Big Brother?

In my search for information and research about elderly and technology, I stumbled upon an article that, at first, didn’t have much to contribute ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/1102-digital_grandparents.htm ) but it made me rethink about all the implantable technology in the houses of the senior citizens.

The article talks about all kinds of technology that can be implemented to help the elderly, but also, and that is the discussion I’d like to open, to observe the elderly in their daily lives and activities.  An alarm clock who tells you when you have to take your medication, will come in handy for a senior whose memory is fading away.  An error detection if you take the wrong bottle to drink, can be life saving.  But motion sensors that can trace every move, what you touched and when…  Activity sensor, camera’s and microphones.  They can be implemented in the houses and the recorded data will get send to “the younger generation”.  They can see what you (as older person) have done, how active you where, where you was and when. That is more and more a big brother regime, zero privacy.  So what is the limit of this observing/helping technology?  To what extend can the you be involved in the life of the elderly, how much can you watch them “for their own safety”?

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2 Responses to Big Brother?

  1. jokewellens says:

    I have nothing against technology, but i don’t want to be an elderly in a world with applications such as these. Even though we are the generation who grew up with technology, it is not normal that technology attacks peoples privacy.

    Is the application with the alarm who tells the elderly when they have to take their medication really usefull? I think there are equal solutions to solve this problem for instance: the pill boxes. This is a practical system that many people uses today. All the pills that you have to take are sorted for the different days.
    Maybe some people believe that it’s easier to forget these pill boxes, than checking the pc who gives the alarm. But when these pill boxes lying on a place where the elderly often comes it’s as easy to check the pill box then the pc.
    And what if the alarm goes off when the elderly is not at home? They can still have the pill box with them.

    New on the market “The Sims: elderly”. This whole situation.technology starts to resemble to the computer game “The Sims” that the youth plays for entertainment. In this game you will control the lives of artificial characters. The intention of the game is that the quality of life of artifcial characters has to be as high as possible. For example you have to pay enough attention to the body hygiene, mood of the character. The danger with this technologys that are explained in the article is that the children may regard this as a kind of Sims but not with artificial characters but with there parents or grandparents.
    This allows the arasing of different side effects of the technologies. The children are worried and they constantly interfere in the lives of their elderly parents. Or the opposite could happen for example: our grandma’s status is green so everything is all right, we don’t have to call her.

    What I mean is that every generation has the right to his privacy not only the youth, and these techniques violate it. I admit that sometimes for medical reasons it can be helpful. For example for people who have a weak heart or a heart disease there is an appliance who detects cardiac arrest.

  2. That is of course an ethical question we should ask ourselves. “Watching” your parents or grandparents without consent makes it kind of a violation of the elderly’s privacy. But on the other hand, you can’t possibly say that the elderly always have to give their consent. When the elderly, for instance, suffers from a disease like alzheimer, rendering them unable to choose this for themselves, this obviously get’s a little trickyer. (well, probably when they have alzheimer they will be in an old people’s home, but you get what I mean)
    But then again; what turns a technology into a “big brother technology”? When you find that an array of sensors monitoring you and sending an alarm call out when something is going wrong sounds a bit too much like big brother, then consider this: At this moment there are a bunch of command lines monitoring your cell phone to check if you still have enough credit to make your call and the same goes for your bank account that is being checked every time you use your bank card in a shop. These (known) examples seem quite private to me, but are common good nevertheless. So it seams to me that we are willing to give up a little of our privacy if this gives us enough advantage. But are we allowed to give up privacy not belonging to us? In my opinion it is quite clear: if the elderly is still seen (by a psychiatrist when necessary) as capable of making his/her own decisions, we should allow them to do so. And if he/she agrees to a little “spying” for the good of the cause, then this should be done in the best possible way we can. Whether this means using an electronic alarm or an old-fashioned pill-box, is up to the one buying the device, and of course, if you really love your elder, you will also take in mind what his/her favourite choice would be.

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