The supply of 5G overwhelms the demand for this technology, ignoring the downsides

If we read the news, we constantly read about 5G. A key question arises: do citizens need 5G?

Those working in certain sectors, such as space technology, the medical industry and national security, benefit from 5G technology. However, many of us function very well with 4G technology. For web browsing, e-commerce or using social media, 4G is more than enough. Prima facie, most consumers don’t need 5G any more than healthy people need to pop multivitamin supplements.

When I think of 5G, I can’t help but think of iodized salt. Growing up in India, most of us have eaten this form of salt. Salt was iodized locally to avoid goiter among the population. This condition usually develops due to iodine deficiency and leads to abnormal growth of the thyroid gland. In poor families, this disease was common. So the government pushed iodized salt as a public health measure. It didn’t matter that healthy people didn’t need more iodine. They had to consume it.

Today, 5G is being rolled out worldwide. In India, Reliance Industries Limited is introducing 5G technology this year on Diwali, the iconic festival of lights. Millions will adopt 5G with enthusiasm. Some will spend hours watching cricket or Bollywood on YouTube. Others will video chat with family and friends. Others will use 5G for every conceivable purpose.

However, is there really a need for 5G in India now?

As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Today it seems that invention is the mother of necessity. This is not a new idea. In 1803, Jean Baptiste Say took the view that supply creates its own demand. Say’s Law has come to define classical economics and states that the production of goods creates its own demand. According to this law, if we produce televisions, there will be a demand for televisions. The supply-side economics favored by Republicans in the US is based on this law.

It may be fair to say that this law often applies in most economies. If you introduce something to the market, the masses often become addicted to it. In the US, cocaine is a classic example. A hundred years ago, few people snorted this fine white powder. Today, it is the drug of choice for Wall Street traders and anyone with money. People rarely think about the need or usefulness of a product.

In the case of 5G, there have long been doubts about its effects on human health. So far, there is limited research on this topic. We know that 5G technology uses higher frequency bandwidth, right across the radio frequency spectrum. Thanks to 5G technology, two types of electromagnetic fields come into existence: ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.

We know that ionizing radiation can damage human cells and cause cancer. Ionizing radiation is not supposed to cause any harm to health. However, a 2019 study concluded that electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) from cell phones are linked to DNA damage in mice and rats. Another 2016 study concluded that electromagnetic radiation of any frequency can damage the nervous system. A 2020 research review also looked at how electromagnetic frequencies affect organisms such as snails and frogs. The researchers were unclear as to whether these frequencies have adverse effects on the animals. Clearly, more research is needed.

The World Health Organization launched the International EMF Project to assess the health and environmental effects of exposure to static and time-varying electric and magnetic fields in the 0-300 GHz frequency range. Lennart Hardell, an oncologist from Sweden, was critical of this EMF project. In a 2017 research review, Hardell found that five of the six members of the main EMF group were affiliated with the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). This implied that project members had a conflict of interest.

Hardell also pointed out that many ICNIRP members are associated with industries that use wireless networks. This raises questions about the legitimacy of the organization. The European Parliament’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environment and Emerging Risks has concluded that the scale, urgency and interactions of EMFs with ecosystems and species are potentially dangerous. Like smoking, 5G appears to have adverse circumstances that will take years to come to light.

Already, 4G technology has caused a lot of damage. People are more and more addicted to their phones. In India, it’s not uncommon at family gatherings for everyone to be glued to their cell phones and ignore each other. Filter bubbles and echo chambers have damaged journalism. Many of them live in a post-truth world thanks to 4G technology.

We have slipped even for simple things. Many of them have no sense of direction because they rely on Google Maps to get somewhere. In airports, planes, trains, buses and subways, people are increasingly glued to their screens. They are no longer looking each other in the eye or starting a conversation. Myopia is on the rise. Late night screen exposure causes sore eyes and poor sleep. Screen addiction is also causing a decline in reading habits, attention span and critical thinking.

In such a situation, should we open 5G or do we need a cost-benefit analysis first? The argument that people are looking for 5G technology does not hold. Supply is creating its own demand and maybe society, or at least not everyone in society, needs 5G.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Fair Observer.

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