Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Web Secret #238: Passwords

Many of my colleagues are concerned with software security issues, such as encrypted e-mail and the like. But the key to cybersecurity begins on the front line, with a powerful password.

Last month, the New York Times published an excellent article on how to build a secure password.

Here are the most important tips from that article:

FORGET THE DICTIONARY - If your password can be found in a dictionary, you might as well not have one.

NEVER USE THE SAME PASSWORD TWICE - People tend to use the same password across multiple sites, a fact hackers regularly exploit.

COME UP WITH A PASSPHRASE - The longer your password, the longer it will take to crack. A password should ideally be 14 characters or more in length if you want to make it uncrackable by an attacker in less than 24 hours. Because longer passwords tend to be harder to remember, consider a passphrase, such as a favorite movie quote, song lyric, or poem, and string together only the first one or two letters of each word in the sentence.

STORE YOUR PASSWORDS SECURELY - Do not store your passwords in your in-box or on your desktop. Store your password file on an encrypted USB drive. I personally like the Ironkey brand.

IGNORE SECURITY QUESTIONS - There is a limited set of answers to questions like “What is your favorite color?” and most answers to questions like “What middle school did you attend?” can be found on the Internet. Hackers use that information to reset your password and take control of your account. A better approach would be to enter a password hint that has nothing to do with the question itself. For example, if the security question asks for the name of the hospital in which you were born, your answer might be: “Your favorite song lyric.”

USE DIFFERENT BROWSERS - Pick one browser for online forums, news sites, blogs — anything you don’t consider important. When you’re online banking or checking e-mail, fire up a secondary Web browser, then shut it down. A recent study found that Chrome was the least susceptible to attacks.

The best offense is a good defense.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Web Secret #237: Varian Fry

The Internet can be an instrument for good, and it can be an instrument for evil. During this year's holiday season, the Internet gave me Varian Fry. Or more precisely, I learned about Varian Fry through the Internet, and in turn, that knowledge became a gift.

I was reading "The Orientalist," and came across Varian Fry in a footnote:

"After he graduated from Harvard in the early 1930s, an assignment as a freelance journalist had taken Fry to Berlin, where he'd witnessed the persecution of the Jews and...[heard] rumors within the Nazi Hierarchy [of] the mass murder of the Jews."

I had to find out more and so turned to the Internet. At first Fry tried to publicize what he found out, but his efforts were thwarted by the US government, which for political reasons did not want to focus on the Holocaust.

What he did next is truly wondrous. This young man from a privileged background, who could so easily have looked the other way, took thousands of dollars of his own money and went to Nazi occupied France. There he personally saved an estimated 2,000 Jews, personally escorting the likes of painter Marc Chagall and writer Hannah Arendt over the Pyrenees, risking his own life at every turn. He set up contacts with the French Resistance and the Corsican mob, hired forgers, and bribed border guards.

He was aided in his mission by the son of the man who discovered Machu Picchu, (I am not making this up,) Hiram Bingham IV, an American Vice Consul in Marseille who fought against State Department anti-Semitism and was personally responsible for issuing thousands of visas, both legal and illegal to Jews needing to escape persecution.

The online Holocaust Encyclopedia reported that:

"Shortly before Fry's death, the French government awarded him the Croix de Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. It was the only official recognition he received in his lifetime...In 1991, the United States Holocaust Memorial Council awarded the Eisenhower Liberation Medal to Varian Fry. In 1994 he was also honored by Yad Vashem as a "Righteous Among the Nations" for his rescue activities."

Is that not a gift?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Web Secret #236: Recalibrating Therapy for a Digital World

A couple of months ago, the New York Times devoted its entire Science News section to look at some of the many ways technology is changing the world of medicine. This is the third and final in a series of blog posts devoted to a further analysis of some of the articles in that section.

As psychiatrist Richard Friedman, MD wrote in his thoughtful article the virtues of the digital age are not always aligned with those of psychotherapy. These days, as never before, therapists are struggling to recalibrate their approach to patients living in a wired world.

For some, the new technology is clearly a boon. Let’s say you have the common anxiety disorder social phobia. Your therapist who sensibly recommends cognitive-behavioral therapy. You find that this treatment involves a fair amount of homework: You typically have to keep a written log of your thoughts and feelings to examine them. As it turns out, there is a smartphone app that will prompt you to record these social interactions and your emotional response to them.

