Technologies require maturity

It is a fact that the big technology companies are trying to keep us hooked. After watching the documentary ‘The Dilemma’, I was struck by the number of things they have in mind to capture our attention and how well they study their audience. That the workers themselves decided to leave their management positions to tell the public about their experiences and become guarantors of digital ethics through foundations that counteract the power of the technological platforms gives us pause for thought.

We know that there are thousands of dollars behind every “like”, every post and every user. Social networks have become sales channels that move a lot of money through influencers, but the more we are aware of these details, the more we know about the intentions and raison d’être of these companies, the more we will be able to develop tools that allow us to make correct use of them and discern between the real and the unreal: to avoid acting blindly.

The Communication Project that we launched last week, ‘The Impact of Technology in the Home‘, gathers valuable testimonies. It is not about being alarming, but about taking the right steps. We already know that technology is neither good nor bad in itself, it all depends on the use we make of it and also on the responsibility assumed by the developers. Marta Sánchez, Global Head of Retail Digitalisation and Distribution at Vodafone UK, explains that her company has tried to face the challenges that this rapid evolution offers, putting the person, the user, at the centre of its objectives. As she says, they are well aware of the importance of going down this road together, sharing the challenge with society.

We are all capable of appreciating the advantages that technology has brought us. We are also capable of seeing the changes that are taking place in the way we relate to each other, the way we work, the way we communicate, and even the way we manage our homes. What we have to achieve, and this is a personal task that the community must support by offering tools to families, is to develop an ability not to accept or fall for everything that is given to us and to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. For that, as psychiatrist Enrique Rojas says in the report, maturity is needed.

Therefore, while enjoying the marvelous advantages of technology, let’s encourage this maturity.  The digital world is parallel to the real world and that means that it will affect our mental, emotional, cerebral, rational, personal and professional stability. The conclusion does not change, it is up to us to be prepared and to prepare future generations so that this impact is positive, and we manage to avoid the risks that will always exist.

This report is also available in Spanish ‘El Impacto de la Tecnología en el Hogar’

News & More

“I hope that the spring sunshine we are seeing is also a herald of hope as the world emerging from the pandemic finds itself with more challenges. When we look at what is unfolding in Ukraine, we must hope to restore the balance and peace that we have lost in recent times.

The sadly very relevant topic of homes lost and found is the focus of our next Experts Meeting in Washington DC in September, with the support of the Social Trends Institute. Led by Professor Sophia Aguirre of the Catholic University of Washington and director of HRF, the group of experts will address ‘The Home and Displaced People.’ Home is more than a place to stay: how can a fuller understanding of home inform approaches to migration and support of displaced people. Learn more here.

Our research partnership with the International Centre for Work and Family at IESE, is proving to be very fruitful as the team works on the first three papers.  Analysing and interpreting the complex relationships between the attitudes and activities of the home and the workplace is providing key insights into the role of the work of the home in individual, family and professional flourishing. Our thanks to ICWF Director Professor Mireia Las Heras and to Professors Marc Grau and Yasin Rofcanin for the high calibre studies they are engaged in with HRF to benefit all with an interest in this vital field.

HRF is also pleased to be involved in an advisory role with academic leaders of research proposals relating to our work on The Home in the Digital Age. One impact of the pandemic has been to reveal the home as the frontline of technology designed to support not just WFH but all aspects of domestic life. HRF champions the home as a place of life-long care and nurture and it is good to have our seat at the table when decisions affecting all our homes are being made.

In February, we were delighted to hear from our patron Professor Gamal Abdelmonem and his Vice-Chancellor that cultural heritage research at Nottingham Trent University, led by Professor Abdelmonem, has earned a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education: the highest national honour for a UK university. We are proud of our association with this work and send renewed congratulations.

Our forthcoming publication ‘Happiness and Domestic Life’ is due to go on sale later this year. In the meantime, we continue with the launches of ‘The Home in the Digital Age’. Just a reminder for Spanish speakers, that we had the privilege of participating in an event at the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico, with one of the co-authors of the book, Professor Matilde Santos. Please use this link to see the event.

We are also about to launch our latest Communication Project which reflects on the Impact of Technology in the Home.  The voices of parents, experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, engineers and developers have been gathered to help to understand how the integration of technologies in the home is taking place and how it is being experienced by families.

