Many of you may have heard the story of the old mother mouse who one day decided to take her two recently-born babies outside for their first expedition out of her well-protected nest. Once in the grass, the mother mouse looked behind her and saw that they were being hunted by a very large cat. She quickly guided her two babies into a small crack in a fence, but to her horror the cat was following and she and her young ones were cornered, with the cat moving in for the kill. Suddenly the mother mouse ran forward toward the cat on her hind legs and in the loudest voice she could manage said: “RUFF, RUFF, RUFF.” The startled cat turned and fled. The mother mouse returned to her terrified babies and said: “Now do you see the benefits of a second language?”
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like were supposed to bring all of us together. Instead, they are dividing our society and reshaping our minds.
All of us are profoundly affected by changing technologies. Many of you reading this have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or may use other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. We take computers and platforms for granted, as though they always existed. How our world has transformed over the last 30 years!
The Internet is an encyclopedia of easily accessible information. Ask your smartphone a question and a female voice will come back with the answer in a matter of seconds. Now children can give orders to Alexa and Cortana: “Alexa, vacuum my room.” “Cortana, turn on the light.”
The benefits of these new technologies, devices and programs are obvious, but are cracks in our electronic media structure beginning to appear? Some authorities say yes, and are sounding alarm bells. For instance, there are privacy concerns. How much of our private lives is sold and to whom? Are Google, Amazon, Microsoft or others eavesdropping on us? Who may be hacking into our home security systems? But the concerns go further. What is this new world doing to us, and where are we heading? The World Wide Web, social media and the devices that make it all possible are changing how we spend our time, how we communicate and how we relate with one another.
Take, for example, Alexa and similar “digital assistant” devices. Some authorities are concerned that small children can become confused over the difference between real and imaginary people. They have concerns regarding communication skills. Who is teaching please and thank you? Who is monitoring the tone of voice and attitude? Are we training our children to become bossy—“unfriendly users” of “user friendly” devices? Will they relate with real people the same way?
And, is Alexa or Cortana replacing God in their lives? Consider this: “Alexa, ask meditation studio to play a meditation.” Your child may get what is described as follows: “Slow breathing is yoga practice that increases oxygen levels in your brain and expels toxins, reduces stress, boosts the immune system and strengthens the lungs and heart.” That sounds innocuous enough to many, but is it? Does it simply help one relax, or open one to Hindu practices and ideas about what meditation is?
Studies show younger generations increasingly consider the elderly to be a “burden on society.” Is that true? What does God’s word reveal?
Most people accept average life expectancy as a general gauge of a country’s overall health. In most parts of the ancient world, life was short—especially in cities. Average life expectancy in the Roman Empire was around 25 years. Flash forward to the 20th century, where improvements in sanitation, medicine, and nutrition increased average life expectancy to 50 years in many developed nations—like Canada. By 2011, that number had reached 81 (“Life Expectancy,” conferenceboard.ca).
Today in Canada, the number of people 65 years old and over exceeds those 14 years old and younger. According to the National Post, “StatCan said the latest figures were driven by a trend that took root in 2011 and has continued to accelerate—the aging of the baby boomers… Baby boomers now account for 30 per cent of the senior demographic, the agency said” (McQuigge, Michelle, “Canadian seniors outnumber children for the first time in recorded history, StatsCan says,” NationalPost.com, September 29, 2015).
The ever-growing baby boomer population strains Canada’s pension support system. The eligibility age for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is 65 years, just a year younger than the average lifespan in Canada when the plan was first introduced. Since then, the average lifespan has increased by almost 20 years.