Struggling with major depression? An app might ask you to rate depressive symptoms like sleep, energy, appetite, sex drive and concentration in real time. When it comes to collecting and organizing data, software is hard to beat.

But also worrisome. Technology enables patients reach out via text, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter. For some of them, the easy connectivity that technology makes possible is a decidedly bad idea. For example, a patient with borderline personality disorder would love instant access to a therapist whenever an uncomfortable feeling arises.

Perhaps even more problematic, digital technology can make therapists more real and knowable to their patients. "This cuts both ways. Recently, a patient I had treated for depression was struggling with the approaching death of his beloved dog. Just divorced, he was dreading another loss. One night while surfing the Internet, he came across a piece I wrote years ago about the death of my own dog. 'So you understand what it’s like,' he said during one of our sessions."

Friedman wonders if it’s even possible for therapists to remain anonymous in the age of the Internet, where we can all be found in the electronic cloud. A Google search might not reveal a therapist’s deep, dark secrets, but even basic information begins to alter the relationship.

He concludes that digital technology has the potential to either enhance or confound therapy.

When it comes to technology and psychotherapy - nothing is simple.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Web Secret #235: Tech for Seniors

A couple of months ago, the New York Times devoted its entire Science News section to look at some of the many ways technology is changing the world of medicine. This is the second in a series of blogposts devoted to a further analysis of some of the articles in that section.

Recently, I have been suffering from arthritis pain that has been pretty much unresponsive to narcotics, anti-inflammatory meds, acapuncture, etc. So when a friend suggested I try tumeric, a spice associated with Indian cuisine, I was skeptical, to say the least.

What the hell, I decided to research tumeric. Using my Internet searching capabilities, I easily found reputable research on its medical uses. I ordered my capsules online from Amazon, and two days later I ingested my first dose. 96 hours from my first tumeric Google search, I experienced a 50% decrease in pain. It was that remarkable.

As I get older, I will be more frequently looking to the Internet for information about health care. Sadly, "Americans over 65, whose health stands to benefit the most from modern digital technology, are the least able and least likely to use it. As of April [2012], according to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, 53 percent of Americans 65 and older were using the Internet or e-mail, but after age 75, use dropped off significantly, to 34 percent. By contrast, nearly 90 percent of younger adults are digitally connected."

According to Jane Brody's article, "E-Health Opportunities for Seniors," getting more seniors digitally connected, either personally or through caregivers, is expected to greatly enhance opportunities to protect the health and well-being of older people and, at the same time, reduce both individual and national health care costs.

The good news is that it's not too late. "A Pew Center study last year concluded that "80 is the new 60" - more and more older adults now use computers and the Internet, and two-thirds of seniors using the Internet have looked for health information online."

Personally, I recommend getting a mac and taking advantage of Apple's fantastic "one to one" training programs. Based on my (granted somewhat limited) experience teaching seniors how to use the Internet, I believe they learn best in a one on one format.

Learn not to be afraid of the machine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Web Secret #234: Connecting to Millenials

A couple of months ago, the New York Times devoted its entire Science News section to look at some of the many ways technology is changing the world of medicine.

My next few blog posts will be devoted to a further analysis of some of the articles in that section.

As I write this, many of my psychotherapy and treatment facility colleagues are anxiously sitting on the fence, wondering if they should, and how they should, leap into the digital age. The easiest way to get inspired, is to read how another professional effectively accomplished this.

In "Texting the Teenage Patient," reporter Jan Hoffman describes how one pediatrician harnesses technology to effectively communicate with the adolescents in her practice. Among other techniques, she:

Texts: "Better morning with this medication?" or "Everything is great, go ahead with the plan we discussed. Please reply so I know you received." On the morning of college entrance exams, a teenager who suffers from a roiling stomach reads her texted greeting: "Prepared. Focused. Calm. Your body is healthy and well. Good luck today."

Uses a whiteboard which hangs in her exam room, with hyperlinks and QR codes to sites with teenager-friendly material on sexuality, alcohol and drugs. The teenagers can photograph the board with their phones, storing the information to peruse in private.

