Reading Dr. Margaret Richardson from the Department of Communications at the University of Waikato’s column on how older people respond to digital communication her research finds it to be a mixed bag with some people finding it a life saver and others see themselves as too old to be bothered.
That does not come as as surprise to members of Kapiti SeniorNet, and like Dr. Robertson SeniorNet promotes the benefits of an inclusive digital society for and among older people.
But what, you may ask, does the future hold for us Seniors in an increasing digital era?
Machines already encroach on our lives in so many ways. It isn’t just about using a computer or tablet or even a smartphone, for as I read the posts here about driverless cars, thinking computers, Dick Tracy watches, the future of the internet and many other excellent posts one cannot help but wonder about the impact on our lifestyles to come.
An important consideration is of course the health aspects. We already have digital doctors on the internet, we have robot surgery, albeit that presently the robot are operated by surgeons, but for how long before they are better at it without an operator, just as our cars are largely built by robots leading to consequential changes in labour forces.
For everyone the idea that not all one’s shopping is done at local stores has become accepted and internet shopping a way of everyday life. It has been a great help to those less ambulant and has opened up a worlwide selection to us with increasing competetion and price selection. It has also put many a smaller and not so small local manufacturers out of business and again left many to find new ways of making a living.
One might be forgiven for thinking that such monumental changes wrought by the internet era would lead to greater prosperity for all rather than the austerity most countries suffer under, and that the freely exchanged information, indeed masses of data, would lead to greater understanding and tolerance among people. The social media, free softwares, online education and more were the elixir to bring us safer, better lives and opportunities for everybody.
It seems to have been a somewhat poison chalice. The recipients of the benefits of spreading the power of information has turned out be the few, the ones with the biggest computers who could harness our details and use it in ways denied to everyone else.
As we found out it also included snooping, hacking, stealing and destroying, not just by the bad guys, but also by those who supposedly protected us.
The promised replacement or growth careers have been slow in showing up and the more robotics engineers we produce it is reasonable to guess that we shall need more replacement jobs in years to come, perhaps producing more robots.
Meanwhile we use our computing power to keeping track of people via cameras like CCTV, traffic management, security in places of employment and business generally, and I do not dispute the value of that, then we also use it on anything from satellites to drones to taking ‘selfies’ with your phone. Some useful others perhaps not.
Seniors in the earlier part of their senior years can look forward to a smaller economy as automation increases. The shrinking economy results from reduced requirements other than automation and information, and the question we need to ask is whether we have been empowered by the change, as expected, or it has benefitted only the large corporations and weakened our democracy.
As Seniors there is little doubt that good things has come about from using computers and enriched our lives in an Internet era, it is also good to have the opportunity to be in tune with world around us, but we should guard against the exploitation of the big data, the holders of which seek to manipulate and control us in so many ways.
On balance what do you regard as the most important benefit you have received from being part of the cyber age?