Pandora’s Inbox

An estimated 294 billion e-mails were sent daily in 2010, and the figure continues to increase. But there is an inverse relationship between the difficulty and expense of communication, on one hand, and the quality of what is communicated, on the other.

NEW DELHI – A half-century before the invention of e-mail, T. S. Eliot asked, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” If he were alive today, contemplating an electronic inbox on a flickering computer, he might well have added, “Where is the information that has been lost in trivia?”

It is one of the paradoxes of our times that inventions meant to make our lives easier inevitably end up slowing us down. When e-mail first entered my life, I was thrilled; instead of letters piling up for months as I struggled to find the time to pen replies, faxes not going through, and telegrams that cost an arm and a leg, I now had a cost-free means of communicating instantaneously and efficiently. I became an avid and diligent e-mailer.

And how I regret it.