I am glad to be able to share this news of our work and all the work behind the scenes by the HRF team that this represents.

With best wishes to you and your homes this Easter,”

Bryan K. Sanderson CBE

The Home and Displaced People

Like many of you who read this blog, I myself am a person who lives in a different country from the one in which I was born. In my 36 years of life I have already lived in 6 cities in 3 different countries, but I have done so seeking to grow personally and professionally and having the certainty that I can return to my country when this international experience has fulfilled its expectations. It will not be easy, because that is what those who have already returned say. I will not be the same person who left home in 2003 to study a degree, nor the same person who established her home in 2012 outside her hometown, nor the same person who packed her bags in 2015 to live in the UK, but the sum of all the new experiences, the people I have met, the difficulties and challenges, will have forged the person who freely decided to move.

Unfortunately, this is not the experience that people who migrate or move under compulsion usually have. As we are seeing with the Russian invasion, Ukrainians flee the bombs, with no prior physical or mental preparation, leaving everything behind and not knowing what life will bring. This uncertainty, this insecurity, this fear, is affecting the deepest part of the human being. We have seen Afghans, Venezuelans, Syrians fleeing and many more on our screens in recent years. We also see those fleeing poverty, risking their lives, crossing paths with mafias who blackmail them and whose only aim is to reach Europe, the land they long for, the land of the footballers who, like them, have also crossed the world to fulfill their dreams. There are those who are lucky, those who meet good people when they arrive and survive until they get papers that allow them to work. But there are those who are less lucky, who are forced to commit crime in order to put something to eat in their mouths. People who end up hating the country they arrived in because it did not give them the opportunity they had hoped for.

Movements, displacements, comings and goings, dreams fulfilled but also broken dreams. Opportunities for some, despair for others. Uprootedness in many cases that can sink a person or give them wings to achieve a better life.

Over the last months we have been working on our Experts Meeting The Home and Displaced People to be held in Washington DC in September, supported by the Social Trends Institute.  Our academic director and meeting leader, Professor Sophia Aguirre, has assembled a panel of key contributors on the issues and impact of migration. Experts who understand what it means for people to leave their homes and roots and start a new life elsewhere.
Suzan Ilcan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Waterloo, and editor of Mobilities, Knowledge, and Social Justice, will be one of the experts contributing to The Home and Displaced people. Her work with refugees underlines the precarious nature of leaving and seeking home and some of the ways in which to understand the broader picture of an increasingly mobile world. Finding a place to call home and to feel at home is key to human thriving: at the heart of the vision of HRF and all those searching for home today.

Profitability…

This weekend, I witnessed a conversation at a family meal that got me thinking. There was a discussion about the cost-effectiveness of social science research. It is obvious that when a university institution, for example, invests funds in research into a type of cancer, it is likely to eventually produce results that are of interest both to science and to the advancement of the patient’s cure. But what happens when you invest money, personnel and time in research, for example, social relations in the neighbourhood, the era of disinformation, the evolution of house design or social tribes and their influence on art? Some people think that this type of analysis is not profitable and its conclusions look good in books and encyclopaedias, even as study material for future research, but they do not contribute real, quantifiable value to society.

The problem is how to value profitability, or rather, why value things only in terms of economic profitability. If we were to think only in terms of money, efficiency, results, there would be many aspects and even people that would seem useless to us and that we would discard because they are not profitable for society. But this vision would do a disservice to the already self-interested and utilitarian society we are building.

Without Anthropology we would not know man, without Philosophy we would not have asked ourselves the why of things, without Sociology we would not understand how human beings relate to each other, without Art we would not value creativity or the abstract aspects of life.

A youth centre is not profitable, each minor costs society about £100 a day, £36,500 a year, but the community makes every effort to ensure that the young people who have ended up there are able to obtain sufficient tools to integrate into society and be good men in the future. And I can think of many other examples like this one. We cannot think in terms of profitability when what is at stake is the person.

It is very sad that we are only able to pay attention when life is measured in figures. Institutions such as ours devote enormous efforts to defend and foster the well-being in homes without which the individual would not achieve the balance necessary to survive in this world that demands so much profitability.

