Old by obsolescence: The paradox of aging in the digital era

Bioethics (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Geroscience and philosophy of aging have tended to focus their analyses on the biological and chronological dimensions of aging. Namely, one ages with the passage of time and by experiencing the cellular-molecular deterioration that accompanies this process. However, our concept of aging depends decisively on the social valuations held about it. In this article, we will argue that, if we study social aging in the contemporary world, a novel phenomenon can be identified: the paradox of aging in the digital era. If the social understanding of aging today is linked to unproductivity and obsolescence; then there is a possibility that, given the pace of change of digital technologies, we become obsolete at an early chronological and biological age, and therefore, feel old at a younger age. First, we will present the social dimension of aging based on Rowe and Kahn's model of successful aging. We will also show that their notion of social aging hardly considers structural aspects and weakens their approach. Second, departing from social aging in its structural sense, we will develop the paradox of aging in the digital era. On the one hand, we will explain how the institutionalization of aging has occurred in modern societies and how it is anchored in the concepts of obsolescence and productivity. On the other hand, we will state the kind of obsolescence that digitalization produces and argue that it can make cohorts of biologically and chronologically young individuals obsolete, and thus they would be personally and socially perceived as old.

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