Rather than leave teenagers unguided about dicey health matters, she continues sending them links to appropriate Web sites. As she explains in the article, "I do as much as I can to get it on their phones, because that is what they live and die for." She gets parents' permission, because she doesn't want them checking a child's phone and chancing upon sites about, say, sexually transmitted diseases.

In this model of intervention, the practitioner no longer sees the Internet as the enemy, but rather as technology to be turned into an advantage.

"The payoff is a better-informed teenager who finds social media a faster and less embarrassing means to have questions asked and answered."

My opinion is that as millenials enter their twenties and beyond, they will demand a kind of communication and responsiveness that can only be achieved through technology. At that point, clinicians and facilities who do not engage in digital media may find it difficult to hold on to these 21st century patients.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Web Secret #233:

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am thankful for

With all the evil and stupid junk polluting the Internet, how about a website that promises to to make important stuff as viral as a video of some idiot surfing off his roof, and then delivers on that promise.

How about a website that posts:

This Speech Is The Reason My Time Machine Is Permanently Set To 1959 - footage of Bertrand Russell (British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, social critic and Nobel Prize winner) explaining what he would say to viewers 1,000 years in the future.

The TED Talk That Inspired Two Standing Ovations - It's no secret that TED talks are generally phenomenal. So what made 24 year old Sarah Kay's exceptional enough to inspire two standing ovations? Well, it's kind of hard to express. And that's the point.

Can Changing Your Font Size REALLY Help Improve The World? - sometimes the simplest ideas can be unimaginably powerful.

Most Upworthy postings are single images, or under 3 minute videos.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Web Secret #232:

I am old enough to have been told, when I was growing up, that I could not participate in various endeavors, simply because I was a woman.

For example, when I was in elementary school, I was told I could not participate in martial arts or attend Yale University, (which did not accept women at the time.) Nothing irritates me more than being told I can't do something (because I am a woman.)

Thus the times forced me to become a pioneer
. I was in the fifth class that accepted women at Yale, I was the first female member, and later manager of the Yale Judo team.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and as I write this, I am still one of very few women to blog about technology and code HTML. This has me irritated all over again, and so I wrote a rather sarcastic post, Web Secret #148: Women in Computer Technology.

So you can only imagine how excited I was when I stumbled across Makers features short, segmented video interviews with dozens upon dozens of women who were/are trailblazers in their fields. It's a bit like TED talks, with only women, for people with a sub 5 minute attention span.

Many of those interviewed have pioneered away from the public eye, others are famous. I immediately gravitated towards the science and tech category.

Did you know that Google's first ever female engineer is now the CEO of Yahoo? Marissa Meyer describes her pioneering days before, during and after Google.

How about listening to Katherine Wolf, a woman who invests in socially redeeming start-ups like OrganJets, a company that helps transplant patients travel across the US to receive treatment with the use of private jets?

Or pay attention to Gina Bianchini a social software entrepreneur.

It's a good start.

It made me somewhat less irritated.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Web Secret #231: Welcome, Class of 2016

I went to college "a long time ago." Let's just say it was after the Beatles broke up, but before the advent of the Internet, cell phones, personal computers and any number of gadgets we take for granted in 2012.

This past August, my boy/girl twins started college, freshly minted members of the class of 2016. They are on different campuses, 1,000 miles apart.

As we off loaded the car, then stood on line to borrow a cart and transport their possessions, you would not have been able to tell my first day at school from their first day of school. We were standing in line, wearing shorts and sandals, and it was hot and humid.

And there ended the resemblance.

College "a long time ago": It is uncool to have a lot of stuff. I arrive with 7 pairs of corduroy pants, some dashikis, 4 heavy cartons of records, a heavy and bulky record player (consisting of an amp, tuner, turntable and speakers), and an even heavier electric typewriter. I spread an orange Indian comforter over my bed, tack up an Escher poster with some gummy stuff, and voila - I am home.

College 2012: It is uncool if you don't have stuff. Everyone has a lot of clothing, and a lot of products to make the XL twin bed comfy, including bed bug repelling mattress sacks, mattress pads, matching sheets and comforters. No one is carrying anything heavy. No need to bring a TV, you can stream everything. No need to haul records, your smartphones can hold thousands of songs. No need for a typewriter, everyone has a laptop.

