Growing Old With Computers

Growing up with computers has become the new normal. Now I’m thinking a lot about the next new normal: growing old with them.

I’m going to get old in a world where the computers in my pocket, in my backpack, and in my home all know how to do more and more of the things I ask of them. The less capable my mind and body become, the more I need the help, the more they will be there to pick up the slack for the things that I don’t do so well anymore.

There are a lot of tiny, transactional, everyday activities that I don’t want to have to rely on another person to help me with. Play this song. Dial this phone number. Tell me what this says.

If this is the direction technology is going in, then to me, that represents an opportunity to get recurring frustrations out of the way so that I have more time and energy to spend sharing the gifts I’m excited to give, with the people around me.

Right now, my most powerful technology-enabled superpowers are all about being able to reach anyone, anywhere, to talk about anything. But I think the next superpower we’re going to get, and the one I’ll definitely want when I’m old, is to not need to use that on the hundreds of tiny, recurring challenges that creep up on me.

When Apple introduced Siri, plenty of people hopped up on their well-worn soapboxes to shout to the rest of us that they don’t want some damned computer replacing their human relationships. They’re afraid that technology is making our relationships impersonal. I think they’re dead wrong. But maybe that’s because I’m not in the habit of letting insignificant problems define my relationships.

I don’t believe using a computer to tackle recurring, transactional, everyday problems gets in the way of my personal relationships one bit. If there’s ever a way that I can make a recurring problem disappear by saying a few words to a computer, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve learned how to ask for help when I need it, but I also don’t mind not needing help with things that don’t matter.

As I become more conscious of just how limited my time is, I just want to maximize the amount of energy I’m able to spend chipping away at problems greater than my own. When my body starts to get in the way of my mind and my work, I want whatever superpower will make that a non-issue so I can get on with it.

That’s not impersonal. In fact, getting my own problems out of the way so that I can work on solving yours is about as personal as relationships can get.