Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Web Secret 395: 2028

2016 is around the corner, and with the new year looming, it's time to look back.

Or maybe look forward.

To 2028.

So let's recap. (My comments in italics.)

In 2028
  • Islam will be the world's largest religion with 2.2 billion followers
  • The "average" person in the world will be a 34 year old Indian man.
  • 50% of today's jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence
  • 3D printing will mean many products will be produced on location. (Like in your home.)
  • Most cars will be driverless
  • The entire contents of the Internet will be able to be stored on DNA.
  • The most valuable and fought over resource will be water.
  • 1 in 3 people will live beyond 100 years of age.
  • Chinese will be the most widely spoken language. (But we will have Star Trek like universal translators that will convert our speech when we speak to one another.)
  • The Chinese economy will have been the largest for 14 years.
Looming over everything technology. Which has the power to enrich and the potential to overpower life as we know it.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Web Secret 394: Headspace

Meditation is being touted as a cure all for stress, stomach problems, anxiety, and just about everything else.

The problem is - and I say this as a self confessed meditation dropout - I never seem to find the time to practice it.

Headspace changes that, presenting itself as "a gym membership for the mind." And like a gym membership, it will cost you: $12.95 a month, or by a one year membership (equates to a monthly fee of $7.95.

Not sure about your commitment? Download the app and try it for free.

And find out more by watching the video.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Web Secret 393: When your phone is gone

I have only lost my cellphone once.

It fell out of my improperly closed handbag in Times Square. It was December 27, 2013. After a performance of Twelfth Night with the amazing Mark Rylance.

You can only imagine the trauma.

Fortunately for you and me, the New York Times came out with a handy blog post on how to mitigate this all too common disaster.

Here is author Katie Benner's primer on how to track and disable your smartphone if it goes missing.

1. FIRST, go into settings to enable the phone to back up your data and send you its location. If you have an iPhone, go to settings and tap iCoud. Turn on iCloud Backup, Find My iPhone and Send Last Location.

2. IF YOUR DEVICE GOES MISSING, you can then sign into or use the Find My iPhone app to see your device on a map, lock the device and place a message on the home screen with a contact number.

3. IF THE PHONE IS REALLY GONE, you can remotely protect the data by clicking the Erase iPhone button on iCloud or the Find My iPhone App. If you have backed up your phone in iCloud, you should be able to download all your information onto a replacement device.

4. FOR ANDROID PHONES, go into the device’s settings and then into security to activate the Android Device manager to track and erase a misplaced phone. If you are logged into your Google account, you can also type “find my phone” into a Google search box and see your phone on a map and make it ring, though you can’t lock or erase the phone.

Remember to do step one BEFORE you lose your phone.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Web Secret 392: The Lot

I don't know about you, but I avoid going to movie theaters like the plague.

The average venue in New York City is dirty, the audience badly behaved and the food is vile and unhealthy.

Why expose myself to that, when I can watch the film in the comfort of my home on Hulu, Netflix, Fios on Demand, and more?

If only "The Lot" existed in the Big Apple...

Movie tickets at The Lot cost $23. Tickets at my neighborhood theater cost $14.50.

Expensive, you say. But here's the thing:

For less than $10 more, The Lot provides:
  • A state of the art movie screen and sound system
  • Grey leather armchairs that transform into comfy reclines at the push of a button
  • Gourmet food, wine, beer served on my personal tray table by an attentive waiter
  • Immaculate restroom facilities
  • A max of 80 people in each theater.
In La Jolla, California. Where I don't live.

I was lucky to visit La Jolla.

Saw "The Martian," (a great movie by the way,) in splendor, in comfort - while eating fish tacos and sipping a California Sauvignon Blanc. I topped it off with caramel popcorn (one of 5 varieties offered.)

It was wonderful.

More are slated to open. I can only hope that The Lot comes to your neignborhood. And mine.

Real soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Web Secret 391: Mint

How do you manage your bills, your cash flow and your budget?

Do you balance your checkbook once a month, hoping you come with in $250 of what you think it should be? Do you even use a checkbook? If you're my college age twins, you just hope you have money in your account to pay for your next meal.

If you're ready to move on from haphazard money management, you're ready for Mint.

Intuit, the same people who tortured use with QuickBooks, (a user unfriendly, nightmare product with a STEEP learning curve,) is seeking to make amends. Mint is effortless, FREE, and comes with a companion app.

How refreshing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Web Secret 390: 8 seconds

8 seconds.

According to a YouTube video, that is the attention span of Gen Z, aka the generation that comes after the Millenials.

There is no agreement on the exact dates of the generation with some sources starting it at the mid or late 1990s and no clearly defined end point. (But when I eat in a restaurant and watch a 2 year old swiping an app on an iPad - I tend to think that a kid like that belongs to an as of yet undefined generation of the future.) For the sake of simplicity, think high school and middle school kids.

The characteristics of this group are being defined as I write this, but the video takes a stab at it:

Key points from the video - in case you don't have the attention span for it:

They are younger than Google - the first generation to have grown up with social media.

To them, 30 seconds is an eternity.

They live through their devices. Many of them use up to four simultaneously (laptop, tablet, cell phone, iWatch.)

They were born into a post 9/11 world. Millenials grew up in a time of plenty. But these kids lived through a recession. They witnessed their parents and Millenial siblings``````` struggle with a crumbling job market and college debt.

Accordingly, they do not have much faith in experts, they want to get the info from Google, or better yet, their peers. And they plan on paying of their debts ASAP.

They are highly connected and collaborative. More resourceful than Millenials and even more entrepreneurial.

They are not bound by conventional ideas of career, instead they dream up and implement career in their bedrooms (none of them use a desk.) They endorse the power of DIY (do it yourself.)

They are activists who want to make a difference in the world.

Many of them will live to see the year 2100.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Web Secret 389: Classic Arts Showcase

Once upon a time, a multi millionaire from North Dakota noticed that the majority of Americans were rarely exposed to the world’s greatest performances.

In 1981 when MTV began airing short 3 to 5-minute rock music videos in succession, with no schedule and no particular order of play, the millionaire came to believe this format would be ideal for presenting classic arts performances – one in which viewers could see a wide variety of short performance videos, each of which would be a rare and unexpected gem.

And that's no fairy tale.

The visionary Lloyd Rigler did just that, launching Classic Arts Showcase in 1994. The program offers the greatest recorded performances of all time, at no cost to the viewer, and with no commercial interruptions. Today, it is available in more than 50 million homes, and can be streamed 24/7.

It's a buffet of dance, orchestra, opera, and film performances, from all over the world, and from every era since the invention of the moving picture.

