Descriptions of the dawning of the twenty-first century allude to the ‘technological revolution’ that has been taking place. The result of these substantial changes are said to have an impact on individuals and society as far reaching as those of the late eighteenth century industrial revolution.
I was reflecting on the potential role of technology for ‘settled work’ last night after a mock argument with some of my children. I was arguing that being born in the 1950s was the best of all possible times. We had a comfortable childhood (if we were lucky), the excitement of revolution and change in the sixties, exploration and travel in the seventies, and despite the bad hair and shoulder pads of the eighties and extravagant excesses of the nineties we are well placed to draw on a lifetime of experience in developing sustainable ways to live as we age. ‘But’ – they cried as one – ‘we were born with computers!’
There is considerable debate in the media about the benefits and hazards of technology for this ‘wired’ generation: growing up with computer games, always in touch with IPhones and Facebook, and having instant access to news and entertainment. I don’t plan to enter that debate here. What did occur to me was that as an older generation – we also have access to this range of technology – and we have the ‘wisdom’ to combine it with our knowledge gained from reading, working and life experience. I didn’t win the argument, but they conceded I had a point.
Most of us entering retirement in the next decade have become comfortable with technology through our working lives. I’m convinced that although it will continue to change rapidly, we will be able to adapt, unlike our parents who in many cases (not all) feel overwhelmed by computers and mobile technology. In the professional and academic areas where I’ve worked I’m amazed about how rapidly those of my age have taken to the delights of technology. We do research online, keep reference libraries, make travel arrangements, share photos, and use social networking sites, Skype and blogs to connect.
One of the most exciting aspects of these connections, for me, is access to podcasts about a wide range of issues of interest. The problem is having time to listen to the downloaded podcasts. This is where I think these delights will bear fruit in the future. I’ve mentioned that I’m hoping to have time to savour pleasures of life in semi-retirement or some form of settled work. Along with reading more books I hope to listen to more pods. I already use a dashboard to list updates of interests from websites, journals or blogs of interest, only accessing those that ‘speak’ to me. The site I find most fascinating currently is TED ‘Ideas Worth Spreading. An RSS feed from the site links you to weekly short videos (only a few minutes long) about a range of breaking ideas from science, design, technology and the humanities. Enough to stimulate ideas and conversations and keep minds alive with wonder as we age.
For my photo of gratitude this week, it’s only fitting that I include my IPod. As an advocate of sustainability and opponent of mindless consumerism, I resisted buying one until recently. Since I took it overseas with me I’ve become an embarrassingly enthusiastic proponent. With the phone switched off in airplane mode, I was able to use it at the many free Wifi sites (cafes, terminals, even on buses) as a mini computer: to look for directions, information on places I visited, check email, Skype home for free lengthy chats, take photos, and listen to music and podcasts. Delights a plenty!