Housing and Technology
Of the many assumptions made in predicting the future, one that is implied almost every time the future of technology is discussed is that technology is beneficial. Technology is benign, and the intention is to create benefit through the use of technology. But, is more of it better than less? In the end, older adults will choose what they want and inform the world about technology's viability and benefit. The unobtrusive characteristic of the technology to come is most appealing. However, its application and the interface with people are clearly significant. A house that is constantly attempting to communicate with its resident regardless of that individual's receptivity or desire to interact seems to be a future for domestic living that few would care to contemplate. A house that is a machine is also less than desirable. Thoughtful integration of smart and aware technologies that also manifest sensitivity about the user is the sort of quality that must be imparted to a living space. Currently, computers display none of this quality. Today, users are confronted with computer crashes that signal fatal errors and other admonitions as if the failings imbedded in the complexity of the machine are somehow the fault of the owner/operator. A house that is continually experiencing electronic crashes that have the user both mystified and worried will be unacceptable.
This phenomenon in computing systems is addressed in the book The Humane Interface (2000) by Jef Raskin. Raskin states that the future relationship of advanced computing to the novice user must be one of a much more friendly interface; one that does not present complexity in order to do the simplest operation. While the technology is at hand, or nearly within our grasp, to provide extended independence to older adults, the difficulty in creating this sophisticated home of the future does not lie in developing capacity, it is in making that capacity easily usable, with seamless transitions of interface from person to machine, machine to machine, and home to homeowner. Quality of life has always been the ultimate issue of aging. Americans will be spending more time in their lives as older adults than they will in any other time of life. The potential in the technological future of the home holds great promise for sustaining quality as well as maintaining independence.
JOSEPH A. KONCELIK
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