Thank you, Mr. Rigler.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Web Secret 388: StoryCorps

You probably know that I write my posts in advance of their publication date.

As I sit here, it is 9/11/15 and I want to tell you about StoryCorps.

StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Why the 9/11 connection?

They aim to record one interview for every person who was killed on 9/11. Some of these interviews have been transformed into animated shorts.

Here is one:

I know you get it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Web Secret 387: Boom!

Women's cosmetics.

I glaze over. Overwhelmingly, cosmetics are marketed by 20 year old models and celebrities who are over Botoxed and plastic.

I am so sick of it.

So when I came across Boom! (and I wish I could remember how I came across Boom,) it was so refreshing, so different that I stopped everything to analyze its greatness.

And share it with you, because believe it or not, anyone can use some of the ideas behind this website to market their services or products.

1. Authentic - Cindy Joseph is a 60+ woman who has developed her line of cosmetics for older women. Yes, Cindy is attractive and models but she looks like a real person. And she uses other older women as models for her products. I believe her.

2. Aspirational - Cindy has a fantastic tagline for her line: "It's about women. it's about beauty. it's about time." Who doesn't want to be that confident, natural, beautiful, and most importantly visible older person?

3. Accessible - Cindy markets her products with short videos. Nothing technically fancy - but Cindy has written a great script, which she delivers with conviction. You could make a video like that.

4. Disruptive - As if it wasn't enough to own her age, Cindy has some revolutionary ideas about makeup and the older woman. Some of them are:
  • Women older than 50 tend to lose definition in their eyebrows. Just go with that. Don’t recreate the brows you had in your 20s.
  • Tinted moisturizers don’t work.
  • Do not wear any eye shadow at all. (Gasp!)
  • The older you get, the less makeup you should wear.
Cindy - well done.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Web Secret 386: The What’s Underneath Project

It's been a while since I have showcased a website that uses the Internet to communicate a powerful message.

The "What's Underneath Project" invites a diverse group of women and men of myriad body types to strip down to their underwear in a New York City studio and recount their experiences with body image and style on video.

The primary objective of the project is to empower people to realize that true style is not about money, trends, Photoshopped imagery or a singular ideal of beauty. By asking people a series of intimate questions about style, body image and self-expression, while simultaneously having them remove their clothing (down to their underwear,) the series shows people that true style is about the authentic person inside the clothes, their confidence, their spirit and their willingness to express themselves honestly.”

Does that sound like it would be titillating, voyeuristic, inappropriate?

It's not. The videos feature all body types, ages, issues, men, women, trans. Some are famous, some not.

And they are beautiful, touching, elevating.

Throw your preconceived notions out the window and watch:

Lea DeLaria

Jillian Mercado

Sarah Jane Adams

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Web Secret 385: Computer security

Are you sloppy about computer security? Me too, sometimes.

So here is a refresher, courtesy of the Iowa State IT department. (Caveat: some of these recommendations are PC centric, Mac users will have to find their equivalent.)

Here are five easy ways to keep your computer secure:

1. Update, update, update. Don't postpone requested updates. Make sure automatic updates are turned on and note programs that you need to manually update from time to time.

2. Use an anti-virus monitoring program. There are free programs like Avast!. Make sure the anti-virus is installed, turned on and is set to scan the hard drive on a periodic schedule.

3. Scan occasionally for malware programs. Find a malware scanner and use it every few weeks to check for malware left by websites and software on your machine after getting the latest updates for the scanner.

4. Put yourself behind a firewall for protection. A good firewall can be your first line of defense in blocking hackers from getting in and preventing malicious programs from phoning back home. Use the built-in Windows firewall or try a free program like Comodo Firewall.

5. Don't open suspicious web pages, e-mails or files. If it looks fishy, don't open it. If you already opened it, close it right away and run a virus scan.

Bonus tips:

Create good passwords. You've probably heard that you should use lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers and symbols in your passwords. That's all good, but did you also know that the length of a password is more important than the complexity? Passwords get exponentially more difficult to break the longer they are, so strive for 10 or more characters to be safe. You also don't want to have passwords that are words from the dictionary, passwords that are super-easy for you to remember or passwords that don't change from site to site.

Be encrypted. Unless the website you're viewing is encrypting your communications, (you'll notice a padlock in the browser or an address beginning with https,) anyone around you with the right tools can read your password as you send it over the unsecured Wi-Fi network.

Beware of location-sharing services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude or Facebook Places. You should be careful who can see your updates and make sure you trust them. If a malicious person could get your updates, they could potentially determine your routine, the location of your house and more just by following the GPS breadcrumbs you leave behind.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Web Secret #384: In praise of conferences

Face time is an English idiom for direct personal contact between two or more people at the same time and physical location.

I know it's valuable. For just that reason, I attended the World EAP Conference earlier this month.

But how to explain what is great and important about face time?

My colleague Mike Jacquart, who edits the Journal of Employee Assistance, did just that in a blog post written in August.

Here is my condensed version of what he wrote:

"Each year for the past five years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to attend the World EAP Conference, which is held in a different city in the U.S. each fall. Employee assistance professionals from roughly 40 different countries are in attendance. So even though I have never traveled abroad, I’ve still met people from all over the globe! Pretty cool, huh?

I also have the opportunity to email with people from different cities, parts of the U.S., and even other countries the remainder of the year. It’s great to be able to tell someone, “Hey, I got an email today from China” or wherever it may be, but it still isn’t quite the same thing as face-to-face. You get to actually meet this individual, listen to him or her, even get to actually “know” this person… especially over time when you see some of these same professionals at events like annual conferences. As a result, you are able to engage in important face-to-face networking at conferences… as well as the professional development you’re able to gain in your field. Interaction and coursework is more difficult to do online… certainly not impossible in this day and age… but in my view at least it’s harder and … might I add… often not as good.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I find the whole conference experience a very refreshing, invigorating change of pace from plunking away at my computer all day, sending emails, and (sometimes) talking over the phone… which helps some, but it still isn’t the same as being in person.

It is fascinating to me that in a day and age in which we are more connected than ever in some ways, with more and more of us working remotely than ever – and even busy texting and staring at a screen even when we ARE in person… it seems as though we are also more DISCONNECTED than ever, too. Remember when talking over the phone or seeing someone in person were your only options?! ...Sometimes I miss those days.

Several of my friends travel a lot for their jobs, and so I asked them once, “Couldn’t you just set up a video conference on Skype? Why do you have to fly there?” Over time, as I’ve been to more conferences myself, I’ve seen that it wouldn’t be the same thing. There’s something about meeting someone in person, responding to nonverbal cues – and the individual responding to you! – that remains quite different. Of course, there are also often-subtle cultural differences you would never pick up on without being face to face.

