Monday, September 19, 2011

Services possibly needed

I have fantasized about some new services and occupations.  I don't actually know for sure that these are new.  They might be available now somewhere.  

1- I notice that older people who live alone, about 25% of men over the age of 75 and 49% of women over that age, might be able to use a little help in keeping track of their activities and their time.  Some aspects of such a task could be mechanized, computerized.  Over time, the sophistication and helpfulness of the software would rise.

For a start, I envision an agent for say, five dollars a month, who keeps a limited version of the client's schedule.  When a new event or appointment is scheduled, the service would enter into that client's schedule, check how much time such an addition would probably require, note the client's profile in terms of health, energy level, boredom level, and other such variables as included by the client.  If the event seems likely fit the demands of the schedule, fine.  If not, a warning email or automated phone call would advise the client to cancel or limit the new obligation.

Since I have frequent contact with great-grandchildren who represent the elementary school and pre-nursery school population, I can see the many, many things that parents provide at that age.  We also have frequent contact with 80- and 90-year olds and in general, no one seems knowledgeable and motivated to assist them in watching over the scheduling of their time.  If they had a secretary or personal assistant, that might not be true.  

Many interactions between humans and machines can benefit from at least some human oversight.  At least up to now, a human, especially with a little training and experience, might be able to sense a problem in a person's life that software or any cut-and-dried system, even with many contingencies, could not detect.  

Such an agent's responsibilities might split between a talented, intelligent and motivated high school or early college student and some sort of supervisor of more maturity and education.  Of course, assurances of one type or another would be needed for the security of the data possessed by the service.  Detailed information about finances, medical needs, and simple location information needs to be available only to trusted agents and not to thieves or muggers or others seeking to harm or exploit the clients.

2 and 3- A bit more radical service would attempt to improve marital relations by purchased and then enforced confinement of a couple who have lost the habit of actually paying attention to each other.  Similarly, purchased and carefully delineated beforehand, a service to confine a person desperate to lose weight to a highly controlled environment where a limited number of calories were provided for a week or so might be of interest.  Those who want to break a smoking, drinking or computer addiction might also be interested.

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