College "a long time ago": the ratio of boys to girls on my Ivy League campus is 7 to 1. I have a boyfriend within 12 hours of my arrival.

College 2012: the ratio of boys to girls is 40 to 60 percent. My son is happy, my daughter less so.

College "a long time ago": Almost everyone is white and American. I don't meet a biracial student until sophomore year. There are no gay people. Wait - there were gay people, (I figured this out at my 25th college reunion,) but they were so hidden in the closet, and the whole topic of sexual orientation was so hushed, that well, I didn't know. Any. Gay. People. In college.

College 2012: There are all kinds of students, representing every ethnic group, sexual orientation, and many foreign countries.

College "a long time ago": Time for homework. I carry mimeographed assignment sheets to the library, spend half an hour and a roll of quarters photocopying key information from a variety of books so that I can write a paper.  Paper is written long hand, sitting at a desk in my dorm room, to the tune of the Doors "Light My Fire." (A very long song so no need to get up as often to move the phonograph needle back to the beginning.)

College 2012: Time for homework. Twins lie in bed, with laptops, doing problem sets posted online. They instantly get feedback on whether or not they got the right answer.

College "a long time ago": I really miss my parents and friends from high school. I use the pay phone down the hall to make a collect call to my folks in the evening, when I know they are home. There are no answering machines and I don't know when my friends are in their dorms. I work really hard to make new friends.

College 2012: Twins have cellphones, can call parents anytime and video chat anytime. They are frequently and easily in touch with their former high school friends. Consequently, making college friends is important, but doesn't have the same urgency.

Did I have it worse? Do they have it better? Who got/is getting the better education?

I have no idea.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Web Secret #230: the Archimedes Palimpsest

It was October 29th, 1998, when a very special, very old book was sold to an anonymous collector for $2,000,000 at Christie's auction house in New York.

The Archimedes Palimpsest, as this book is called, has true claims to greatness: it is the earliest surviving Archimedes manuscript.

No, this is not a new Nicholas Cage thriller. Instead, the Palimpsest lies at the heart of a 21st century high school reunion of sorts. Reunions - those awkward affairs where alums take comfort in the cash bar, as they assess whether they are more or less successful, attractive and affluent than their classmates...

Anyway, a long time ago, when I was in high school, one of my friends stated, "when I grow up, I am going to be a paper conservator." I remember thinking I had only the vaguest idea what she was talking about.

Fast forward a number of years. My class secretary creates a Facebook group for us. And thus I discover that my classmate Abigail Quandt has now become one of the world's foremost conservators of rare books and manuscripts. (She modestly posted that she was about to visit the museum where the Palimpsest is currently being exhibited.)

You see, the anonymous collector had entrusted her with the task of restoring the Palimpsest. It took her 12 years. You can watch a video about her work here. In fact, there is an entire website devoted to the book.

How often do people accomplish exactly what they set out to do?

How often do we thank Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the Internet?

How often do we have the opportunity to see a treasure like the Palimpsest from an up close and personal perspective?

We live in an age of miracles.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Web Secret #229:

So what would it look like if craigslist had a face lift and Botox?


Übokia's tag line is "Get anything you want on your terms."

Until Übokia, most online marketplaces were “seller-centric” — sellers determine what’s available for sale, then buyers just browse what’s on offer. That approach is becoming less effective as more and more marketplaces pop up, so that “buyers are becoming a scarce commodity” — hence the creation of Übokia, which is all about “empowering the buyer.” (Sellers can post their own listings too, but that’s not the primary model.)

As an example, say you are looking for a green 2008 Jeep Wrangler with less than 20,000 miles, and within 50 miles of your location. Instead of making you search for it, Übokia lets you post what you’re looking for, then wait for the sellers to come to you. Plus, the service is completely free.

You can look for goods or services in 9 different categories:
  • Sports
  • Instruments
  • Vacation Rentals
  • Automotive
  • Housing
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Collectibles
  • Babies and Kids
Übokia's interface is clean, and simple to use.

Check it out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Web Secret #228:

Do you ever feel like your faith in humanity needs to be restored?

When that happens to me, I go to the website.