So the next time you are at a conference… seminar… workshop… whatever you want to call it… be sure to introduce yourself to at LEAST several new people… AND… if it isn’t possible to eliminate hauling out your smartphone… and it probably isn’t realistic… at least cut back on the time you spend texting or otherwise focusing on your mobile device. For instance, spend the time you’d otherwise spend on your smartphone by “absorbing” your environment. Who in the room (large or small) is smiling? Laughing? Engrossed? Bored? Take note of roughly how many people are in the room. And so on.

You’ll have loads of other times you can be completely engaged on your mobile device, so while you’re at a conference or other event, take advantage of all the face-to-face opportunities you can. There is no reason to be “disengaged” when you can be engaged."


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Web Secret #383: 8 ways to clean up your iPhone

I came across a really good article on how to free up room on your iPhone.

But for those of you who just want the short story, here it is:

STOP SAVING OLD TEXTS - Change your iPhone’s settings by going to Settings > Messages > Message History and set to Keep Messages for 30 days.

STOP SAVING OLD APPS - If you don't use'em, lose'em.

TURN OFF PHOTO STREAM - Go to Settings > Photos & Camera and switch My Photo Stream off.

DELETE DUPLICATE SNAPS - Go to Settings > Photos & Camera and deselect Keep Normal Photo. Read the article if you want the explanation.

CLEAR YOUR COOKIES - Don't know what a cookie is? You're on a need to know basis. Just go to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

TRASH OLD TUNES - If there’s a song (or playlist) you’re not listening to, find it, swipe right to left and remove it from your phone.

DELETE PODCASTS WHEN YOU'RE DONE WITH THEM - Go to Settings > Podcasts and switch Delete Played Episodes on to remove all already-listened-to podcasts at once.

LAST DITCH EFFORT, CHECK YOUR USAGE - Sometimes, there’s one specific app that’s eating up your data. Find out the culprit by going to Settings > General > Usage, then click Manage Storage. There, you'll see an app by app list of what's taking up room.

Cleaning feels good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Web Secret #382: Acorns

Our elders used to throw their extra pennies into a coffee can. Once the receptacle was full, it paid for small luxuries or a rainy day emergency.

What is the 21st century version of that coffee can?

Acorns, a smartphone app built for exactly that purpose.

Acorns was designed to help people, especially first-time investors, get started in investing with small automated investments into a portfolio of exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, that the company selects and balances. Users link their bank accounts to the app, which then automatically rounds up the cost of all transactions to the nearest dollar, withdraws that spare change and invests it. For example, if you buy a coffee for $2.40, Acorns will take an extra 60 cents and invest it in an exchange-traded fund.

Not sure you get it? Watch the video:

Setting this up is a snap and takes only a few minutes.

My 21 year old son has grown his pennies into $200 in a matter of months.

Sign me up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Web Secret #381: Advanced Style

Next year I am going to have a major birthday.

So major I can't say it out loud, let alone write it in this post.

Just use your imagination.

I am preemptively FREAKING out.

How to feel better? Retail therapy? Psychotherapy? Plastic Surgery?

I watched "Advanced Style" on Netflix.

And I felt much better.

You see many people fear advancing age. They worry that they will be marginalized, unemployed, infirm, unattractive.

Me, I am shallow. I worry about not being cool.

And Advanced Style - which started as an equally wonderful blog - reassured me that I don't have to worry.

The brain child of blogger Ari Seth Cohen, it chronicles the stylish get-ups of a crowd that’s largely ignored by the fashion system - people over 50.

In the process of watching the movie and reading the blog I was elevated.

And you will be too.

Even if you don't have a major birthday coming up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Web Secret #380: QVC

QVC was founded in 1986, but I didn't find out about it until the early 90s. A young husband came to the EAP I worked for. Presenting problem: since their baby was stillborn, all his wife did was watch QVC 24/7.

So I had to check it out. At that time, QVC consisted of a variety of hosts hawking cheap goods for hours on end. Periodically, some hayseed from the Midwest would call in to express delight over these tacky items. There was a droning, pacifying quality to all of this. But it was not for me.

Recently, however, I was home recovering from surgery and had some time on my hands. I happened to turn on QVC and discovered that 95% of the tackiness is gone. The channel sells quality brands like Dooney & Bourke, Cannon, Clarks, Givenchy lipstick, KitchenAid, and much much more.

That's nice, but why buy from QVC?
  • Customer service - a generous return policy, fast shipping and more.
  • Product information - items are showcased for long periods of time, described and demonstrated by the QVC host and typically the product's designer, senior executive or brand expert. You can watch this live or months later as virtually every item has a companion video.
  • Easy Pay - this is unique: you can receive an item now and pay monthly installments at no extra charge. The product price, Shipping & Handling, and any applicable sales tax will be divided according to the specified number of payments.
  • Hard to find sizes - how fun is it to shop if you have narrow or wide feet, are very thin or petite or plus sized? Not. QVC sells most clothing, shoes, bracelets and rings in a broad range of sizes.
  • Models come in all shapes and sizes - most items are showcased by models of all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, and ages. Cosmetic products are demonstrated on older women. You can actually see what a product would look like on a real person - not just a 16 year old wearing a size zero.
  • QVC hosts come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
All of this goes on 24/7.

Thank you QVC.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Web Secret #379: FOMO

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

I don't know when this concept crept into my brain.

The acronym was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.

This is the OED definition: "Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website."

For me FOMO goes way beyond that definition. I fear missing out on knowledge, plays, articles, movies, books, scientific breakthroughs and more. Everything is tantalizingly at my finger tips - one link away. But I can't read it all, learn it all, experience it all. I barricade myself against websites, apps, people that I have no time for.

I am like a person who lived under Communist rule shopping in an American supermarket for the first time.


FOMO is an artifact of the Internet. Before it, you didn't have FOMO - you knew you were missing out. The reality was you could only surmise that you were missing out on something, somewhere. Ignorance is bliss.

Fast forward to the present, Pandora's box has been opened, we have been kicked out of Eden, we know we are missing out. All the time.

Now, live with it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Web Secret #378: the persistence of old technology

I am always preaching the need for preparedness in the face of rapidly changing technology.

But then I came across a very interesting article that states "Technology changes far slower than we usually think it does."

This is what it says:

A pretty-good technology that achieves widespread acceptance has a way of sticking around for years, even decades. Just look at how many people still listen to AM radio, buy CDs at concerts, or drive cars with internal combustion engines and four wheels.

Or look at the way telephone technology has evolved over the past century and a half. Yes, we’ve added new features, like cellular data and VoIP calling. But the underlying infrastructure is, in some ways, much the same. Your fancy iPhone still has a touch-pad dialer for connecting you to the telephone network, and that dialer is basically a digital representation of something that has existed since the 1960s.

The persistence of old-but-acceptable technology has some big implications for the future of the Web. After all, the Web is hardly cutting-edge tech. The basic protocol on which the Internet is based is over 40 years old.

So if you’re waiting for a transformative change in how we consume information online, you could be waiting a long time.

Think about what air travel looked like in 1965. Humans had only been flying airplanes for about sixty years, and the U.S. and Soviet Union were rapidly expanding their space travel capabilities. If you plotted a line of human transportation speed from 1750 to 1950, it would form an exponential curve. In the near future — a 1960s futurist might think — we would soon be flying on huge, comfortable supersonic jets. And shortly after that, we’d be riding on incredibly fast rockets, then nuclear rockets, and perhaps enjoying near-light speed interstellar travel by the early 2000s.

But it didn’t turn out that way. Supersonic jets turned out to be way too expensive and way too damaging to the ozone layer. Ordinary, high-capacity jets like the Boeing 747 turned out to be good enough, and economical enough, that they became the de facto standard. The models Boeing created in the 1970s form the backbone of the company’s lines today, with very slight differences and enhancements that are mostly invisible to non-experts. In fact, some of today’s planes are actually slower than their 1970s predecessors: The Boeing 787 is slower than the 707.

We might be at a similar point with Internet technologies today. In the past twenty years, we’ve seen enormous changes in the way people access and create information. The wide dispersion of Internet access has brought the world’s knowledge to every corner of the Earth; the shift to mobile devices has put that knowledge literally into the hands of everyone who can afford a cellphone and a monthly contract. Social networks make it easier than ever to connect with like-minded people around the world, and digital maps are shining a clear light into every corner of the Earth, simplifying navigation and enabling armchair travel to the most interesting, remote locations.

So you might think that the Web is advancing at the same, exponential rate that it has for the past 20 years. You’d be wrong: The Web is advancing only slowly, and in some ways, it’s getting worse.

The mobile Web sucks, the mobile browsers we use today are, in fact, slower and less capable than desktop browsers of five years ago. Our mobile browsers are more like 787s than Concordes.

What we need is to stop thinking of the Web as a platform for transformative, exponential innovation. That kind of innovation is still happening in other spheres — like transportation and health care — but not in the Web. Stop expecting media companies, or encyclopedias, to behave like startups.

Get a few billion more people onto the Web, and see what they come up with.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Web Secret #377: Venmo

What do you do when you owe someone money?

Do you write them a check?

Go to the ATM to give them cash?

Buy a money order?

Purchase a gift card?

Millenials don't do any of the above - they use Venmo.

Venmo is a free app that enables you to send money from person to person through the web. Like PayPal (which owns Venmo), the Internet and mobile device-linked service connects to your major U.S.-based bank account or debit card, so it can pull funds from and make deposits into your checking or savings accounts.

Typically used for paying friends back for a bar tab, splitting up the rent check, or settling with the babysitter at the end of the night, it’s designed to take the place of any instance where you would normally use cash or a check to give someone money.

Setting up Venmo is simple, but not intuitive, so I recommend viewing this video to help you with that process.

Once you are set up, using Venmo is quick and easy.

And useful.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Web Secret 376: The Void

As I have written before, most tech and social media innovations are first used for gaming and consumer purposes.

Virtual reality helmets just recently became mainstream tools for cutting edge clinicians. A typical use will allow the wearer to experience the sights and sounds of a bar so they can learn to handle abstinence in a challenging setting.

So it is unsurprising that a monumental advance in virtual reality is being marketed for its gaming potential.

Let me introduce THE VOID:

It's the holodeck of the starship Enterprise come to life in 2015.

The therapeutic possibilities are mind blowing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Web Secret #375: the most outrageous blog in America

This is a blog post about an X rated blog.

You have been warned.

The blog is about

a woman

of a certain age

enjoying herself

with men

under 50 - some way under 50.

It is also witty, literate, and subversive.

It will explode all of your conventional ideas about


of a certain age

enjoying themselves

with men

under 50 - some way under 50.

Honestly, I consider myself to be a worldly, edgy human being and I was shaken.

I realized that we (I) don't bat (much of) an eyelash when hearing/reading about older men enjoying themselves or even marrying younger, sometimes much younger women. But we (I) have a long, long way to go in applying that standard to women.

I know, because I was afraid to write this blog post, even though I think  it is a very important blog.

You see in addition to raw and Rabelaisian tales of her carnal adventures, the author writes about ageism, self love, and physical transformation.

Sure, others have written about ageism and dating apps, the importance of self care and the rationale for plastic surgery, and the challenges of dating when you are no longer chronologically young.

But no one, NO ONE, has come close to the honesty of this blog.

Reading it will force you to confront your own ageism and sexism.

One day our double standard for women will be long forgotten.

Until then, there is

PS. The photo is a shot of Sophie Tucker (1887-1966,) a celebrated singer, comedian, actress, and radio personality whose hay day was in the first half of the 20th century. When I saw this picture, I racked my brain to remember when I had last seen a woman over 40, and over a size 6, strike such a confident, powerful and sexy, pose. Mae West. 1932.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Web Secret #374: 4 things you can do on the Internet for free

Thank you Rohit Bhattacharya for your inspirational post "15 Cool Things You Can Do On The Internet For Free."

1. Send files up to 1GB (that's HUGE) for free from Pando

2. Get free tech support at Techguy

3. Find free wifi spots worldwide at WifiFreeSpot

4. Watch from hundreds of documentaries at DocumentaryHeaven


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Web Secret #373: ebates

Do you shop online?

Of course you do.

Would you like to get cash back for doing that?

It's not a myth - it's ebates.

The concept is simple - when you go to the store where you want to shop through its ebates link, you get cash back - a percentage of the money you spend. Earnings are paid out quarterly.

Ebates features over 1,800 online stores, from Macy's to Victoria's Secret, from Expedia to eBay and the list goes on and on.

Cash back can range from 2.5% to 6% - even more. Some stores specify the items that are eligible for cash back - eg Amazon was giving 3% for purchasing women's clothing. Other sites offer cash back on everything

Signing up takes seconds - then it's just a matter of remembering to check ebates whenever you want to buy online.

Smart shopper.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Web Secret #372: Episode recap

After the last episode of Mad Men was aired, I decided to compare notes with my Millenial children.

Turns out that they had a vastly different experience of that finale, entitled "Person To Person."

My daughter didn't realize that the Coke ad which ended the series was an actual, real ad. She thought it was created for the series.

None of my children knew what a person to person collect call was.

