Don't let disruptive technologies disrupt life

I agree that Singaporeans need to rediscover our pioneering spirit so as to moderate our acceptance of disruptive technologies ("Revive disruptive spirit of yore"; Sept 7).

First, I have noticed that the conversation about automation and bold new business models tends to exclude one important group of consumers - the elderly. As a senior citizen myself, I have been acutely aware of this issue.

While it is true that many disruptive technologies are objectively faster, cheaper and better able to meet customers' needs, the less technology-savvy among us may not be able to fully reap these benefits.

Having grown up in an analogue world, and being inherently slow to adapt, senior citizens can and do experience difficulty adjusting to the wave of new technologies currently being rolled out.

For example, on a recent trip to the cinema, I had to purchase tickets from a row of dispensing machines. The poorly designed touchscreen interface and lack of clear instructions were bewildering, even for someone used to operating a smartphone.

While I was able to enlist box-office staff to assist me, I noticed that many other elderly customers around me simply walked away out of frustration.

Similarly, I have heard complaints from friends who are reluctant to use ride-hiring services such as Uber because the mobile app, service model and pricing are seemingly difficult to comprehend.

We must not forget our elderly consumers, especially considering our greying population.

Second, we must bear in mind that the convenience of disruptive technologies comes at the cost of livelihoods for employees made redundant, or cabbies outmatched by a service that dwells in a grey area.

In the final analysis, as we embark on the march of progress, we must spare a thought for those we risk leaving behind.

For the elderly, perhaps Singapore firms could explore this market niche of tailoring new technologies, simplifying them and improving user-friendliness.

For the displaced, we must strive to find the middle ground between economic efficiency and social responsibility.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi