XAT 2017 Question 16

Instructions

It’s taken me 60 years, but I had an epiphany recently: Everything, without exception, requires additional energy and order to maintain itself. I knew this in the abstract as the famous second law of thermodynamics, which states that everything is falling apart slowly. This realization is not just the lament of a person getting older. Long ago I learnt that even the most inanimate things we know of ―stone, iron columns, copper pipes, gravel roads, a piece of paper ―won’t last very long without attention and fixing and the loan of additional order. Existence, it seems, is chiefly maintenance.

What has surprised me recently is how unstable even the intangible is. Keeping a website or a software program afloat is like keeping a yacht afloat It is a black hole for attention. I can understand why a mechanical device like a pump would break down after a while ―moisture rusts metal, or the air oxidizes membranes, or lubricants evaporate, all of which require repair. But I wasn’t thinking that the nonmaterial world of bits would also degrade. What’s to break? Apparently everything.

Brand-new computers will ossify. Apps weaken with use. Code corrodes. Fresh software just released will immediately begin to fray. On their own ―nothing you did. The more complex the gear, the more (not less) attention it will require. The natural inclination toward change is inescapable, even for the most abstract entities we know of: bits.

And then there is the assault of the changing digital landscape. When everything around you is upgrading, this puts pressure on your digital system and necessitates maintenance. You may not want to upgrade, but you must because everyone else is. It’s an upgrade arms race.

I used to upgrade my gear begrudgingly (Why upgrade if it still works?) and at the last possible moment. You know how it goes: Upgrade this and suddenly you need to upgrade that, which triggers upgrades everywhere. I would put it off for years because I had the experiences of one “tiny” upgrade of a minor part disrupting my entire working life. But as our personal technology is becoming more complex, more co-dependents upon peripherals, more like a living ecosystem, delaying upgrading is even more disruptive. If you neglect ongoing minor upgrades, the change backs up so much that the eventual big upgrade reaches traumatic proportions. So I now see upgrading as a type of hygiene: You do it regularly to keep your tech healthy. Continual upgrades are so critical for technological systems that they are now automatic for the major personal computer operating systems and some software apps. Behind the scenes, the machines will upgrade themselves, slowly changing their features over time. This happens gradually, so we don‘t notice they are “becoming.”

We take this evolution as normal.

Technological life in the future will be a series of endless upgrades. And the rate of graduations is accelerating. Features shift, defaults disappear, menus morph. I’ll open up a software package I don’t use every day expecting certain choices, and whole menus will have disappeared.

No matter how long you have been using a tool, endless upgrades make you into a newbie ―the new user often seen as clueless. In this era of “becoming” everyone becomes a newbie. Worse, we will be newbies forever. That should keep us humble.

That bears repeating. All of us ―every one of us ―will be endless newbies in the future simply trying to keep up. Here’s why: First, most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented, so naturally you’ll be a newbie to them. Second, because the new technology requires endless upgrades, you will remain in the newbie state. Third, because the cycle of obsolescence is accelerating (the average lifespan of a phone app is a mere 30 days!), you won’t have time to master anything before it is displaced, so you will remain in the newbie mode forever. Endless Newbie is the new default for everyone, no matter your age or experience.

Question 16

Which of the following quotes would the author agree with the most?

Solution

While the author would agree with both A and B, the larger focus of the author trying to tell the reader is that we must always be on our toes by keeping up with the change that is a constant feature of our lives now. The focus is not just on the fact that change is a part of our lives but also on the importance of keeping up with it because the cost of not doing so can be perilous to ourselves in the longer run. 



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    Comments
    Chetna Bhakhari

    1 year, 6 months ago

    The answer is 'B'.

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