Dr Karl beams us into the future of technology
TECHNOLOGY is ever evolving, impacting on every aspect of our day to day lives.
A hundred years ago, the only screen the average Aussie was likely to see was at the local cinema. These days, many of us hold screens in our hands, with access to almost unlimited information and entertainment. Times sure are a changing. In the past century, technology has made huge advancements in every area; changing almost every aspect of the way we live.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, science commentator, author and currently the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at Sydney University, says advancements in technology have been extraordinary over the past 100 years.
"There are some innovations that have had huge implications such as clean drinking water, and medical innovations such as anaesthetics, antibiotics and vaccinations," Dr Kruszelnicki says.
"These are things that can mean the difference between life and death."
Many people in younger generations see vaccinations as commonplace, but community vaccination didn't begin in Australia until 1932.
Life before anaesthesia was very different too (and very painful) for Australians. Introduced to Australia in the late 1800s, anaesthesia was particularly unpleasant in its early forms. However, over the following decades, anaesthesia techniques and technologies were refined, and by the 1960s and '70s it had advanced almost to the level of comfort we experience today.
"Glasses are another huge technological advancement -those bits of transparent rock that we wear are particularly important to people over 70," Dr Kruszelnicki says.
"Hearing aids too have become vitally important.
"For many people, especially seniors, inventions such as glasses or hearing aids are not just important because of the physical implications.
"They also have huge social implications. A person who cannot see or hear very well - or at all - often loses their independence and becomes isolated."
Transport too has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past century. Road transport has moved from the horse and buggy to revolutionary cars, motorbikes and rail travel. International travel too has progressed to the point that jumping on plane to some far off destination is now an everyday occurrence - not the months of travel faced by people 100 years ago."
Perhaps the technological advancement that has had the biggest impact - certainly it has garnered the most attention - is the invention and advancement of the internet and communication technologies.
"The smartphone has had an enormous impact," Dr Kruszelnicki says.
"Depending on how you use it, that little screen you hold in your hand or keep in your bag can be a notepad, a calendar, a diary, a dictionary... the list goes on. It can keep you in touch with family and friends around the world, and give you access to information such as news and weather.
"Those little devices have changed everything."
However, smartphones and the associated technology isn't always user friendly, particularly for seniors. In his blog 'Does Google Hate Old People?', People for Internet Responsibility co-founder, and internet and technology commentator Lauren Weinstein points out that factors such as font size, screen contrast and use of white space can make usage difficult for seniors (how many of us have become frustrated with those tiny words, or buttons the size of a pinhead?).
Despite the challenges, Australian seniors have embraced new technologies with gusto according to the report 'Digital lives of older Australians' from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, almost 80% of Australians aged 65 and over are connected online.
The majority of these users go online at least once a day.
WE HAVE five (5) copies of Dr Karl Kruszelnicki's book The Doctor to give away to readers in Queensland. For your chance to win, go online to www.seniorsnews.com.au/competitions/ and fill out the simple entry form. Entries close at 4pm on March 27. Full T&Cs available online.
TECH TIMELINE - 1917 vs 2017
- 1917: Kitchen technologies were basic. Refrigeration for home use was still a way off; most homes had iceboxes. Washing was done by hand, toasters and kettles were non-existent, and stoves were fire fuelled.
- 2017: Almost every home in Australia has a fridge, a stove and oven that starts with the flick of a switch, and appliances such as kettles, toasters - even coffee machines - are commonplace
- 1917: It took over three months to travel from London to Australia.
- 2017: You can fly from London to Australia in less than a day.
- 1917: Cars were only just gaining traction for the average Aussie (in particular the Ford T Model) taking over from the horse and buggy. In 1917, 15,000 automobiles were brought into Australia.
- 2017: The majority of Australians drive and own vehicles of some description. More than one million new cars were sold in Australia last year.
- 1917: The major tech invention in 1917 was the toggle light switch.
- 2017: Dr Kruszelnicki says the cutting edge today is CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology, which enables us to reprogram life as we know it (you're all online, dear readers, so you can Google it).
- Email is the most common online activity for older Australians, with 76% using email.
- More than 50% of older internet users perform banking transactions online.
- 43% of internet users aged 65 and over accessed the internet to engage with social media.
- 23% of older Australians used communication apps such as Skype or Facebook Messenger to stay in touch with others online.
- 15% accessed government services, and health and medical information online.