They could have used episode recap.

At some point during the past three years, as I have streamed more and more Golden Age of Television shows - from Mad Men, to Peaky Blinders to Black Mirror and more, I became concurrently aware that for each aired episode there were multiple posted episode recaps. These recaps are not mere summaries, and usually include sophisticated dissections of characters, plot, and context.

The fact is, many of my favorite shows are so complex, I need episode recap.

The characters in Peaky Blinders speak such thickly accented English, I miss entire paragraphs of dialogue. And how about "Game of Thrones"? Who can keep track of that plot?

In the Black Mirror series, there is an episode, "The Entire History of You," set in in the near future where most people have a 'grain' implanted behind their ear that records everything they do, see or hear. This allows memories to be played back either in front of the person's eyes or on a screen, a process known as a 're-do'.

It's episode recap for life.

Maybe not so far fetched...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Web Secret #371: Steal this book

You read it here first - since 2008, I have been warning you about rapid technological change and its effects.

Now the popular media, not just geeks and the intelligentsia, are beginning to talk about the impending developments in artificial intelligence and other scientific areas. An article in the New York Times "Style" section (no less?!) - which typically discusses the latest runway fashion and lipstick colors - asked: "Who is making sure that all of this innovation does not go drastically wrong?"

Well the Future of Life Institute for one, an organization that seeks to “mitigate existential risks facing humanity” from “human-level artificial intelligence.”

And there are others. The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit that tries to help humanity combat the “existential risks” of genetic engineering, nanotechnology and the so-called singularity, which refers to the hypothetical moment when artificial intelligence surpasses the human intellect.

Philosophers and scientists at Cambridge University formed the Center for Study of Existential Risk, with the goal to ensure “that our own species has a long-term future.”

And these are good things. Cutting edge.

But the world of U.S. mental health lags far, far behind. I lecture about social media and technology's impact on psychotherapy and employee assistance programs.

And what do people in the audience ask me? Whether or not to deliver services via video counseling!!!

People - that ship has sailed.

And while practitioners in the US remain frozen within the boundaries of their states, the rest of the world has moved on. We are no longer in a leadership position - we are lagging behind.

Some of you will remember sixties activist Abbie Hoffman who famously wrote "Steal This Book." It was all about shaking people out of their complacency, challenging the status quo, and thinking outside the box of convention.

Here is my 21st century version of that exhortation: provide video counseling!

Across state lines.

A whole lot of providers are doing it already. Have been doing it for years. Were doing it before the computer - providing counseling across state lines on the telephone. No one has been sued. Ever. Those archaic state licensing laws are going to be abolished, replaced by national licensure.


Because the Millenials and the generation behind them are going to demand, are already demanding:

1. video counseling
2. the ability to make appointments via text or by screaming into their Apple Watch
3. something you haven't even thought about yet because most clinicians are not future oriented.

It concerns me that the people who are putting together these think tanks about the future are not mental health professionals. I think we need to put our unique heads together and ponder the future of the field.

My 21 year old son believes that 20 years from now, human talk therapy will be obsolete. Most major mental illnesses will be biologically treatable. And the rest of our clients will be talking to highly skilled and responsive artificial intelligence entities who will be available to them 24/7.

Steal that book.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Web Secret #370: delete your Google history

Have you ever wondered what Google Search really knows about you?

I came across a terrific article that walks you through viewing and downloading your entire search history.

But as I was beginning to follow the bouncing ball to go through that process, I suddenly remembered how long I've been using Google, and how frequently I use Google Search. And I realized I didn't want to spend the rest of the week combing through my history, deleting unimportant links.

Frankly, I don't think it's Google's business to keep my history. Sure my history helps Google find what I'm looking for faster and gives me quicker access to pages I've visited before. But it is also tyrannical, and populates my pages with ads and sites it thinks I'm interested in. Well, I want to see what would turn up if Google didn't know me so well.

Long story short, I skipped over the beginning of the article and went directly to the simple instructions covering how to delete my entire history from Google’s servers:

1. Navigate to the Web and App Activity Page and click the gear icon in the top-right corner. (Note: you will be asked to login to Google if you haven't already done so.)

2. Select Remove Items and choose the beginning of time from the drop-down menu.

3. Click Remove. That’s it.

All of your search history will be deleted.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Web Secret #369: will life be worth living in 2000 AD?

I came across a fascinating little article from the July 22, 1961, Australian Weekend Magazine: "Will life be worth living in 2000 AD?" Complete with sexist, vintage advertising.

Really, it's a miracle that I aspired to do anything beyond vacuuming the house...

The article features scientific predictions about the year 2000 and beyond, digested for a popular audience.

Impressively, they mostly got it right. What they got wrong were rosy predictions about transportation.

We are not:
  • "...whisked around in monorail vehicles at 200 miles an hour and ...taking a fortnight's holiday in outer space."
  • "[ing] at 1000 m.p.h. at a penny a mile. Hypersonic passenger planes, using solid fuels .., reach any part of the world in an hour."
  • "By the year 2020, five per cent of the world's population will have emigrated into space. Many will have visited the moon and beyond."
But look at what they got right:
  • "You'll have a home control room - an electronics center, where messages will be recorded when you're away from home. This will play back when you return, and also give you up-to-the minute world news, and transcribe your latest mail."
  • "You'll have wall-to-wall global TV ... TV-telephones and room-to-room TV."
  • "Mail and newspapers will be reproduced instantly anywhere in the world by facsimile."
  • "There will be machines doing the work of clerks, shorthand writers and translators. Machines will "talk" to each other."
  • "Our children will learn from TV, recorders and teaching machines."
I'm still waiting for this prediction to come true: "There will be no common colds, cancer ... mental illness."

And why don't we have this? " will be put away by remote control..."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Web Secret #368: private internet access

Are you a fan of British TV series like Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, and the like?

Then you know that by the time you are watching the show in the US, it was already aired months earlier in the UK.

This pisses me off.

I have tried to subvert this by logging on to and sneaking onto the British ITV player.

Does not work. They know I come from the US. And I am refused access.

No more, thanks to

Now to be honest, most people who subscribe to PIA do so out of concerns about Internet privacy and cybercrime. That has never been a sufficient incentive for me to shell out the $40 per year it takes to get the service.

Watching British telly at the same time as my friends from across the ocean? Sign me up.

But don't listen to me, watch the video.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Web Secret #367: the search for excellence

The Wizard of Oz is the best movie ever made.

The reasons for this belong in another post, probably another blog.

When I was a child, the Wizard of Oz was aired on television once a year. It was event television.

