by Lindsay Wong
We all know that technology has greatly impacted the world, from saving lives to creating jobs. But can technology save humanity? Social issues have existed since the beginning of humanity, and there are no signs of social issues being eradicated anytime soon. As long as there are people in the world, social issues will continue to be a problem. Increasingly, technology has been effectively used to alleviate social issues.
Although mental health has always been a taboo subject in Asia, it’s a serious issue that a significant portion of the population deals with. Depression and anxiety are conditions that millions of people suffer from. One great feature of technology is anonymity; people don’t have to be ashamed when using technology for these purposes because they are literally hidden behind a screen. Some people are able to share more and be open about their mental health.
There are several free apps that can assist in improving mental health, such as Happify, TalkLife and Moodpath. These apps mainly help people talk openly about mental health to a community, gain support, track their moods, assess mental health to decide if more professional help is needed, provide coping mechanisms, identify troubles or feelings, or brighten moods with fun games and activities. Such apps won’t completely cure depression or anxiety, but they can alleviate it.
Poverty is another serious long-standing social issue that remains a huge problem. Millions of people around the world don’t have access to food, clean water, and shelter.
One way in which technology is helping is with the existence of artificial intelligence (AI) which helps the problem by gathering information needed to help develop and improve conditions. Technology can also be used to create jobs and widen job prospects in developing countries as they gain greater access to the Internet. Apps we use today – like Grab, Deliveroo or foodpanda – give these people access to a marketplace where anyone can deliver goods and be paid for their services. This would allow those in poverty to economically sustain themselves.
Furthermore, technology helps to lower the cost of production, which is vital in reducing poverty, as households would be able to get access to basic needs.
In recent decades, loneliness has become a crippling social issue that affects a huge portion of the adult population all over the developed world. It’s a social issue that technology can tackle, although it does have its good and bad sides.
The main way to deal with loneliness is to form connections with others. Creating and fostering connections online can lead to meetings in person, alleviating the issue of loneliness. For example, the social network Meetup links people who share similar interests with in-person events.
Furthermore, apps and virtual reality can also help connect people through new technologies like Push to Talk, Alcove VR and Rendever (for seniors). Even voice services like Siri and Alexa encourage some form of interaction. While people have argued that technology discourages in-person interaction, it definitely has the ability to reduce loneliness because it still connects people, albeit virtually.
For the older generation, dementia is both a social and medical issue. This medical condition significantly impacts a person’s ability to socialise with others, including loved ones.
Technology can support patients with dementia with innovations such as specialised clocks that reduce anxiety, communication aids that enable greater digital and more frequent interactions with loved ones, location tracking devices, home care robots and robotic pets, and monitoring devices. Local startup Mind Palace is a VR app that allows patients to visit a place in their memory to help alleviate anxiety.
These devices not only relieve the burden of caregivers but also make their duties easier. As a result, dementia patients can lead a happier life with more social interactions which could be highly beneficial to them.
Mental health, poverty, loneliness, and dementia are just a few of the problems that technology can tackle, but there are many other social issues that innovation can also help to alleviate. As people get even more creative and time allows technology to develop further, the list will only continue to get longer.