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What is technophobia and how to deal with it?

Authors of scholar paper in Behavioral Sciences defined technophobia as extreme and abnormal fear of effects of advanced technology. According to research, technophobia demonstrates through irrational behaviors not only toward technology artefacts such as computers, drones, autonomous vehicles, but also toward advanced-technology-related phenomena of work automation, or personal data processing in the cyberspace.

Particular type of technophobia is fear of not being able to understand or learn to use given technology. Research results claims that up to 1/3 of world’s population might be affected by various types of technophobia. A group that is particularly prone to technophobia are the elderly.

Older people have much less experience in usage of advanced technologies compared to generations of digital natives. Less experience in usage of technology impairs self-awareness and capabilities related with understanding of technology and results in anxiety, stress and reluctance of usage of modern technologies at all. Such attitude, often called anti-digital, results in exclusion from participation in life of society, and lessens ones autonomy and ability to develop new cognitive, social and occupational capabilities.

Research published in Frontiers in Psychology draw attention to the fact that technophobia not only results in negative effects in social domain, but also might cause a drop in productivity and effectiveness at work. Authors of the research published pay particular attention to an impact of technophobia on acceptance and usage of modern care delivery technologies, especially in telehealth and telemedicine, including video consultations with clinicians or other remote health-monitoring solutions.

Both people affected by technophobia and technology producers should strive to find remedies for fear, low absorption and reluctance toward modern technologies. Technology itself, understood as the way of preparation and execution of given good or information seems to be neither good nor bad. It is usage of given technology that stratifies the values people attribute to technology.

One of areas for conscious technophobia prevention and alleviation is user experience design based on consumer research at early stage of new technology design. An example of such fear-preventing approach is are autonomous vehicles of Waymo that resemble  toys, that many people remember from their childhood.

People fearing technologies can keep up with trends through dedicated portals, such as TrendWatching, TrendNomad or blogs and podcasts, good example of which is The Medical Futurist led by Bertalan Mesko dedicated to care delivery of the future. They can also consider enrolling to massive open online courses or postgraduate studies dedicated to this topic e.g. Technologies and Processes of the Future led at Warsaw School of Economics.

Instructions and explanatory videos about various technologies, available at Youtube can also help in the daily practice of harnessing technologies. Also, more and more technology providers offer virtual helpdesks  and educational info-lines for existing and prospective customers.

Area that requires special dedication are educational and social initiatives channeled toward elderly, such as Intra-Generation Dancing initiative, where elderly learn to use new technologies for virtual meetings and activities, needed so much in particular in times of recent pandemic.

According to OECD 9% of work places in 20 most developed countries of the world is at risk of automation. In parallel populations of these countries are getting older dynamically (forecasted 53% at 65+ age in 2050 versus 28% in 2015). Report of OECD indicates that 60% of people in productive age does not have sufficient capabilities for jobs that are being created. The lack of capabilities relates in particular to usage of modern information and telecommunication technologies. Capabilities needed to keep up with new job opportunities worldwide, according to a report of World Economic Forum, relate to robotics, big data, machine learning, augmented intelligence, digital transformation, and processes automation These capabilities are active learning, complex problem solving, new solutions design and innovation thinking. In conclusion, the remedy for technophobia is continued learning to understand and use new technologies for the purposes that matter, such as sustainable development and higher quality of life in good health.

1st version of this post has been published in Polish in SGH Newspaper on 30.11.2020. Feedback received, encouraged me to work on its English edition published here.