An Interview with Sreenath Sreenivasan

Haegwan Kim

The first question is a bit of a silly one, but do you think of yourself as a successful person?


Sreenath Sreenivasan

I've never thought about this question, so I don't know. I think I'm a very satisfied person and I'm really happy about that. But I don't think of myself as a successful person.


HK

Why are you satisfied?


 SS

Well, I'm satisfied because I have a job I love, I have a family I love, and energetic kids…


HK

So you're happy but don't think of yourself as successful.


SS

I mean, I'm not sure how to measure 'success'. To reach the position of professor at Columbia journalism school might be successful, but rather I'm very happy.


HK

Do you think money is the most important thing to achieve your success?


SS

Not at all. If I thought money was the most important thing, then wouldn't be doing journalism. I think money should not be the measurement of success, but for lots of people, it is. But not for me.


HK

Then for you, what is the most important thing to achieve success?


SS

For me, "Are they satisfied with what they do?" "Do they appear to be trustworthy?" "Are they helping others?" These are my criteria.


HK

I want to ask you about the development of new technology. Will it change our human values and lives?


SS

Well, the evolution takes long time to happen, but I certainly think that the Internet and technology are going to have a huge effect on our society. I think that cell phones and technologies are the biggest and (no 'the') most dangerous experiments in human history, and I'm worried that we will all find that one day these will be not good for us.


HK

The goal of this project is to enable all the 7 billion people on this planet to achieve their success, and the development of technology, mobile phones etc, can make this happen. Can you give me your opinion on this?


SS

Well I don't know, but overall I am a big believer of technology and it makes our life better. Technology is becoming better, faster and cheaper.


HK

Does that mean that the technology is profitable for all people? Or just those who know the technology?


SS

I think everybody can, if everybody will use it properly. But now people don't understand how to use it. You know, when escalators first came to our city, people just went to see the escalator, and then went to the elevator - they just couldn't believe such things. So the thing is how to use the technology.


HK

How about the changes on a social level? Because of Facebook, Youtube, myspace etc, our ways to communicate are drastically changing. This means not only the way to make money changed but also...


SS

Yea I know, there are a lot of social problems, but we don't know yet clearly, because people are not communicating as well as they could or they should. I think that's an issue.


HK

I think the technology will no longer be merely a methodology, but our life itself. It accounts for too much time of our life.


SS

I agree, but look at positive side of the Internet. Technology can bring people together as well. Most people look at the problems of technology but I think there are a lot of positive things as well.


HK

Can you give me advice on using the Internet?


SS

Be skeptical. Don't trust everything you see on the Internet. Don't over-believe its power. I think a lot people do and that's a problem. At the same time there are lots of opportunities, so focus on what possibilities are for it.


HK

You said don't overestimate technology...


SS

and underestimate. Know exactly as it is.


HK

Ok, that means it's not right to say that I can achieve success with only the Internet?


SS

Yea, the Internet is only a tool. It needs smart people who understand its potential and its limit.


HK

Then how have you promoted your works as 'smart people' and also as the professor of new technology?


SS

I have tried to bring attention to other people, be one of the curators of good materials, and to make the most of information; all these skills are very valuable things to have. That's one of things I'm trying to do. I also try to make sure we have as many opportunities as possible to get an understanding of all changes happening around us, so I try to make those changes clear with simple words. And I believe that people will find and trust you if you're helpful, generous, and useful. That's what I try to do.


Sreenath Sreenivasan is a Digital Media Professor at Columbia University.

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