Youth On Tech: How might technology influence our health?

November 25, 2019
Matthew Hellon
Junior Research Executive

Youth on Tech has already discussed the polarising effects of current technology on youth’s mental health. However, this, the penultimate article in the Youth on Tech series, will focus on how future technologies may change the way we deliver and experience healthcare.

robots could be the answer to rising social care demands

The cost, and demand for, social care is likely to increase significantly in the UK as the baby boomer generation enters old age. This challenge is compounded by reduced funding and more complex needs. This opens up the opportunity for technology to help in the form of social care robots, something Japan has been heavily investing in. Moreover, it seems the use of robots as social carers is something youths are particularly receptive to.

74% of youths would like to see robots help people combat loneliness and 63% would like robots to look after their parents when they are very old. Youths are particularly important in the conversation around social care robots as they will be decision makers when their parents are in need of care. Their acceptance of robots used in this context is positive for those working in the social care robotics space.

youths are less receptive to robots treating physical injuries

Youths, however, are split on the use of robots to treat physical injuries. Only half of youths would like a robot to diagnose their injury/illness or be operated on by a robot. Whilst surgeons are still essential, robots have already begun to change the way surgery is conducted. For example, robots allow rapid training of keyhole survey which utilises small incisions via special equipment. This leads to faster recovery and reduced pain for patients. Given the split in opinion on robot surgeons, many youths still see a place for human involvement in the treatment and judgement of physical injuries.

ultimately, diagnosis and treatment by robots in hospitals is less appealing to youths than companionship and care. But what about cybernetic augmentation?

youths think that technological enhancement will occur in their lifetime

In the future, instead of just using robots for social and physical care, we may use robotics pre-emptively to enhance ourselves. In 2016, Elon Musk argued that we were already Cyborgs given the “partial version” of ourselves we live online. However, Musk also argues that in the future we will see much closer integration of technology and biology much like this year’s breakthrough whereby a paralysed man was able to walk in a mind-controlled exoskeleton.

Youths are in agreement that a melding of humans and computers will occur in their lifetimes. Only 7% believe that no one will be using technological enhancements. This belief is met with a mixture of excitement and concern.

Much like the increased concern shown by older youths towards future technology seen in last month’s Youth on Tech, older youths are less excited than younger youths about the prospect of technological enhancements. The idea that biology can be adapted for one’s lifestyle, such as improving memory or increasing attractiveness, is a scary concept to many older youths.

retiring at 73 and living to 93

Taking into account youth’s opinion on care giving robots and cybernetic augmentation, it is clear technology will continue to have a significant impact on our health. Most youths think that this impact will be positive. 63% think that they will lead a healthier life than their parents’ generation as a direct result of new technologies.

What does a healthier life mean for life expectancy? From 48 years in 1950 to 72.2 years in 2017, youths think that in 50 years’ time global life expectancy will rise to 93 years old. This is coupled with an increase in the retirement age. According to youths, in 2068, we will be working until we are 73 years old. This is perhaps a conservative estimate given all the changes youths expect to see in their education, work and healthcare we’ve explored throughout the Youth on Tech series.

This penultimate article in the series concludes our exploration of the findings from the survey. The final Youth on Tech article will also be released this November. It will cover how the insights from this project were shared with over 7,900 CEOs at one of the world’s largest technology conferences.

This post was originally published on Research World

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