Tech Talk  

Big Brother is watching

Everything we type into a search engine is being recorded:

  • Every email and text message we send
  • every social media post we submit
  • every comment we make
  • our likes and dislikes
  • our social status
  • our beliefs
  • our attitudes
  • our political and religious views
  • our lifestyle
  • our friends
  • our purchases
  • the places we frequent
  • the causes we support
  • our sexual orientation, values, morals.

It’s all being recorded online.

The fact that all of our online activities are being permanently recorded should concern all of us who live in a free and democratic society where our privacy is allegedly protected.

The tech companies collecting our information would have us believe that doing so is necessary in order to serve us better, and is ultimately in our best interest.

They insist that our data is safe and will only be used in a responsible manner that respects our right to privacy.

Given all the recent online data breaches over the last several years, the claim of keeping our data safe certainly warrants some healthy scepticism at the very least.

And trusting that our data will be used responsibly in a way that respects our privacy is also up for debate if the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal of 2018 is any example. They harvested the personal information of millions of users without their consent for political purposes.

While people today have become more aware and concerned about the potential theft of their financial and personal identification online, they remain relatively unconcerned and unaware of the potential unintended consequences posed by all of their other online personal information and activities.

Take for example, social media — much of what you publish online resides in the public domain for all to see whether you realize it or not. This information can impact your life in ways you may have not realized.

A recent and growing trend has seen potential employers, financial institutions, insurance adjusters, universities and other organizations reviewing people’s social media profiles as part of a new criteria in making decisions.

Many people would be very surprised to learn how much information can be found about them online. And perhaps, more shockingly, many people are unaware that their the online activity they perceive is private is not, but is often accessible in the public domain online, if you know where to look.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your online activities are private or that your social media posts are harmless and inconsequential. Everything you post online in the public domain will inevitably face scrutiny and be ultimately judged in the court of public opinion.

Even seemingly harmless posts can easily be taken out of context online and result in backlash.

People have lost job opportunities, financing, educational entrance and business as a result of their social media and online activities.

Always exercise discretion with all of your social media posts and online activities. If you truly value your privacy, then don’t post anything online that you want to remain private, because it ultimately not private.

Posting online about the time you were at a party and got so drunk you danced on the tables, may seem funny to you and your friends, but may be viewed differently by others.


Shopping the tech way

You can use technology to save you money — and reduce your stress.

Each year, the cost of living increases, outpacing the average living wage, and resulting in a slow but steady decrease of our disposable income.

Mitigating the effects of higher inflation is usually achieved by tightening up our purse strings and cutting unnecessary expenses; however, doing so at this time of year poses a huge challenge for many as we often exceed our budgets and end up in the red after the holiday shopping blitz.

Marketers are exceptionally good at knowing what makes us tick and how to trigger impulse buying during the holidays.

Before you throw caution to the wind and venture onsite to do your holiday shopping, let me tell you how to gain the upper hand by leveraging your computing technology.

Not only will you be more likely to stretch your dollar farther and save a bunch of money, but you will save tons of time, be less frustrated, reduce your risk of catching a flu or cold, and minimize your ecological foot print on the environment as well.

I propose that you do the bulk of your holiday shopping this year online in the comfort of your own home or office, and have the products delivered.

Most people are aware that the majority of popular retail stores have websites who’s products can be browsed and ordered online.

What many people may not know is that most online retailers usually offer some discounted price points exclusively for items purchased online.

The typical online discounts can range anywhere from 10-50% off depending on the items. While it’s true that most items will likely fall into the lower range, the time and fuel savings will result in a substantial savings in your overall purchases.

There’s also a bonus: a huge reduction in stress by avoiding busy traffic, hectic packed stores and huge line ups.

I don’t know about you, but being sick over the holidays doesn’t make me overly jolly and of good cheer. Avoiding overly crowded retails outlets will greatly reduce your risk of catching a flu or cold.

This time of year, is one of the busiest times for traffic and accidents. Shopping online will minimize your time in traffic, statistically reducing your likelihood of being involved in an accident and being banged up for the holidays.

During this busy time of year, you may also want to pay your bills online, which will further leverage all the previous mentioned benefits. Another way to use your computing technology to save money over the holidays is to use things such as Skype.

You can communicate with family members who couldn’t make it and reside out of country in areas that aren’t covered in your unlimited North America long distance plans.

Also, if your considering taking in a movie over the holidays, you may want to consider purchasing one from the comfort of your own home from one of the many available streaming services online.

Netflix, Apple and Google all offer streaming services with thousands of movie titles to choose from. Shaw and Telus also offer on demand movie viewing to their subscribers as well.

Most of these services rent movies for between $4-$7 dollars, a fraction of the cost of taking everyone out to the movies and your guaranteed premium seating too.

Don't throw away the gold

Computer and electronic related waste remains a local and global problem, despite our progress made to clean it up the last several years.

More computers and electronics are being recycled today, but some estimates suggest that 80 per cent of electronic waste scheduled for recycling in North America is shipped overseas to be taken apart by low-wage workers.

While many vendors and recycling organizations do a good job of recovering unwanted computing products and other electronics for proper disposal, there's still no nationally accepted method for dealing with such electronic waste.