We all know that Nobel Prizes are among the most prestigious in the world. And thanks to the Internet, we can now listen, watch and learn from winners past and present. It's like watching a TED talk on steroids.

Dozens upon dozens of Nobel speeches, interviews, documentaries and more are curated on the site. Here are three examples:

1. Faulkner's Nobel Prize in Literature Acceptance Speech. One of my all time favorite quotes, "I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance," is from William Faulkner's Nobel acceptance speech. How great would it be to listen to him give that speech? You can do it right now.

2. Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Lecture. In 1991, Burmese Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest and unable to collect the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. On 16 June, 2012, she finally delivered her amazing Nobel Lecture (a requirement for all winners) in Oslo, Norway. In addition to being privy to her speech, you get to see the spectacularly beautiful hall where the lecture is delivered.

3. Interview with John Nash. All Nobel Prize winners are interviewed. John Nash was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. Many people know about him through the Oscar winning motion picture "A Beautiful Mind." In this 2004 interview, Nash talks about the impact the Prize had on his life, his talent for mathematics as a child, the work that gave him the Prize, talks about important economic issues of today, and shares his thoughts about the movie on his life.

In 1895, Alfred Nobel endowed the Prizes in his will, instructing that they be given to those "who have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

Think about it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Web Secret #227: Museum of Endangered Sound

In a previous blog post, I wrote, "My memory of what my life was like pre-Internet is rapidly fading."

Part of remembering the past is sensory. It is remembering not only events, but smells, sounds and sights. One scientist wanders around our national parks, collecting continuous acoustic data documenting an intangible, invisible and - increasingly - endangered resource: natural sound.

As change accelerates, even the sensory memory of our recent mechanical and electronic past is receding rapidly.

This prompted 3 millenials to create the Museum of Endangered Sound. Curated sounds include:
  • a manual typewriter
  • a needle being placed on a record
  • static on an old cathode ray tube TV
  • a dialup modem
  • Windows 95 booting up
It is an amazing experience to click on some of these sounds. Quick - can you remember what Tetris sounded like on a first generation GAMEBOY? I can't, but as soon as I click on the picture, it's like hearing from an old friend.

The museum hopes to complete its initial data collection phase by the year 2015.

Entrance is free.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Web Secret #226: 6 Tips for More Online Privacy

Recently, I came across a fabulous article offering tips on how to improve online privacy.

Here are six of the best:

1. Be careful on social networks. Almost everything you say and do on social networks is public by default. Post with caution or a pseudonym. Facebook has dozens of privacy settings, so start with the biggest ones: turn OFF tag suggestions, turn ON tag and profile review, disable access to apps you don’t use or trust, and only share with friends. If you’re sharing with friends of friends, more than 150,000 people on average can see your info.

2. Use your browser’s private browsing mode. Private browsing mode stops other people who have access to your computer from knowing which sites you’ve visited. Cookies are automatically deleted when you close your window, and your history of web sites visited, passwords, autofills, searches, and downloads isn’t saved. Enable private browsing mode in your browser’s preferences. It’s called Incognito Mode in Chrome, Private Browsing in Safari, InPrivate in Internet Explorer, and Private Browsing in Firefox.

3. Use secure browsing (HTTPS) whenever possible. HTTPS prevents others from snooping on your wireless connection. It’s particularly useful when you’re using insecure wireless connections, like those in cafes or airports. You’ll know that a site is secure and using HTTPS when you see a lock icon next to the URL of the site you’re visiting.

4. Use multiple email addresses. Have a different email for each of the following areas of your life: people you trust, signups for online accounts, signups for offline accounts, legal, work, & acquaintances (or any other category you’d like to create). That way, one email getting hacked or compromised won’t affect the others.

5. Google yourself regularly. Search for all variations of your name and contact info to find out if your personal info is publicly available online. Information about you can also show up in more than a dozen of Google’s other search services, such as Images, Videos, Blogs, Groups, News, and Realtime (which monitors social network mentions).

6. Think before posting under your real name. Whether you’re posting in a forum, social network, news article, or online group, there’s a good chance your comment will persist forever. If you decide to post something under your real name, ask yourself the New York Times question: “If this content were ever publicly released, would I be okay with seeing it on the cover of the New York Times?” If the answer is “no,” use a pseudonym.

