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At a panel this morning, someone asked Vint Cerf, who is recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet: If you knew what it would become, would you have still started the internet?
Vint didn't pause. Of course, he said. "This is too much fun!"
Several of the Orlando@50+ panels in the past few days have tackled the web, the penchant for fun inherent in technology in general, and what's coming next in our increasingly digital country.
We've been empowered by the web, panelists told us.
Because of the increasing availability of the web, we can fact check journalists, research car prices, and ask educated questions of doctors.
New technologies also help us keep healthy and keep aging relatives safe, said Chuck Parker of Continua. You can send health information (like heart rate from a wrist monitor) directly to your doctor's office. Sensors placed around a home can provide family members updates on an aging relative's daily activities.
Young people, digital natives, are distinctly different in some ways and can present challenges for their family members. They don't wear watches and sleep with a cell phone within arm's reach. Filmmaker Rob Reiner told us that he had to learn to text in order to keep in touch with his college age son.
The virtual world is changing too. Brands are ditching Super Bowl ads for web campaigns. Political candidates have been avoiding editorial boards and use social media instead. Word of mouth has always been the best, most trusted way of marketing. Social media just takes it to a new level.
The heaviest users of social media are in their 70s, said Jeffrey Cole of the USC Annenberg School's Center for the Digital Future.
It's never too late to join up, and don't let your kids discourage you.
They might tell you not to be on Facebook because they are already on the site, said online marketer Susan Getgood. Tell them "Too bad!"
At age 65, her mom started a Serenity fan site to stay connected with the community of folks who liked the show. Now has friends around the world.
The ability to connect with people with common interests regardless of geography is amazing. But Cole suggests some caution.
We have friends all over the world, he said. But we still need to know how to connect with the people next door.
Reiner is more optimistic. One in four Americans used to tune into the same TV show every night, providing a common ground for our country. In an increasingly fractured world with more than three networks, the internet brings us together and allows us to start a dialog.
Soon internet connectivity will be omnipresent like electricity, said Cole. It will just be there and we won't have think about it. This will free up time to spend with loved ones.
Soon all movies will be all digital only, said Reiner. You won't own copies; instead, you'll have instant access to huge libraries even on the road.
Flora Goldthwaite showed off an interactive Microsoft home that you can talk to, adjusting your environment around you. Entire walls of the house were composed of digital displays, making decorating easy. You can change the color of a room with a touch!
Kitchens will suggest recipes based on what ingredients you have in stock. Smart appliances will tell you when the least expensive time to use them is. Sensors will remind you to water plants, giving us all green thumbs.
Outside the home, cars will be able follow each other on auto pilot and pivoting wheels will make parallel parking easy, said Tom Kurfess of Clemson University.
Some of these new technologies will require some adjustments. For example, electric, plug-in cars will need 240-volt sockets, which are currently installed primarily in kitchens and laundry rooms.
What to Adopt
The Internet has a very peculiar quality in that it doesn't forget things, said Cerf.
So it's important to be aware what information your're sharing, and don't feel pressured to adopt every new thing.
The 50+ crowd wants sensible technology that fits their lives, said technologist Michael Rogers. Younger folks might adjust their lives around the new technology, but that's not necessarily the best use of your time.
Not every new technology works for everyone, he said. Stay informed and decide what works for you.
This post written by Kim Loop.