Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Web Secret 468: ThinOPTICS

At what age will you need reading glasses?

When I was young, I was a bit off with my guess.

By several decades.

I thought I wouldn't need reading glasses until I was in my eighties.

In fact, the average age at which Americans get reading glasses is around 40. By age 45 most of us are doomed.

And here's the truth: reading glasses are a pain in the neck.

People lose them, forget them, and otherwise never seem to have them on hand when they need them.

It's SUPER annoying.

Thank the Lord for ThinOPTICS.

They are wafer thin, weightless, pince-nez, that fold into an insubstantial case you can attach to the back of your smartphone.

They come in 6 different colors, or, if you want more visual excitement, in designer patterns.

For under $30.

You can thank me now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Web Secret 467: Slouching towards Gattaca

To this day, one of the finest and most important science fiction films I have ever seen is Gattaca (1997).

Briefly, the movie depicts a time in "the not-too-distant future", when eugenics is common. A genetic registry database uses biometrics to classify those so created as "valids," while those conceived by traditional means and thus more susceptible to genetic disorders are known as "in-valids". Genetic discrimination is illegal, but in practice genotype profiling is used to identify valids and qualify them for professional employment while in-valids are relegated to menial jobs.

After I watched Gattaca, 20 years ago, I knew that all I had to do is sit back and wait, and past would become prologue.

On April 6, 2017, I received an email from 23andMe announcing that: "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted 23andMe authorization to offer ten genetic health risk reports including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease, and a condition associated with harmful blood clots."

The email also noted: "23andMe is now the only company authorized by the FDA to provide personal genetic health risk reports without a prescription."

RED ALERT.

I wasn't the only one to be alarmed. By April 7, Popular Science published an article titled "Getting your genetic disease risks from 23andme is probably a terrible idea." I quote from this article at length below:

"If you could know whether you were going to develop a debilitating, inevitable, untreatable disease at age 50, would you want to? 23andMe is offering you that opportunity—but they’re not going to ask you that question.

The central problem is this: 23andMe aims to give you all the information you want about your genetic background, but they don’t want to be responsible if that knowledge actually impacts you. Are you upset by results that indicate you’re likely to spend the last years of your life dependent on a caretaker, shaking uncontrollably, and losing the ability to speak? Talk to someone else. You’re not 23andMe’s problem anymore.

You can’t unring that bell. [emphasis mine]

And if a company is going to sell customers their right to know, they should have to provide help when that knowledge hurts."


It gets scarier:

"23andme's ultimate business plan product isn’t really a kit, [it's] YOU [emphasis mine]. With a massive database of genetic information, the company can turn around and sell that data to other companies...23andMe assures customers that all their information is completely anonymized. Of course they would never, ever break that rule. Except that even if they don’t, it turns out you can find out a man’s last name using only the short repeats on his Y chromosome and access to a genealogy database. Oh, and then you can identify his age and which state he lives in using publicly accessible resources."

Full circle back to Gattaca.

It only took 20 years.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Web Secret 466: Upwork

Here is my observation after 10+ years working as a web editor.

Most people out there can't write for s**t.

And that includes:

Boomers with PhDs

Millenials of any sort

Physicians

Lawyers

Real estate brokers

And there's more...

It's a disease that has reached pandemic proportions.

Have you ever tried to read a product manual?

Case in point, yesterday I tried to change the water filter in my Miele refrigerator/freezer for the first time.

I read the manual and I still I could not remotely ascertain where to find the location of the filter.

I called Miele customer support (MCS).

Me: "uh, it says the filter is located in the freezer compartment, but I don't see it."

CS: chuckle "Oh, it's actually under the freezer compartment."

Me: ???

CS: "You can only see it if you open the freezer compartment, get on your knees, and look under."

How about spelling that out in the manual, accompanied by some helpful diagrams?

Come to think of it, they need to improve origami instructions. I'm cool until I get to about step 5 - then I'm lost. How did they get from step 4 to step 5?