Digital strategy for families

Fear of technology in the home should not paralyse us, much less leave us behind. We must be well aware of its advantages and disadvantages in order to use it correctly and get the best out of it. Experts say that good training and joint use by all members of the family help as everyone learns at the same time and the technology becomes a more natural part of the home.

Again the word training. Once again, we insist that if planning is necessary to manage the home, a digital strategy is needed to incorporate technologies into the home and has to be an important part of that plan. What company in today’s world that wishes to progress has not already thought about its digital strategy? Well, the home is no exception.

We could think that this is a fad and stay on the sidelines, but the truth is that realistically speaking, the world has changed and the way of life is different. Sooner or later technology comes into our lives. There is a large part of our daily lives that can no longer be done in any other way. We buy flights from our mobile phone, do our shopping with a simple App, book a table in a restaurant, make medical appointments… And increasingly people turn on lights, lower blinds, heat their house and clean with a simple click or by asking the virtual assistant.

Training. Training is necessary because the information is power. Tristan Harris, the former head of ethics at Google and one of the protagonists of the documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’, says that it is not only the technology industry that needs to know how social networks work, this information is available to everyone. In order to be freer and avoid being controlled, everyone should know how the big technology companies work, what their intentions are and what they want from us.

One of the experts who participated in the launch of our book in Madrid, Maria José Monferrer, created AIVERSE, a foundation with the aim of educating, training and familiarising families with artificial intelligence. That AI is not scary, that it is an attractive sector and that it opens the doors to a world of future employment possibilities for today’s teenagers who, due to lack of knowledge, only see technology as a form of entertainment, when it is a great opportunity.

We will talk about all this and much more in the upcoming launches of our book The Home in the Digital Age that we have already planned. The first will be virtual, with the Universidad Panamericana de México and in Spanish. Next Monday 24 January at 18.00h British time. To connect here is the link.

And the second one will be in person, in London, at the House of Commons next Monday 7th February, invited by Miriam Cates MP. The keynotes will be Stephen Davies, who is one of the authors of the book and head of education at the Institute of Economic Affairs and Tom Harrison, Director of Education at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, and author of the book Thrive: How to cultivate character so your children can flourish online.

If you want to keep up to date with our activity, in addition to subscribing to this blog, you can follow us on our social networks. Don’t forget to add a comment to this post if you have something to say and hopefully we’ll have the chance to meet again in 2022.

Hope

We were just starting to lead a relatively normal life when the new threat arrived in our lives. Omicron, once again, forces us to take extreme precautions, to be cautious with hugs and even to cancel some family gatherings in the coming days.
Even if the situation leads us to fall into discouragement, I would like to send with this last post of the year a brief message of HOPE, even at the risk of sounding corny.

Be mentally strong, even if pessimism gets the better of you, find the strength to spread joy, which is truly contagious. Nothing and nobody deserves that, precisely at this time of year, we feel sad. The promise of Christmas, of living what is important, of starting a new year, must win the battle against the virus. It is true that it is robbing us of trips, family moments, meetings with friends, but sooner or later we will get it back.

Let’s take advantage of this situation to get the best out of ourselves, to get to know ourselves even better, to live from the inside out, to reflect on our current life and consciously decide whether this is the lifestyle we want to embrace or whether we have been dragged into it until today.

Let us live the present with joy, yes, with the joy of feeling alive, of being alive.
And let’s dream, let’s dream a lot. May 2022 begin with new projects, new habits that help us to value what is important, which as we at Home Renaissance Foundation well know, what is important is usually the forgotten, the apparently unprofitable, the invisible, but at the same time what is essential to survive and overcome this and other crises that will come in the future.

Make home mean more than ever and love yours very much because it will be what you will have and keep forever.

Christmas Choices

In the past months, it has been impossible to ignore the cries for our world leaders to commit to combating climate disasters. From COP 26 to World Earth Call Day we see people coming together to share their stories of climate change and to try to make a difference.

Many of us have responded to the challenge of greener homes in recent years, perhaps by recycling more, by installing SMART energy meters or by switching to electric cars. Making greener choices.

Alongside the images of a warming planet what has also been striking is the level of wasted resources. Pictures of oceans full of plastic waste and of vast landfill sites are shocking indicators of a “throw-away” society.