You and your family gathered around the single TV set your family owned, and someone wrapped some aluminum foil around the antennas in the vain hope of improving the grainy, staticky reception. Then you watched, transfixed, desperately trying to memorize every moment, every song, every line of dialogue. Because, poof! it would be gone - not to be seen again for another year.

Those days are long gone, along with nightly family dinners, and other such ephemera.

To make up for those losses, the gods of media gave us excellence.

Courtesy of the Internet. Anytime. At the click of the mouse.

In the 21st century, I can watch the Wizard of Oz whenever I want to. In fact I can watch it deconstructed into hundreds of HD clips, with better quality sound and visuals than I could have ever dreamed about in my youth. I won't even embed one in this post. You know those clips. I know them. We all know them.

The word in French for Internet user is "internaute." It literally means "astronaut exploring the Internet."

Accompany me, an internaute on an idiosyncratic expedition.

Arthur Rubinstein famously described the adagio from Schubert's String Quintet in C Major as "the entrance to heaven." I am not restricted to listening to a contemporary performance of this work. I can access any rendition ever publicly recorded. So for me, it's the 1941 performance by the legendary Budapest String Quartet, accompanied by Jascha Heifetz, arguable the greatest violinist who ever lived.

The adagio can be heard at minute 14.01. It is a sublime performance, made more poignant by the fact that it was recorded during one of the darkest periods of human history.

It is mine to experience. Anytime.

Sporting glory? I can watch Torville and Dean ice dancing to Ravel's "Bolero" on their way to the 1984 Olympic gold medal. To this day, it is widely considered to be the greatest ice dance ever performed.

Missed Laurence Olivier performing the lead in Shakespeare's Richard III on the stage of the Old Vic in 1946? No problem, catch him sneering his way through "Now is the winter of our discontent" in the 1955 movie:

You can find surprising pockets of perfectionism. In the UK, Magnus Macdonald machine tools impeccably crafted items out of Titanium. Pens, pill pots, and the like.

Excellence is not only the search for athletic, artistic, scientific and cultural achievement. It is also embodied by the human spirit.

When I feel like the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I watch the youth of the world dancing to Pharrell's Happy:

You too can become an "internaute" and launch your own expedition.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Web Secret #366: Microsoft Office Lens

I just came back from a business trip.

Time to submit an expense report.

I extract a number of taxi and meal receipts from my handbag. Printed on thermal paper, they are curled up and hard to flatten. I am irritated in 5 seconds flat.

I could have had Office Lens.

Microsoft Office Lens (free on iOS and Android) is a handy app that acts as a pocket scanner for receipts, notes, business cards, menus, and more.

The app then crops and enhances the image so it looks tidy, and uses optical character recognition (OCR) so that later on, you can go back and search the text in your images — no more digging through mounds of receipts or sticky notes. It can automatically generate a contact card you can add to your phone, and it converts other images into Word docs, PDFs, and PowerPoints, which you can save or share with contacts.

Cue the video:

Now download it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Web Secret #365 : Commodity Goods

When I encounter a company that combines bespoke service with a modern approach - I feel the need to share.

I hate buying perfume from a department store or Sephora (and not because I don't love you, Sephora.)

This is what I hate:

1. pressure from salespeople - many of whom know nothing about fragrance.
2. the gagging smell of dozens of airborne scents mingled together.
3. olfactory overload - after I have tried two scents I can't try any others.
4. I want to wear a scent for at least an hour so that I can appreciate the dry down, the sillage, and other sensory experiences.

Commodity Goods, where have you been all my life?

This is their approach to selecting a perfume:

1. Go online and pay $24 for a scent Fitting Kit.
2. They mail you 10 different vials of perfume to try in the comfort of your home.
3. Take your time, take days to test them out.
4. Once you have a favorite, go online and select it. They will send you a 10ml spray of your choice (perfect for travel) for free, shipping included.

In case you're interested, I opted for Whiskey.

Love it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Web Secret #364: delivered

I have a confession.

I have everything delivered.

OK, slight exaggeration. I have 95% of everything I buy delivered.

My groceries are delivered to my apartment door once a week by FreshDirect.

My prescriptions are delivered by my drugstore.

Instead of going out to restaurants, I have meals delivered from those restaurants via GrubHub.

When I want a taxi, I don't stand in the rain with my arm stuck out. I summon a car with Uber.

Just about everything else, I get from Amazon - delivered to me in two days. Forgot to order toilet paper from Fresh Direct? Get it from Amazon. Interested in trying out that weird facial cleanser from Korea? Amazon. Want to read the latest French bestseller? Download it from

Now there are imperatives that make much of this online/app ordering necessary. I live in a warehouse district that is slowly becoming residential and there is no infrastructure. I would need to drive to go to the grocery store, and the drugstore. There is a subway stop within walking distance of my building, but if and when I want to take a cab - there are none. The neighborhood is too remote for any traffic.

But even if I move to a more populated, easier access area, I doubt that I will ever go back to driving to my routine shopping. I can order my food in a few minutes because Fresh Direct knows what I like. I can find just about anything from anywhere in the world on Amazon. Why go out? Why deal with congested parking lots, disagreeable (or non existent) clerks, lack of inventory?

I am not alone.

In a thought provoking article "The Shut-In Economy," writer Lauren Smiley describes a new urban based "on-demand everything" world, populated by apartment dwellers who are "served" by an army of delivery staff. Services that were once only available to the 1%, are now easy to access as long as you have a smartphone. And all of these services give us free time to pursue other interests, or spend time with the kids. That's the good news.

The bad news? Smiley writes, "As income inequality increases, the shut-in model is tailor-made for the new polarized extremes. After all, either you’re behind the door, receiving your dinner in the tower. Or you’re like the food delivery guy... He’s the opposite of a shut-in. He’s stuck outside, hustling."

It's a brave new world...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Web Secret #363: managing media

The age at which children get a new smart phone and access social media is getting younger and younger.

We want to benefit from new technology but we are increasingly buried by it.

What to do?                

In his excellent New York Times article "How to Manage Media in Families," Bruce Feiler gives us some answers.

Bruce is skeptical of the dozens of online sample contracts for parents to execute with their children. He notes,  "I'm realistic enough to know that a three-page contract will be swiftly ignored and even it can’t keep up with the last parent-avoiding app. What I craved was a handful of overarching rules that could guide our interactions."

So, here is the abbreviated version of Bruce's rules:

1. I’m Still Your Parent
Parents should set guidelines in advance: make it clear that you own the device, you pay for it, and if there is any behavior that you feel is not true to your family values, you can take it away.

Part of this deal is that you will respect their boundaries, but you also have the right to join any social network they join, know their passwords and check their texts. Though it seems as if children know everything about social media, actually they’re still learning.

