Smart Homes: who said life was easy?

“The car has left the highway. We are close to our house. Using our mobile phone, we send a message; the porch and entrance lights come on and the heating starts up so that when we arrive the temperature is adequate, which the device itself has learned is the one we prefer. The house is filled with soft music – we are coming to our smart home.”

Thus begins the latest book that Home Renaissance Foundation has published on Home in the Digital Age with the prestigious publisher Routledge. And the truth is that it arouses opposite feelings in me. On the one hand, obviously, I find it fantastic. New technologies enable us, using a smartphone and with a simple click, to control the lights in our house, the energy we consume, even lower the blinds and turn on the oven so that we only have to put the puff pastry into heat.

But this image, which for me is truly luxurious and somewhat futuristic, already exists. There are people who can afford this technology and gain control of their homes. And I wonder, when will everyone come to enjoy these novelties?

It happened with the arrival of the television, my mother tells me, when in the 70s only handful had a tv and the rest of the neighborhood went to see it as if it were a museum piece. It then became an easily accessible appliance, which still has its proponents and detractors. If you have ever travelled to underdeveloped parts of the world where their way of life has not evolved (the indigenous Panamanian tribe of the Guna Yala in San Blas or the Berber peoples of Tunisia come to mind) where resources are scarce, it is curious that to have a new generation television for them means to be connected to the world, to stay informed of what is happening globally.

And I keep asking myself questions: do the new technologies open an even greater inequality gap between the two worlds, the developed and the underdeveloped? Are new technologies being developed at the expense and exploitation of peoples without decision-making capacity? What does this meteoric advance mean in the most advanced societies for areas that still do not have accessible drinking water?

If we focus on the central pillar of all this, the home, how much of all that technology is necessary for the person to grow and develop in a warm and respectful environment? What do we want a digital family home to mean? Do we want to benefit from Artificial Intelligence? Do we know its risks? Because at HRF it is not that we are against progress, far from it, but we do care about the person and the homes and we do not know to what extent technology is displacing the person. On this, you will find a hierarchy of homes in chapter 4, according to the nature and presence of home automation.

With this book, we have tried to draw the attention of the reader, so that we do not forget, among other things, the ethical dimension of the digital age nor the challenges we face when, without thinking, we give permission to let all these gadgets in, whose letter of introduction is to make our lives easier. But who said life was easy?

Needs and Gifts

Last week HRF published our timely communication report ‘Care at Home for those with extra needs.’ The message of the report is very clear one: it is in the home that needs are met and care is not just given but reciprocated. The focus of the report is on those with extra needs, broadly defined in terms of needing extra support for physical or intellectual disabilities.

There is another side of this coin that can sometimes go unnoticed. The specific care and support, not of those with extra needs, but of those with extra or particular gifts. The phrase “gifted children” is one that conjures up for many of us images of musical or maths prodigies, but in fact, a wide range of giftedness can be identified across the curriculum. It might also seem that this is a “non-problem” as surely the gifted are at a natural advantage at school and in later life?

A recent paper in the prestigious International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests things are not so smooth as we might think.
“Emotional Intelligence Profiles and Self-Esteem/Self-Concept: An Analysis of Relationships in Gifted Students” by Ana María Casino-García, María José Llopis-Bueno and Lucía Inmaculada Llinares-Insa, looks at the lived experience and potential disadvantages of being identified as a gifted child. Evidence suggests that depending on the support and understanding offered to such children, emotional responses vary from thriving to vulnerability.

What seems a key driver in this is the recognition and nurturing of students’ Emotional Intelligence (EI). The development of high EI is connected to higher levels of self-understanding and esteem, but also understanding the motivation and needs of others. High EI can help build the resilience and empathy necessary for all children to thrive, but can be seen as particularly relevant for the mental health of intellectually gifted children.

It is the quality of such children’s relationships with others that is “one of the strongest predictors of their well-being.” Negative experiences of feeling isolated from their peers – “singled-out” – can result from being identified as gifted, if the identification is not followed up by appropriate support. The authors cite the importance of teachers and education professionals in this support, but conclude, tellingly, “The most important source of social support is family; family cohesion is essential for life satisfaction.”

The full paper is a detailed examination of the evidence building to this conclusion, but for HRF and our vision we hear the same, strong message: the irrefutable link between home, relationships and well-being. The home is where needs are met and gifts are nurtured – whatever those needs, whatever those gifts.