If we look deeper and closer, we find other pictures. Those of people whose lives and livelihoods are affected by the wastefulness and “throw-away” actions of others. The places where children as young as seven work in dangerous conditions to produce the goods for a wasteful world. The homes where families are separated by the demands of punitive shift patterns. The very worst thing we can ever waste is other people. So a good question at any time of year, and especially at Christmas, is how do the choices I make in my home affect the choices and homes of others?

To do this we need to make informed choices. To take the time and trouble to find out where the things we are buying this Christmas come from. That gift might be packaged in bright and shiny wrappings but what are the conditions like in the far-away factory where it was made? Sadly, not so shiny in many cases.

In the midst of the busyness of our own lives, it is not always easy to take the time to find out, but increasingly charities and producers are helping us by making clear how, where and by whom things are made. In the United Kingdom Traidcraft has been a pioneer in this work. They sell only fairly traded and produced goods and gifts, often from small co-operatives working in developing countries. There are many other examples of this approach now. Ethical Consumer is an example of a site dedicated to providing real information on the products we buy.

This Christmas, as we very rightly take pleasure in decorating our homes and buying and receiving gifts, it would be good to know the glow was shared by those who made them. Truly, “Happy Christmas from my home to yours.”

AI at home? Let’s reflect!

Last week we had the opportunity to participate in a virtual meeting with the Argentinean association MIF, Mujeres Independientes Federales. On this occasion, taking advantage of the publication of our latest book ‘The Home in the Digital Age‘, they invited us to share the main conclusions about digital homes and the impact of technologies in our homes.

Matilde Santos, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid and author of one of the chapters of the book, focused her session on the impact of Artificial Intelligence in our lives. Obviously, the home is one of the places where we spend the most time and where our relationship with technology has the greatest influence since it is the space in which we guard our privacy.

Professor Santos, after a theoretical and practical presentation, in which she explained what Artificial Intelligence is and how present it is in our lives, encouraged us to reflect on the relationship that we decide to establish with technology. We cannot live in fear and worry about how this will affect our families, our children and even our relationships, if we do not make a calm and thorough analysis of what exactly our relationship is with these “smart devices” that we have incorporated into our lives. And how does one go about this reflection?

First, we must be aware that we are not talking about futuristic or galactic houses, but about real houses, our own homes, in which artificial intelligence lives with us in a natural way. This is changing the way we relate to each other, but are we aware of what we have changed by relying on Alexa or Siri to translate something for us or to tell us to take the potatoes out of the oven?

Would we be able to vacuum the house again, or redo the shopping list, or cook again if there were no intelligent robots? Would we be able to get to an unfamiliar place by car or on foot without GPS? In other words, to what extent do these gadgets that do things for us, override our abilities or even make us dependent?

Automating tasks that, for the person, and in this case, the homemaker, can be tedious, tiring and require little intelligence, saves us time and allows us to dedicate that time to other things, but are we aware that technology can sometimes fail? What are the consequences if the robot that feeds our dog fails? Do we have all our expectations placed on a machine? Is the fact that they make decisions for us overriding our thinking? Have we stopped thinking by mechanising decisions? Let us not forget that they help us, they do not replace us.

Finally, it is important to be aware that these “electronic devices” are little spies that analyse our behaviour, supposedly to offer us what best suits our tastes, our way of being, our way of life… But doesn’t the fact that they only offer us what we like impoverish the offer? Doesn’t it reduce our horizon? Doesn’t it limit our options?

In short, there are many questions on the table that require calm reflection in order to know individually how technology affects us and thus be able to assess and decide what impact we want it to have in our homes. The decision is ours, it can never be imposed.

The impact of technology in the home

“The levels of mental disorders, depression and even suicide have increased among the new generations of university students. It is an epidemic that has to do with the impact of technology on our way of life”, Ignacio Aizpún, director general of ATAM.

Madrid | 5 Nov 2021. On the occasion of the presentation of the book The Home in the Digital Age by the international think tank Home Renaissance Foundation, a round table discussion with experts took place last week at Telefónica Foundation to analyse the impact of technology in the home.

The impact of technology on homes and society as a whole is evident, “it is even transforming the way our minds communicate. This has consequences and is causing new diseases due to maladjustment,” explained Ignacio Aizpún, director general of ATAM.