2. Step Away From Your Phone
Phones will be turned off and put away at certain times of the night. Research backs this up. A study from the University of Basel found that teenagers who kept their smartphones on at night were more likely to watch videos, text and have poor sleep habits and higher depression.
But, when parents say, ‘You can use the phone only from this hour to this hour,’ it’s hard to manage. So set rules like all phones go in a box when children go to bed, all devices go in the center of the table during mealtimes, including at restaurants, etc.

3. Read Every Text Twice
Explain that digital communication can easily be misconstrued. Before you send a message, go back and read it again. Everyone agrees on the need to prevent children from sexting, bullying or posting something inappropriate. But how to convey that? Think about your grandmother, think about the principal. Think about the most embarrassing adult in your life. Before you hit send, reflect on how that person would react. I would add: discuss when a phone call, an in person meeting, even an e-mail should be used rather than a text.

4. No Phones at Family Time
Everybody I spoke with had certain rules about family time. Specify. Just 10 minutes. No devices. That’s our time together. Have weekly technology-free activities.

5. The Rules Apply to Grown Ups Too
Parents, are often the most egregious technology abusers of all. They also need to follow rules.

One final caveat: "No technology agreement can be written in stone. It needs to be revised with every
new child, every new phase, every new device and every new app."

Amen to that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Web Secret #362:

Are you tired of reading long blog posts?

I'm tired of writing them. is a new website that allows you to conduct video conversations with up to 8 people for free.

No login required — no installs.

That's all I'm going to say about that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Web Secret #361: disconnecting

There have been many articles about the importance of disconnecting in our wired world.

But there is room for one more, as demonstrated by a wonderful post "What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space" by Scott Belsky.

Here is my condensed version:

Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by email, the internet, people, and other forms of distraction. We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.

Why do we give up our sacred space so easily? Because space is scary. During these temporary voids of distraction, our minds return to the uncertainty and fears that plague all of us. To escape this chasm of self-doubt and unanswered questions, you tune into all of the activity and data for reassurance.

Belsky argues that we have always sought a state of constant connection from the dawn of time, it’s just never been possible until now.

The need to be connected is, in fact, very basic in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the psychological theory that explains the largest and most fundamental human desires. Our need for a sense of belonging comes right after physical safety. We thrive on friendship, family, and the constant affirmation of our existence and relevance. Our self-esteem is largely a product of our interactions with others.

It is now possible to always feel loved and cared for, thanks to the efficiency of our “comment walls” on Facebook and seamless connection with everyone we’ve ever known.

So what’s the solution? How do we reclaim our sacred spaces?

Here are five potential mindsets and fixes for your consideration:

1. Rituals for unplugging.
The notion of a day every week reserved for reflection has become more important than ever before. Perhaps you will reserve one day on the weekend where you force yourself to disconnect? At first, such efforts will feel very uncomfortable. You will deal with a bout of “connection withdrawal,” but stay with it.

2. Daily doses of deep thinking.
When it comes to scheduling, we will need to allocate blocks of time for deep thinking.

3. Meditation to clear the mind.
There is no better mental escape from our tech-charged world than the act of meditation. If only for 15 minutes, the ability to steer your mind away from constant stimulation is downright liberating.

4. Self-awareness and psychological investment.
Our most basic fears and desires, both conscious and subconscious, are soothed by connectivity and a constant flow of information. It is supremely important that we recognize the power of our insecurities and, at the very least, acknowledge where our anxiety comes from.

5. Protect the state of no-intent.
When you’re driving or showering, you’re letting your mind wander because you don’t have to focus on anything in particular. If you do carve out some time for unobstructed thinking, be sure to free yourself from any specific intent.

And I have nothing to add to that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Web Secret #360: Talkspace

There is a new app called Talkspace.

For $25 a week, a client can text an assigned therapist whenever they want, and the therapist texts back when he/she can.



Are you cringing?

The app has gotten millions of dollars in funding.

It's here to stay.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Web Secret #359: Operation War Diary

Want to save mankind?

Check out Zooniverse, a website that enables everyone to participate in legitimate online science projects.

For example, you can:

Explore Mars - help planetary scientists discover what the weather is like on the red planet.

Classify over 30 years of tropical cyclone data.

Spy on penguins for science - tag and monitor penguins in remote regions to help scientists understand their lives and environment.

There is a project for everyone.

I love history and so was immediately drawn to Operation War Diary. As the website explains, "the story of the British Army on the Western Front during the First World War is waiting to be discovered in 1.5 million pages of unit war diaries. We need your help to reveal the stories of those who fought in the global conflict that shaped the world we live in today."

Sign me up.

Everything about this research project is state of the art. A 10 minute tutorial teaches you how to digitally classify each diary page by date, place, subject and other indicators. And then you can choose to analyze any one of hundreds of diaries.

What's in it for the world?

Data gathered through Operation War Diary will be used for three main purposes:

1. to enrich The National Archives' catalogue descriptions for the unit war diaries
2. to provide evidence about the experience of named individuals in IWM's Lives of the First World War project
3. to present academics with large amounts of accurate data to help them gain a better understanding of how the war was fought

What's in it for me?

I think you know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Web Secret #358: Wait But Why

So if you read my last two posts, you know that "Wait But Why" is the blog that saved me from doldrums severe enough that I considered shutting down iWebU.

"Wait But Why" is primarily the work of Tim Urban, who coyly describes the site as "A website for people who like websites."

I would define it as "A website for people who want to be provoked into thinking." Too abstract?

Here is a tour:

In the main section are posts, often lengthy, on topics such as: "What Makes You You", "A Religion for the Nonreligious", "From 1 to 1,000,000," a dissertation about the numbers in our life. It's about philosophy, science, and math and perhaps most importantly, meaning.

"Minis." A Mini is a short version of a Wait But Why post. To qualify as a Mini, it has to be an original post. Topics include "Your Life is Worse When You Know About Dust Mites ", "What Makes a Face Trustworthy?", and "200 People’s New Year’s Resolutions". They are little mental hors d'oeuvres.

"The Shed", consists of carefully curated videos. Topics include "Video Zoom-In on the Largest Image Ever Taken of Andromeda Galaxy", "Fully Disassembled Volkswagen Golf", "Amazing Run-Through of 17 British Accents." It's fun, more light hearted fare.

"The Dinner Table." So imagine you're noshing with a bunch of your smartest friends and you are having an amazing discussion about a really interesting topic. Once a week, "Wait But Why" comes up with a question, and asks this question to its community. The results are published, and include "", "Who From Our Modern Era Will Be Universally Known in the Year 4015?" and "What’s One Book, Movie, Song, Poem, Etc. You’re Grateful For?".

