Your Blogmeister’s Desk
Heavy weather ahead.
A lot of people have been worried about singularity for a long time. That is, the point in time when people unwittingly cede enough of their affairs to technology such that technology takes over. It’s not that any human being alive would willingly give up control to an algorithm, it’s just that human nature is such that we offload as much work as we can to automatons. Think of all the people who need calculators today to do simple math that their three generations ago ancestors could have done in their heads.
I think the bigger problem for the relatively near future (present day to forty years out) will be that as technology gets more and more sophisticated, it won’t start ruling over us, it will instead be present in a world where more and more people are unable to use it.
One thing that became perfectly obvious to me as I was dealing with my own mother in her last months of true independence and then her realizing that she needed assisted living, was that the more complicated and convoluted, or less simple, something is to use, the less likely that older people will be able to use it, especially in a pinch. Things in her house that had simple analog controls, she could use, but anything that was in any wise digital, push button and had something of a complicated operating system, she had more and more trouble using. It got so bad that one day before Thanksgiving last year, she had a make an urgent phone call to me, but she couldn’t figure out how to dial the phone, a modern cordless land line handset, the same one she had been using for several years. Mainly it was a combination of age, panic and arthritic hands. She went out of the house and started screaming help, and a neighbor wound up calling me on his phone, and then I called her. Thing is, when I called her, the neighbor had to answer the phone then give her the handset, because she couldn’t figure out how to answer an incoming call. Temporarily, I set her up with an old style analog rotary dial phone that a hoardophiliac relative had in storage. But then I slowly walked her into agreeing that she needed permanent help.
There are two undeniable and contradictory trends at work: One, we’re now starting on the cusp of a high population generation entering elderly and then advanced ages. The Baby Boomers are 56-70 years old this year, assuming one uses the 1946-1960 birth year definition for Boomers. Which means that Boomers will be going through their seventies in the next decade, their eighties in the decade after that, and their nineties in the decade after that. Two, everything we use and buy is going to become more digital, increasingly technologized, and increasingly complicated.
It is not going to make for an easy or pleasant combination. It also means that if you are at all young or not-old, get ready for the old folks to pester you all the time needing help to do anything and everything.
I’m also thinking there’s a business opportunity here. Light bulbs (old fashioned incandescent) are going off in my head.