Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Web Secret 568: Human contact is a luxury

In an important New York Times article "Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good", author Nellie Bowles argues that while screens used to be for the elite, that is no longer the caase:
"The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.

As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen."
Later, she notes:
"So as wealthy kids are growing up with less screen time, poor kids are growing up with more. How comfortable someone is with human engagement could become a new class marker."
Our elderly will be cared for by avatars and robots.

An article in Vox pointed out that already
"The rapid influx of advanced technology is changing the practice of medicine... Nowhere is this more apparent than a story where a physician told a fatally ill man in a Fremont, California, hospital that he was dying via video chat on a screen attached to a robot.

The patient...was sitting in his hospital room when a “telepresence robot” — or a mobile robot with a video screen that live-streams a physician in another location — rolled in and informed him that there was nothing that could be done to treat him. Quintana, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was with his granddaughter and a nurse when he was told his options for managing pain at the end of his life. The granddaughter, shocked at this bombshell dropped from a disembodied robot, filmed part of the encounter, which subsequently went viral online."
I don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Web Secret 567: How to become web dead 2.0

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a blog post "How to Become Web Dead" - about erasing oneself from the Internet in case of overexposure.

in 2019, this has become many orders of magnitude more important and more difficult. I especially recommend clinicians think about locking down their social media against curious clients. Recently, the New York Time published an article "How a Bitcoin Evangelist Made Himself Vanish, in 15 (Not So Easy) Steps" with some up-to-date ideas on how to virtually disappear.

1. Create an LLC. People end up in databases when they fill out forms to buy property, register for credit cards or complete run-of-the-mill transactions. Create an LLC in a state that does not require the corporation to record the name of its owner.

2. Turn off all geolocation services on your smartphone

3. Create a V.P.N. for home internet use. In order to shield your internet address and your location, he turned his home internet router into a virtual private network, or V.P.N., that made all his internet traffic appear to come from different internet addresses in different places. I showed you how to do this in a previous post "Individual cybersecurity when traveling."

My additional suggestion:

4. Lock down all of your social media accounts. Better yet - consider deleting all your social media accounts and open new ones that you only share with your very closest family and friends.

5. Reread "How to Become Web Dead" - turns out most of that advice is still worthwhile.

Step lightly.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Web Secret 566: Unreasonable

I am known to jump up and down about the need for EAP companies and individuals to have sophisticated marketing and a one to two minute video.

I wish I could use an actual EAP as an example, but no one is doing what I am talking about - yet. What you get on most EAP services is a list of services - ditto in their videos.

What is an example, is a technology accelerator called the Unreasonable Group.

Let's look at their 2 minute video, entitled "We are Unreasonable"shall we?



Note that they don't actually explain how they do what they do - instead the video is aspirational - you, the client, and Unreasonable are working towards the same high level goal. They describe the big picture of what their company hopes to achieve for their clients. The video itself is composed of photo and very short video clips downloaded, most likely, from the Internet. Their text is superimposed over these images.

There are no actors, no special effects - it's about the message. Not expensive to produce.

This is how they describe themselves on their website (the emphasis is mine):

"At Unreasonable Group, we believe entrepreneurs building rapidly scalable businesses are our best bet for solving the most significant social and environmental challenges. Every day, our team strives to give entrepreneurs tackling these challenges an unfair advantage. We do this by connecting entrepreneurs with the networks of mentors, investors, businesses, policymakers and specialists they need to scale. Unreasonable’s economic model rests on identifying and securing new partnerships with multinational companies, foundations, and governments."

Note the provocative and unusual use of the word "unfair."

Makes you pay attention, right?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Web Secret 565: Leaving Neverland

When I was 18, a person whom I revered sexually molested me.

That was over 40 years ago.

It has taken me decades to fully process that experience, and understanding came incrementally.

My incident isn't remotely on the scale of what was endured by James Safechuck and Wade Robson as told in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. They were children and I was a very young adult. Their abuse lasted years. Mine maybe 10-15 minutes.