The tech industry is realizing that recycling isn't just good for the environment. Because manufacturing costs can be reduced by using recycled materials and refurbished products can pull additional revenue out of tech that was destined for the scrap heap.

Public awareness has increased greatly, but there are plenty of people who still don't realize how to properly dispose of their old computers, smart phones, gaming devices and other electronics.

Did you know that only about 10 per cent of all discarded computers are recycled in North America, meaning millions of computers could be leaking harmful chemicals into the environment?

Of the 10 per cent that are recycled, not all are recycled in an environmentally friendly way. You see, it's far more cost-effective to send old computers and electronics over seas to be broken down into raw materials, often by poor workers who don't take the proper precautions to protect themselves or the environment.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be a few recycling companies that choose this option to maximize profits, so long as our governments legislation allows it to happen.

Computers and other electronics can contain lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, among other things, which have all been shown to have harmful effects on humans.

(If they enter the body, that is. You needn't worry about their presence in the computer while you're filling out an Excel spreadsheet.)

Computers, smart phones, tablets, game consoles and many other electronics are also made of plastics that give off toxic fumes if they are burned.

Decreasing production costs, and a rapidly changing internet combined with consumer demand for faster more powerful tech has only contributed to this problem, significantly shortening the length of time before older equipment is replaced and discarded.

Sadly, much of the tech, computers in particular, are often discarded much sooner than necessary. and have often not reached their full life expectancy.

Tech companies have done a good job of convincing us that we should always have the latest and greatest. And even if you're frugal and hold onto stuff for as long as possible, you may still be forced to upgrade sooner than necessary.

Apple is in the midst of a class action law suit that alleges they were aware of a recent software update to their iPhones that caused performance issues for older models, and required customers to replace them with newer models to resolve the issue.

Let's all do our part to improve this issue for future generations. If you have any unwanted computing products or other electronics, I recommend you take it to the Battery Doctor, as all of the recyclables are sent to the Cominco smelter in Trail and fully recycled from there.

Alternatively, before you take any old computers away to be recycled, I would also encourage you to call around to the various charities. Many of these organizations are under funded and can often use older computers for less demanding tasks, freeing up resources for other things.

Want to live forever?

The worldwide average life expectancy rates have almost doubled over the years, from a dismal 34 to 66.

Today, in 2018 Canadians have some of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, with an average life expectancy of 82.

The increase in life expectancy is largely a result of improved hygiene and medical interventions such as vaccinations and antibiotics. Improved living conditions, clean water and agriculture have also contributed to the increase in life expectancy rates as well.

Unfortunately, this trend has begun to plateau and even decline as modern society has adopted more sedentary lifestyles and diets that are abundant with heavily processed foods.

Our advances in science and technology have done an excellent job of mitigating the risks of infectious diseases.

The gains we've made in life expectancy rates combined with modern lifestyles has made us more susceptible to age related diseases such as:

  • heart disease
  • Alzheimer's
  • dementia
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • diabetes.

Ironically, while our life expectancy rates have increased, our quality of life generally diminishes as we get older.

My father-in-law frequently quips that getting older is no fun and jokingly insists that I never get any older. At which point, we both usually laugh and then the subject changes to something much lighter and less sobering.

The thing is though, he's not totally wrong. I'll be turning 50 this December and while I lead a very active and healthy lifestyle, I'm not going to lie, my body just doesn't feel like it did when I was 20.

In my experience, most people, including me, have no issue with getting older, it's the increased risk of disease, loss of functionality, cognitive decline and other age related health issues associated with aging that concern us.

We have come to accept that aging and death are natural, inevitable facts of life we must all come to terms with.

But science and technology are challenging these long-held perceptions and rapidly changing the way we think about aging.

A rapidly growing body of research is approaching a consensus that aging can not only be stopped, but that it can even be reversed.

Many people are under the impression that life extension research merely seeks to extend human life. The primary goal of life extension research is to increase healthy human lifespan.

In other words, helping humans age without the accompanying diseases and disabilities. Imagine being able to live several hundred years in perfect health with youthful attributes.

Tremendous progress has been made within the longevity community.

In fact, several different medical interventions, each designed to slow and reverse various aspects in the aging process, are currently in clinical trials and fast approaching the development stage.

The first product to market will be likely be a class of drugs called senolytics. These drugs slow one aspect of aging by reducing the amount of dysfunctional senescent cells that tend to accumulate as we age and lead to wide spread health issues in our bodies.

Technology virtually eliminated infectious diseases, gave us antibiotics and put a man on the moon. Based on the current trajectory, many experts predict that science and technology will bring aging under medical control sometime within the next decade or two.

Human kinds loftiest ambition of biological immortality is quickly moving from science fiction to science fact.

Do you wanna live forever?

More Tech Talk articles

About the Author

Trevor Sharp is a computer-support specialist, and has been helping people with computing issues for more than 25 years.

Trevor lives in Kelowna with his wife and five kids, and owns and operates a mobile computer business providing on-site tech support for home and business customers.

Trevor is here to help your home or business with any computing issue,

Contact Info:

email: [email protected]

website: www.okanagancomputerservices.com

blog: www.okanagancomputerservices.com/blog

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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