Toc, toc! “It´s me”

The other day I was listening to a podcast with a neurologist specialising in migraines, who said that there are 150 different types of headaches. He went on to explain the importance of knowing the patient very well in order to be able to prescribe the right medication. He was not only referring to their medical history, but also to their hobbies, their work, their day-to-day activities. “What works for John doesn’t necessarily work for Charles despite having  apparently similar symptoms.”

This reflection brought me back to the idea that Prof. John Wauck insisted on so strongly in our session in Rome with the whole team of HRF directors last week. In a world where we have tended to generalise, where we are “a numerical value”, it is essential to reclaim the uniqueness of the individual.

In the digital world we may be users and consumers, but we still live in a real society, with real human beings. At home, we are “me and you”. When we ring the doorbell and they ask: “Who is it? It is enough to answer, “It’s me”. And being unique in our home makes us normal at the same time. This identity that we forge and that is determined by our DNA, by the history of our parents, is the key to recognising our uniqueness.

How good we feel when we arrive at that place where, no matter how much we change, we are always recognised and welcomed with a hug. In the Odyssey, Odysseus returns to Ithaca after years of battle, struggle and danger, and his nurse, Euriclea, recognises him by a scar on his leg. That is home.

The digital world has allowed us to advance in many ways, but we have jeopardised others. Home, no matter how much home automation we incorporate, is analogue because it is based on human relationships created in a private sphere where we are able to just be ourselves. We need to be careful about the example we, as adults or parents, set for our children, as we are their most important technological reference. This became clear with the research carried out with IESE. In the pandemic, we shared a table with family and friends through a screen, because deep down, we longed for those analogue moments that meant home.

Prof. John Wauck remembered a song by Joe Walsh:

The whole world is living in a digital dream, it’s not really there, it’s all on the screen, makes me forget who I am but I am an analogue man that’s gonna get an analogue girl who loves me for what I am.  A timely message for us all.



In the UK there is currently a joint action case coming to court, brought by students who feel their access to the education promised by their university courses was denied by Covid restrictions. This article does not concern itself with the rights and wrongs of the case, but with one of the points made by the complainants. The point is that “hands-on” practical skills cannot be fully taught online. Students argue that while some disciplines do allow for remote learning, for others you just have to be in the same room as your teachers. Sculpture, for example, or neurosurgery.

A student of sculpture notes that it is more than the teacher’s words that guides the student’s hands, it is his or her own actual hands working with the same material at the same time. A student of neurosurgery quotes her frustrated teacher saying to camera, “You really need to feel this as well as see it.”

Being in the same room. Real hands at work. Things you can feel as well as see. The points made about the skills needed by these students can be readily applied to the home context. There are many things that we can learn – obviously – at school and college. Many things to be studied in books and on screen. It is at home though that life’s earliest and most formative lessons are given and received.

In my career as a teacher, I have had the privilege to watch young children at work and play. Unconsciously, what has been learned at home is played out in the classroom. It does not take a degree in child-psychology (valuable though this training is) to work out home attitudes and practice. A child’s responses to simple instructions such as, “Tidy-up time, now” or “Please share those crayons” can reveal a lot.

Broadly speaking, if you have seen certain positive patterns at home you are more likely to reproduce them in other circumstances. And not only to have seen them, but to have been guided in them – watched those you love do them and then started to do them yourself. Children learn from those they love and not from what they “say” so much as what they “do”  -as do we all.  This literal “handing-on” of attitudes and practices is age-old and holds true against the new challenges of our own age.

Recent research undertaken by HRF with our partners at the International Center for Work and Family at IESE underlines this. See recent article in Forbes. In the next few weeks, we shall be continuing to reflect on these initial findings, which range from the age-old distribution and benefits of household tasks to the new challenges of digital communication. Helping us make the most of the time when we are home together in the same room, to pass on the skills needed for life outside.

By Susan Peatfield

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?