Tech Talk  

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?

Practical Christmas gifts

The holiday season is fast approaching and with it comes the inevitable hustle and bustle of frantic shoppers searching for the perfect gifts.

Of course, everyone has their own ideas as to what constitutes the perfect gifts. If you ask my kids, they will undoubtedly say video games for the entertainment value.

The in-laws will, however, always insist that practical gifts such as socks and underwear are best.

If you are like me and can't decide on gifts that are practical or fun, I have good news, you don't have to.

Here are a few tech gift ideas for the techie and non-techie in your life that are both practical and fun.

First on my list is a pair of wireless headphones for your television.

This is an especially great gift if you have a large family with kids, allowing you or your kids to watch programs without being disruptive or having to listen over others.

The higher end systems allow multiple headphones on one television, which is very useful for places with low noise tolerance.

Next is digital assistant appliances such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo.

These small appliances are about the size of a can of soup and are usually placed somewhere in the living room or kitchen area of your home.

These devices connect to the internet over your wireless home network and utilize a voice activated virtual assistant.

The assistants can play music for you, tell you stories, get answers to questions, assist in making online purchases, find recipes or make dinner reservations, and many more things. The setup is really easy and using the appliance requires virtually no learning curve.

If you manage a large household, are always short of time or have dust allergies, you may really appreciate the robot Roomba wi-fi.

This device is an autonomous robotic vacuum that can be quickly programmed with your iPhone, and vacuums your carpets on an automated schedule with no interaction on your part, other than to empty it on occasion.

Beyond the obvious practicality, they make for a great conversation piece and are surprisingly fun to watch as well.

For the travellers in your life my next suggestion may be the perfect gift.

Google's Pixel buds fit in your ears and use Google's AI system to translate over 40 different languages in real time.

This virtually guarantees a more practical, interesting and fun trip the next time they travel.

My last suggestion is for those seeking alternatives to traditional cable TV.

Streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube are rapidly becoming the new standard for delivering media content to our homes.

Streaming devices such as Roku or Apple TV are a little bigger than a cellphone and connect to the internet over your home network to provide easy access to many of the most popular streaming services online.

Whatever gift you decide to get this year, practical or fun, just remember, it's the thought that counts.


Imagining the future

I've always had a fascination with technology, often imagining the many ways it could shape our world, and what that might look like.

From flying cars to hover boards, there was no end to the possibilities. And, at the time, nothing seemed too far fetch or out of reach. 

Well, It's been more than 40 years since my childhood imaginings, and, as you can probably guess, my expectations and reality didn't always pan out as I had hoped or imagined. While flying cars and hover boards are a reality today, they only exist in prototype forms, unavailable to the general public.

Sadly, we also remain without a cure for the common cold, which many earlier futurists had also predicted would come into fruition by now. Unless you're one of the many internet conspiracy theorists, who would have us all believe that our governments are reverse engineering alien tech and keeping such cures to themselves.

But don't get too caught up in their sensational spin, as many of these same conspiracy advocates also believe the Earth is flat. 

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed about the flying cars, but we do have much better medicines to manage the common cold. And we're making lots of progress with flight-based technologies such as piloted drones, so there's still plenty of reason to remain optimistic.

The fact is, predicting the path and timeline that technology will take is nothing more than an educated guess. We can do our best to extrapolate future developments based on the data of our past and present trajectory, but its still just a guess, and I wouldn't go betting the ranch on it.

I totally understand how the lack of accuracy regarding such predictions can make people jaded and cynical as a result. But I can assure you that there is much reason to be hopeful in spite of this.

While it's true that past technology predictions have not always transpired as predicted, its also equally true that past skepticism and predictions of technological failures have also been wrong.

History is riddled with skeptics who scoffed at inventors. The Wright brothers were called fools by many of the top experts in their day and proved them all wrong. Historically, society has often underestimated the rate at which technology has developed.

Over the years, as I've gained a better understanding of the development process that technology tends to follow, and while I've certainly tempered my expectations, I'm also more optimistic than ever. The one thing we can all be certain of is that technology will continue advancing and moving forward.

Technology is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of human ambition.

The fruition of our desire to transcend our biological limitations, re-shaping the world and bending it to our will. Technology will continue to fascinate, inspire and give us all hope for a better tomorrow.

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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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