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Technology and Southeast Asia

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Fri, Feb 09, 2007 @ 13:02 PM
I just took a monthlong trip to Southeast Asia - Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Thailand.  Along the way, two things struck me about technology.

Cell phones and internet shops are multiplying like bunnies.   And, surprising to me, were satellite dishes everywhere in democracies and dictatorships alike.  I learned that you can run a black and white television on a car battery and a color tv on a gas-powered generator.  Against the backdrop of so much political, social and religious turmoil in the world, it's a powerful contrast to see that the basic human desire for connection supercedes what we would see as the more basic need of plumbing.

During the trip, I had an extended stay in Siem Reap to see the Khmer temples (Angkor Wat and many others).  At first, I was overwhelmed by the obvious intellectual superiority of its day; the temples represent mastery of advanced mathematics, architecture, and engineering. They are heavily decorated in beautiful, intricate sculptures and carvings.   They were created at a time when Europe was in the Dark Ages.  Over several days  my unconscious began to piece together that all the fabulous ruins I'd seen (Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, etc.) represented a single culture that held the keys to knowledge -- both scientific and artistic -- during its supremacy.  I'm left wondering what impact the ascendancy of the internet, when most knowledge is immediately shared, will have on this phenomenon. 
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Topics: Southeast Asia, technology, public policy