But to those critics who are dubious about how long it took for these victims to speak up, I would say this:
  • You cannot imagine, or maybe you've forgotten how sheltered we were before the Internet and social media. At 18, I was probably more naive than a ten year old is today. I had not been schooled in "bad touch" as today's children are in elementary school. And if I'd been asked, would have pictured perpetrators as obviously evil strangers. Most of the topics discussed openly today - cancer, incest, rape, suicide, etc. - were taboo in the seventies and even beyond.
  • Thus when we the naive were victimized by a charming, admired, trusted perpetrator, we were shocked and confused. We had a sense of disbelief. "Did this just happen?", we asked ourselves. Maybe we misinterpreted the situation?
  • It took me a longtime to understand that being heroic or amazing in one context doesn't mean you can't be profoundly flawed and sick in another. Coming to that realization is devastating.
  • It took the recent "Me Too" movement for me to label what happened to me "sexual assault." I had never thought about it before in that way.
  • It took this documentary for me to fully realize the psychology of "grooming" targets.
  • We are handicapped by the fact that incidents are seared in our memories from when we were very young. It takes time, therapy, having children and/or education to step out of your young mind and revisit what happened from the perspective of a sophisticated adult.
In order to heal, we all have to leave our Neverlands.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Web Secret 564: The Culture Map

Vignette #1: At work, my 25 year old son is in charge of an international group of interns, most of whom are barely younger than him. He told me he had to give a stern lecture about business etiquette to his Korean interns who persisted in sending work emails festooned with emojis, many with obscure, untranslatable meaning.

Vignette #2: I am very direct when giving feedback - whether at work or with my children. Some attribute this to a lack of tact and considerable arrogance. It took me years to even learn that sometimes I need to pull my punches.

Today, I came across the work of Erin Meyer and all is explained. Erin is a professor at INSEAD, one of the leading international business schools. Her work focuses on how the world’s most successful managers navigate the complexities of cultural differences in a global environment. Erin has figured out how to explain the differences between countries through eight workplace behavioral scales.

To get a feel for Erin's work, enjoy this 30 minute presentation on The Culture Map.

So going back to vignette #2. Let me begin by saying that my formative years were spent in the French school system and living in Europe. Then let me add that one of Erin's scale is "Evaluating." This scale measures a preference for frank versus diplomatic criticism. The French, for example, are much (much!) more direct when it comes to negative feedback.

For the French, this approach starts as early as first grade, when even the most minor assignments are graded on a scale of 1 to 20. (PS: the score of 20 is rarely given, the French don't believe anyone is perfect.) In addition, everyone in the class is ranked in every subject versus his/her peers. This evaluation is underscored every trimester, when, at the end of the marking period, two levels of honor role distinction are given.

So that was my exposure to negative criticism. I'm used to it. I find it useful. But in the US that is not acceptable business practice. Negative feedback is best received when tempered with some positive words.

Erin, where were you when I became a supervisor in 1986?

I have no explanation for the emojis.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Web Secret 563: Oddly satisfying videos

A recent New York Times article "Finding What’s ‘Oddly Satisfying’ on the Internet" aims to describe a curious niche of videos that human beings find satisfying for as yet unexplained reasons.

As the author explains: "These videos are compilations of physical objects being manipulated in certain highly specific ways: melted, smoothed, extruded, carved, sliced, dissolved. Frosting piped fluidly over a layer cake. Molten glass slowly ballooning from the tip of a blowpipe. Crayon wax swirling in a factory vat, propelled by the rhythmic swoosh of a giant paddle."

A few examples below.

I hated the music in this one, and prefer to watch it muted.




This one provoked more revulsion than satisfaction:


Here is a compilation of objects being crushed in a hydraulic press. Loved it.


These kinds of videos typically have hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of views - which begs these questions:

What is the evolutionary reason for this commonality of satisfaction?

Is understanding why these videos are appealing trivial or important to understanding mankind?

Is the evoked satisfaction exclusive to 21st century humans?

There is no question that watching the icing video relaxes and puts me to sleep in a matter of minutes and it's a lot safer than popping an Ambien.

And I seem to have vivid, happy memories of extruding Play-Doh from my childhood.

Well guess what? There are many videos of grown ups "demonstrating" vintage and recent Play Doh kits. Here is one with over 8 million views:



It's a mystery.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Web Secret 562: Mix

One of the very first websites I blogged about way back in 2008 was StumbleUpon.

StumbleUpon discovered web sites based on my interests. The personalized recommendation engine learned what I liked, and brought me more.

It was easy. And FREE.

Today, having once again fallen into a blogging rut, I went to visit StumbleUpon only to find out that it has been gobbled up and transformed into a website called Mix

Much like its ancestor, Mix promises: "All your favorite things. All in one place. Mix learns what you love to show you even more."

After I fed it my interests in the web, nerd culture and gizmos, Mix showed me dozens of articles like:

Six artists who are shaping the future of AI

Top 10 free iPhone only apps that you will not find on Android

The five most worrying trends in artificial intelligence right now

Mix - I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.