All the above are common sense, but on the Internet, common sense is in short supply...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Web Secret #225: I Live Like a Billionaire

Two months ago, while I was sitting in my virtual front row seat watching the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games on my HDTV, it occurred to me that I have a better quality of life than John Jacob Astor IV.

In 1912, Astor was considered to be the richest man in the world, with a fortune of close to $3 billion in 2012 dollars. In case you don't remember from watching Titanic reruns, he drowned during the sinking of the ship, (interesting but irrelevant to the point I am trying to make.)

True, I don't have a summer "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island. Nor am I likely to travel first class anywhere, anytime. But in every other respect, compared to him, I live like a billionaire.
  • I have air conditioning (not in widespread use until the 1940s.)
  • I have hot and cold water, anytime, (not in widespread use until the 1920s.)
  • My car, a modest Honda CRV, is equipped with GPS (invented in 1990) and satellite radio (Sirius Satellite Radio, 1990.)
  • Through my cable TV set, I always have a seat to an endless list of concerts, shows, and sporting events, (HBO was created in November 1972.)
  • I am vaccinated against multiple horrific diseases, (polio vaccine 1952) and have access to antibiotics (penicillin, commercially available in 1945) if I get an infection, and insulin (discovered in 1922,) if I get diabetes.
  • I own or have access to a dozen other wonderful technical wonders that help make my life pleasant, safe, longer, and entertaining.
I am very rich indeed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Web Secret #224 - Sandwich Video

There is a man who has mastered the art of the under 2 minute promotional video. His name is Adam Lisagor and his company is called

Adam's videos are short and quirky, odd but entertaining. They do not use celebrities or supermodels. In fact most of his videos look like something that anyone could produce with an iPhone, if only they were smart and creative.

Here is an example of a classic Sandwich Video:

It's only one minute long!

Get inspired - watch all of Adam's videos. It will only take you 15 minutes...

Even if your self made promotional video is only half as good, (think half a sandwich,) why couldn't you do it too?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Web Secret #223: Generation Screwed

Our twins have left for college, but no empty nest angst for us - our recently graduated daughter has caromed back into our lives.

She is part of what Newsweek Magazine calls "Generation Screwed." To quote the article:
"How has this generation been screwed? Let’s count the ways, starting with the economy. No generation has suffered more from the Great Recession than the young. Median net worth of people under 35, according to the U.S. Census, fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13 percent hit. The wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center."
In New York City, (where I live,) things are even worse. While I paid $280 for a studio apartment in Manhattan after I finished grad school, my daughter will eventually pay close to $1,000 to share a space with several roommates in Queens.

What has happened since I graduated? In New York City, from 1970 to 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), the median rent rose by 75 percent, while the median income remained stagnant (after adjusting for inflation). Further, in 2010, 54 percent of New Yorkers spent over 30 percent of their income on rent, compared with only 28.5 percent of New Yorkers in 1970.

Unsurprisingly, according to a Pew Study published early this year, employment for 18-to-24-year-olds is at 54 percent, the lowest rate for this age group since 1948, when the government started keeping track. The Pew Study also noted that one in four of all 18-to-34-year-olds said they had moved back in with their parents after having been on their own. Moving home is no longer necessarily indicative of laziness or pathology.

While these trends have been brewing for two decades, they are now at their peak. A popular blog written by 20 something Emma Koenig is aptly called "F**ck, I'm in my Twenties!"

The blog must resonate because Ms. Koenig has been offered a related book deal and TV show.

That's Blog Power.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Web Secret #222: Babbel

I spend a fair amount of time standing on line, waiting in airports and otherwise being unproductive. Sure there's "Words With Friends" but what about doing something more rewarding?

How about downloading Babbel and learning or perfecting another language?

Babbel is a free app (on iOS and Android) that allows you to study a choice of 11 different languages and have fun while doing it. Babbel:

Is a mobile vocabulary trainer. Make the most out of travel and waiting time: With Babbel Mobile you can study vocabulary even on your smartphone or tablet. Speech recognition and basic and advanced vocabularies are integrated.

Is interactive. The Babbel apps contain 2000-3000 vocabulary words per language. All words are accompanied by images and pronounced for you by native speakers.

