.
The laws of nature endowed a liberalized India with a young demographic profile. A younger India could work harder, earn more and get richer quicker. Yet, we now stare at the possibility of missing this demographic dividend and remaining poorer as a nation as we grow older. We need fresh, original, disruptive thinking, rather than an incremental approach to address such opportunities and challenges that we will face.
Even when we have tried to be proactive in addressing changes and challenges like urbanization, social security, poverty alleviation – our policies and perspectives have borrowed Western thought and imagination. In our rush to become a developed nation, we are borrowing metrics, policies and prescriptions that have worked somewhere in the West – employment guarantee, demonetization, digitization. The Age of Kalki will bring forth far bigger challenges.
In the Age of Kalki, no rationale synthesis, extrapolations and algorithms can tell us what future has in store. Follower-ship will not enable leadership. Only through imagination and original thought will India be able to succeed in the Age of Kalki.
In the next 70 years, India would be a different nation. The future will be mythical and spacious. The strange and the unfamiliar may be the new normal for us. Our systems, beliefs and ideas will be destroyed and be rebuilt. A new cycle, a new organization, a new society may be born. New values and new beginnings may be made and in the Age of Kalki a new Indian social order has to be born!