Because of time constraints, I only follow a maximum of 5 blogs at one time. This list tends to stay constant for long periods of time because honestly, there is a lot of really bad content out there.

Guess what? "Wait But Why," you just made my list!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Web Secret #357: Understanding Artificial Intelligence

This is my explanation of part 2 of the mind bending post from the "Wait But Why" blog. In this section, author Tim Urban explains AI (artificial intelligence":

There are three major AI categories:

1) Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI): AI that specializes in one area. There’s AI that can beat the world chess champion in chess, but that’s the only thing it does.

2) Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): Artificial General Intelligence refers to a computer that is as smart as a human across the board—a machine that can perform any intellectual task that a human being can. Creating AGI is a much harder task than creating ANI, and we’ve yet to do it.

3) Artificial Superintelligence (ASI): “an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.”

As of now, humans have conquered the lowest caliber of AI — ANI

The hard parts of trying to build AGI are probably not what you think they are. Build a computer that can multiply two ten-digit numbers in a split second—incredibly easy. Build one that can look at a dog and answer whether it’s a dog or a cat — spectacularly difficult.

So how do we get there?

Here are the three most common strategies:

1) Reverse engineer the brain to figure out how evolution made such a rad thing — optimistic estimates say we can do this by 2030.

2) Try to make evolution do what it did before but for us this time. A group of computers would try to do tasks, and the most successful ones would be bred with each other by having half of each of their programming merged together into a new computer. The less successful ones would be eliminated. Over many, many iterations, this natural selection process would produce better and better computers.

3) Make this whole thing the computer’s problem, not ours. The idea is that we’d build a computer whose two major skills would be doing research on AI and coding changes into itself—allowing it to not only learn but to improve its own architecture.

Sooner or later, one of these three methods will work. Rapid advancements in hardware and innovative experimentation with software are happening simultaneously, and AGI could creep up on us quickly and unexpectedly.

Given the advantages over us that even human intelligence-equivalent AGI would have, it’s pretty obvious that it would only hit human intelligence for a brief instant before racing onwards to the realm of superior-to-human intelligence.

It’ll suddenly be smarter than Einstein and we won’t know what hit us.

And it could happen by 2030.

I encourage everyone to read the entire post - parts 1 and 2. It's such a well executed explanation of some very difficult topics. This is how the post concludes:

"It reminds me of Game of Thrones, where the characters occasionally note, “We’re so busy fighting each other but the real thing we should all be focusing on is what’s coming from north of the wall.”

That’s why people who understand superintelligent AI call it the last invention we’ll ever make — the last challenge we’ll ever face.

So let’s talk about it."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Web Secret #356: What is it like to be standing here?

For the past month, I have been struggling to come up with ideas for blog posts.

I used all my tried and true techniques to get inspired. I watched TED Talks, Stumbled around websites, read issues of Fast Company.

Nothing worked. Nada. I wondered if it was time to end this blog.

But just when I was thinking of throwing in the towel, I came across a fantastic blog, "Wait But Why".

More specifically, I came across a mind bending post on that site, "The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence" by Tim Urban.

Tim begins the post with a quote "We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. — Vernor Vinge." He puts up a graph, showing a stick figure (that's you and me) standing next to a near vertical line symbolizing accelerating human progress. And he asks, "What is it like to be standing here?

He then answers that question, which I will attempt to paraphrase for the sake of brevity:

If we had a time machine, and took a person from the 1500's and brought him to 1750 he wouldn't be that shocked, because 1750 is not that different from 1500.

But take a person from 1750 and bring them to 2015, and it would be impossible for us to understand what it would be like for him to see shiny capsules racing by on a highway, look at someone’s face and chat with them even though they’re on the other side of the country, and worlds of other inconceivable sorcery.

This is all before you show him the Internet or explain things like the International Space Station, the Large Hadron Collider, nuclear weapons, or general relativity. For him, this experience wouldn’t be surprising or shocking or even mind-blowing — those words aren’t big enough. He might actually die.

This pattern—human progress moving quicker and quicker as time goes on — is what futurist Ray Kurzweil calls human history’s Law of Accelerating Returns. This happens because more advanced societies have the ability to progress at a faster rate than less advanced societies—because they’re more advanced.

The movie Back to the Future came out in 1985, and “the past” took place in 1955. In the movie, when Michael J. Fox went back to 1955, he was caught off-guard by the newness of TVs, the prices of soda, the lack of love for shrill electric guitar.

It was a different world, yes — but if the movie were made today and the past took place in 1985, the change would be much greater. The 1985 person would live in a time before personal computers, the Internet, or cell phones. A teenager born in the late 90s would be much more out of place in 1985 than the movie’s Marty McFly was in 1955.

Kurzweil believes that the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th century.

If he is correct, then we may be as blown away by 2030 as our 1750 guy was by 2015.
So what is it like to stand here?

We have no idea.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Web Secret #355: Peaky Blinders

The other day I was at a dinner party.

They still exist.

I was seated at a round table (one of three) with 9 other guests. It was a cosmopolitan affair. The person to my left was a political activist from El Salvador. The person to my right was a twenty something artist form Berlin. There was a woman from Liechtenstein. An American specializing in the law pertaining to homeland security.

And what did this group talk about?

The TV shows they were streaming.

Most of them had or were in the process of streaming a Danish TV show called Borgen. Which has been described as the Danish "West Wing." Which I had never heard of.

A few days later, my 21 year old son told me he got a haircut. "It's a new style," he explained to me, "like the Peaky Blinders." Huh? I had him spell it for me. Turns out that the "Peaky Blinders," is a British historical crime drama television series about a gang operating in Birmingham, England, during the aftermath of World War I. I had never heard of it.

Of course with the Internet, I could quickly look up what I knew nothing about. Even though neither "Borgen" nor "Peaky Blinders" has every been broadcast on US TV, you can buy the DVD of "Borgen" on Amazon, and you can stream "Peaky Blinders" on Netflix.

My dinner guests and my son made me feel temporarily culturally illiterate.

In fairness to myself, achieving cultural literacy has become a highly complex affair.

When I was growing up, there was a finite number of TV shows, movies, books, music, and toys that you could access. And for the most part, you could only access your own country's cultural artifacts. In fact, if you lived abroad for two years - as I did between the ages of 10 and 12 - you came back with very little idea about what your friends were talking about. You had missed the TV shows, the movies, the jokes, the slang that had happened while you were out of the country.

Today, technology gives me access to more TV shows, movies, books and other knowledge than I can ever watch or learn in a lifetime. And should you wish to access the cultural heritage of another country, you can do so.

So what does it mean to be culturally literate in 2015?

Damned if I know.