Have you been paying attention? Technological advances are zooming ahead at warp speed.
We've heard from so many older women who have negative feelings about technology. They see their grandchildren constantly on their smartphones, and feel that personal communication is a lost art. Those that used computers in their previous work lives, are glad to be freed from those screens. Others, however, are embracing digital opportunities, and trying to learn all they can. We hear a range of opinions on the subject of technology in our on-going 70Candles! Discussion Groups, and much spirited debate.
But no matter what one's feelings are on this topic, the technological world is barreling ahead, and we are all subject to a digital onslaught, in every area of life, for better or for worse. The daily news amazes with reports of the latest inventions and transformations in Healthcare, Transportation, Shopping, Travel, Communication, Robotics, and on and on.
A recent article in The New York Times Magazine Section (January 29, 2017) described Amazon's newest endeavors and the rapid adoption of Amazon Echo devices and the Alexa artificial intelligence that speaks from it. We learned that Alexa is short for Alexandria, conjuring the vast library in that city, in ancient Egypt. Alexa can answer questions, read stories, order food from your neighborhood restaurant or grocery store, as well as order endless products from Amazon itself. It can call for an Uber, turn lights on and off, check one's bank balance, and control your TV. Amazon wants to become an "everything, everywhere" company (Brad Stone, The Everything Store, 2013).
Much we read about seems helpful for older women - some inventions, rather exciting: drone delivery, robotic personal aides, self-driving cars to keep us mobile, cars that fly!, digitized 3-D printing, and our digitized, coordinated healthcare records, Alexa can aid those visually impaired, and serve as companion for those living alone. There's front door video for increased security, smart kitchens with height adjusting sinks, counters and cooking surfaces, and pans that monitor temperature of food cooking. Many women already enjoy Skypeing and FaceTime with family at a distance, and might find helpful the bionic leg that can aid rehab after surgery.
But some inventions cause real concern.
Is there a creeping invasion of our privacy? In a new book, The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy and Define Your Power, Joseph Turow reveals strategies used by marketers and merchandisers to increase their bottom line, especially as more people shop on-line, rather than in brick and mortar stores. Data mining, in-store tracking, and predictive analytics that figure out what you're likely to need next, are designed to change the way we buy, and can seriously undermine our privacy.
Is it possible that new technologies that disrupt old familiar industries will replace too many workers? We read that with the adoption of self-driving vehicles, "...three and a half million truck drivers will soon lack careers" (The New York Times Magazine Section, 12-18-16, p. 65.). Once artificial intelligence has advanced further, the jobs of inventory managers, economists, financial and tax advisors, real estate agents, and even radiologists and lawyers might well become obsolete. In an interesting on-line article called "Into the Future," Udo Gollub, predicts that 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years (forums.tesla.com).
Will there be enough new jobs for our population? Is instant gratification beneficial, or ultimately harmful to the generation growing up with every request answered at the tap of a finger?
The genie is out of the bottle, and it looks like there's no stopping technological progress. It's just really hard to keep up.
70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade by Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole (Taos Institute Publications) is available at taosinstitute.org/70candles. For those interested in leading a 70Candles! discussion group, we recommend 70Candles! Gatherings A Leader's Guide, from Amazon.com