Change and change and change again

In 2017, the Saturday Night Live show produced a hilarious advert for a fake device called Alexa Silver. It's a version of the Amazon Echo, intended for the elderly.

I only saw the video recently, but it was funny enough to watch a few times. My parents, aged 88 and 93, live with us. So I understand only too well why a device like this — if it existed — could be a huge hit. (I have read an article that suggests Amazon Echo Alexa can really help seniors with dementia.)

Train for your brain

Scientists know that the brain changes and develops throughout life. Some cognitive functions become weaker with age — which is why you forgot where you put your car keys. Other functions improve — like the ability to find the links between pieces of data, and to see the "big picture". (That's one reason why companies shouldn't be so quick to retrench older employees.)

We all want to stay mentally fit for as long as possible. Add the mental health impact of the pandemic, and you have even more reason to keep your brain healthy.

One of the best ways to keep mentally fit is to learn new things. Learning to program, or learning a new programming language, will keep your brain healthy. So of course I want you to attend an Incus Data course. It's good for your mental health!

Move with the (tech) times

But it is also important to get comfortable with new and different technology.

Life-after-Covid will be very different to life-before-Covid. We don't know what it will look like yet, but the increase in remote working and online shopping is just the start. And virtual training is here to stay.

We are lucky to live at a time when technology can enable so much. Take the simple example of a ride-sharing app like Uber. Extra freedom at the touch of a screen. No need to fetch kids from late-night parties, or have a designated driver. No need to rely on someone else for a lift. No need to phone your husband to fetch you when you take the wrong Gautrain bus (I'm embarrassed to admit I did that once. Thank you, Uber!)

Make the effort

But technology can't help if we don't put in the effort to learn how it works. And sometimes it does take effort. Effort to find the right app. Effort to learn to use it. Effort to keep using it until it doesn't take effort.

I've seen how difficult it is for my parents to learn to use technology, and I don't want to be in that position. So while Alexa Silver doesn't exist (yet), I've decided it's time to get more friendly with Siri.

Just for fun, check out some of the weirder technologies showcased at the CES 2021 Innovation Awards in January. These include AI pets like Qoobo, described as a pillow with a wagging tail. And Moflin, an AI pet robot with emotional capabilities. Personally, I can't imagine those being as special to me as my real pets. But let's not knock it till we've tried it.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

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