The sociologist and member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts, Julio Díez Nicolás, stated that technology has been with us since the Stone Age, because human beings must survive. Thanks to human intelligence and life in society, people are adapting. “Technology has always been the fundamental factor of social change because it provides us with a different future. Today there are five inventions that will change our lives: artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, holograms and virtual reality,” said Díaz.

But what is Artificial Intelligence and how does it affect our daily lives? María José Monferrer, an engineer and founder of AIverse, tried to answer this question. She defined AI as a “multidisciplinary field of science and engineering whose aim is to create intelligent machines that emulate human intelligence and, eventually, surpass that intelligence. Therein lies the risk.

Monferrer warned that we have implemented some technologies in the home, but we are only at the beginning of the uses we will be able to make of AI. So it’s a good time to stop and assess the risks. It is important to think about how we can apply the rules to protect the fundamental rights at stake: personal data protection, privacy and non-discrimination.

ATAM is clear about the use of AI, as Aizpún stated, “we need to be able to process the information that AI provides us with in the form of data to learn more about the person, their situation, their health variables, their activity, their functioning, their context. Only by transmitting, governing and activating this data in a secure way will we be able to generate responses and solutions that allow the disabled or dependent person to continue living at home in optimal conditions of safety, health and integrity”.

The three speakers and the Director-General of Childhood, Family and Birth Promotion, Alberto San Juan, who closed the event, agreed on the importance of putting the person at the centre of this technological transformation and on continuous, personal and family training as a solution to many of the challenges presented by technologies in the home. “The family must be cared for as the most precious asset and this is done with love, patience and training. The lifelong School for Parents is still essential and necessary. In the Community of Madrid we are facing real dramas due to the misuse of technology among young people,” warned San Juan.

In 2008, the Community of Madrid created a service to help families, inviting them to discuss their concerns about the misuse of technology in the home.  Alberto San Juan explained “we attend to families with children between 10 and 18 years old. Families come when they suspect that their children’s relationship with technology is not good and is not helping family coexistence. Young people are sometimes betting on each other having a 24, 48, which means spending two days in a row playing games and connected to the Internet”.

Despite the risks that technology can pose for households, it was clear that technology is neutral, it is neither good nor bad, in itself, it depends on the use that people make of it, although Aizpún wanted to stress that we have an important mission, “we must create new social institutions, new models of social organisation that allow human beings to adapt to these new environmental conditions that technology is creating”.

Would you live in a prefabricated house?

How do you imagine a prefabricated house today? I don’t know much about the market for prefabs, I’ve always thought of it as something out of an American movie. But I have read that following the pandemic, the sale of prefabricated housing increased by 32% compared to 2020. And taking into account the price per square metre of housing in Europe and how complicated it is to buy somewhere as a young professional or newly married couple, I can understand that perhaps pods like this, made by the Asian company Nestron, could be attractive.

Of course, prefabs are a far cry from traditional brick housing and you would need to buy or rent a plot of land (which isn’t necessarily cheap or easy to find, unless you’re placing it on a relative’s property)  – plus obtain the required planning permission. You can buy one for €85,000, delivered to your home ready assembled.

It is a rather futuristic house in terms of its exterior aesthetics and interior design. Moreover, it is minimalist at its best. It consists of a surface area of 35 square metres on a single floor distributed across a total of 3 spaces: kitchen with dining room, bathroom and a bedroom that is complemented by a desk area. It can be extended to 2 rooms depending on the buyer’s needs. Windows are also an essential element of the pod with a large window in the bedroom and smaller, rectangular windows in the kitchen area to let in natural light.

The structure of the house is made of galvanised steel that is earthquake, hurricane and typhoon resistant and is guaranteed for 50 years. 90% of the materials used are recyclable at the end of their useful life. You can connect to conventional water, gas and sewage supplies or take advantage of the solar panel system that powers both batteries and composting toilets.

In addition, there are technological devices integrated into the home such as electronic locks, electric blinds, motion-detection lights. It also offers smart mirrors, wall-mounted tablets for home automation control, smart appliances and even smart toilets. If you still can’t imagine it, here is a video.

Would you consider buying one of these prefabs now or in the future? What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of home? Would it be suitable for young people seeking independence or starting a family? Perhaps for retired people wishing to downsize?