But I digress.

If you need help with writing of any sort, and other dreaded tasks like web development.

If you need an app maker.

If you need a personal assistant.

You need not suffer anymore.

Meet Upwork.

The freelancing website that will connect you with people who possess the time and/or skill to perform the tasks you can't squeeze into your daily schedule, or don't have a clue how to get done.

Sign up tout de suite.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Web Secret 465: Earth 2050

A couple of days ago, my mind exploded.

And I thought yours should to.

And all because I looked at a map.

Of course it wasn't your typical map - Earth 2050, provides a fascinating glimpse at a future based on predictions from futurists, professionals and members of the public.

If you want more background on this amazing project, read the Wired article.

But if you want to barely suppress screams of delight and awe, as well as an incipient panic attack, just click here.

Jaw drop.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Web Secret 464: Felix Gray

If you are reading this post, then most likely you're staring at a computer screen.

Maybe for a long time. Maybe for hours.

And by now, we all have a pretty good hunch that doing that is not great for our eyes.

Take it away, Felix Gray.

As they explain on their website:

"Our bodies were never supposed to spend all day in front of screens. Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as Digital Eye Strain, is categorized by the negative side effects of overusing computers. Symptoms include eye strain, blurred vision, headaches, dry eyes, and neck and back strain.

... this is a rapidly growing problem, which makes sense given how often we now stare at our screens. The average American is now in front of a computer for 7.5 hours a day. 200 million people—over 50% of the U.S. population—already report symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome. And this number is increasing 7% per generation.

That’s why Felix Gray started. Our lenses are designed to combat Computer Vision syndrome by filtering blue light and eliminating glare. Blue light is high energy light emitted by screens and glare is unnecessary feedback that enters into the eye."


Felix Gray is not the first company to sell computer eyeglasses.

But they are the first to make them stylish.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Web Secret 463: Universal Basic Income

Universal basic income (UBI)is a form of social security in which all the citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, to cover basic expenses like food, rent, and clothes.

Elon Musk is one of the many technology leaders who has jumped on the UBI bandwagon:

"I think we'll end up doing universal basic income," Musk told the crowd at the World Government Summit in Dubai... "It's going to be necessary."

The economic forecasts for the next several decades don't bode well for the American worker...President Barack Obama [has] warned Congress about the looming threat of job loss, based on several reports that found that as much as 50% of jobs could be replaced by robots by 2030.

The downside of that projection is that millions of people would wind up out of a job — a possibility Musk discussed at the summit.

"There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better," he said. "I want to be clear. These are not things I wish will happen; these are things I think probably will happen."


UBI will be essential in order to avoid a 21st century retread of the French Revolution in which the unemployed rise up en masse to destroy the upper class. Preventing a few thousand jobs from going to Mexico will not prevent the mass extinction of these U.S. blue collar - and even white collar - jobs.

How will EAPs position themselves to be effective and relevant in this new workplace landscape?

I don't yet know.

But we have 13 years to come up with an answer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Web Secret 462: Aeon

Do you want to explore new ideas about subjects ranging from psychology to health, from technology to culture and more?

Delivered in a variety of mediums, on a really beautiful website.

By thought leaders.

Of course you do. You want Aeon

Aeon is a digital magazine publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. Asking the big questions and finding the freshest, most original answers.

Aeon has four channels. One is Essays – longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers.

Example: "A bug for Alzheimer’s?" - A bold theory places infection at the root of Alzheimer’s, explaining why decades of treatment have done little good.

The second is Ideas – short provocations.

Example: "There is nothing inevitable or natural about chronic disease."

The third is Video - streaming a mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon content.

Example: "Can writing an 11,000-page autobiographical thesis cure addiction?"


The fourth is Conversations inviting the reader to input their own arguments and points of view.

Example: "How does increased involvement of fathers in childrearing alter public perceptions of masculinity?"

Aeon - committed to big ideas, serious inquiry and a humane worldview.

That’s it.