Offers speech recognition. With our integrated speech recognition you can practice your pronunciation and make significant progress. Lose that fear of speaking!

Offers a review manager. Babbel gathers the words and phrases that you've studied and then presents them back to you for review at optimal intervals: all in good time. What you've learned automatically embeds itself in your long-term memory!

Gracias Babbel! Merci Babbel!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Web Secret #221: Tech Shopping Tips

In a recent issue of the New York Times, tech writer Sam Grobart wrote a somewhat lengthy (but excellent) article offering his system for buying tech gear.

He begins his story with the following introduction:
Think about all the variables you have to account for when buying a new TV, printer or laptop. First, you have to figure out what it is you want to buy — which is often no easy task, given the plethora of brands out there.

Some brands even have their own plethora of models. Have you ever looked at Panasonic’s site for TVs? It has seven different 65-inch TVs for sale. Not three, not even five — seven.
Yes, shopping for gear is a nightmare. Here is my shortened and simplified "Reader's Digest Condensed Book" version of "Clearing Away the Clutter From Tech Shopping":

1. CONFIRM YOUR CHOICE. Go to Its independent reviewers just tell you which product is the best in a given category. If you are looking for, say, a laptop, you will find a well-annotated shortlist of laptops organized like this: “best laptop,” “best gaming laptop,” “best cheap laptop.”

Great, I can handle that. (Can someone do this for cars? Hotels? Life in general?)

You want to know that what you want to buy is the most current version — and will stay that way for a while. Visit This is what they do: "Buy Now or Wait? We predict if prices will drop or a newer model is coming soon." Armed with that data, you can either move ahead, or lie low for a little while.

3. FIND THE RIGHT RETAILER. I almost always check if whatever I am looking for is available on I often find the item for less there AND I get free two day shipping because I am an Amazon Prime customer. (Since I buy just about anything on Amazon, from laptop locks to toothbrushes, I cheerfully pay the $75 to achieve Amazon Prime status.) Also, the absolute lowest price may be from some sketchy website. In fact, the more expensive the item, the more I am concerned with buying it from a reliable source. And if the warranty is at all important, I will gleefully pay extra. (eg I only buy Apple laptops, iPads and iPhones from the Apple store.)

4. CHECK FOR ANY COUPONS. I do not buy anything online without checking for a promotional code. My favorite site for this is There you can find codes for free shipping, 20 percent off and other discounts and deals that might otherwise have eluded you.

Happy shopping.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Web Secret #220: 2012 Social Media Facts and Stats

Time for some hot off the press social media marketing facts and stats:

70% of local businesses use Facebook. The U.S. has the largest number of Facebook users.

There are now roughly 100 million active Twitter users (those who log in at least once per day).

Google’s search engine is used by 85% of global Internet users every month.

Pinterest has grown 4,000% in the past six months, and now boasts more than 4 million users.

4.8 billion people now own mobile phones. One-third of smartphones globally use the Android OS. The number of tablets in use in the U.S. rose from 34 million in 2011 to 55 million this year and is expected to reach 108 million by 2015.

Social media sites and blogs reach 80% of all U.S. internet users. Social networks and blogs account for 23% of all time spent online — twice as much as gaming.

On social networking sites, men and women are about equally willing to share their real names (both about 87%), political and religious affiliation, and the brands they like (77%), but men are far more likely than women to share their physical address (11% vs. 4%), their current location (35% vs. 20%), their phone number 15% vs. 4%), and their income level (16% vs. 5%).

There is still time to jump on this bandwagon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Web Secret #219: Buying a Laptop

Recently, I finally came across a succinct, easy to understand article that explained how to buy a laptop.

The article's author, Sam Grobart believes, (as do I,) that worrying about most laptop features is a waste of time, unless you're managing your airport's traffic control system or rendering 3-D graphics.

Most people are merely looking for a portable computer to get you online, maybe watch some movies, answer some e-mails and work on a document, spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation. And if you fall into that category, this is all you need to worry about:

WEIGHT - Don't buy anything that weighs more than six pounds. Any number of laptops weigh far less than that (down to around two and a half pounds), so there’s no reason to get anything heavier.

SCREEN SIZE - For most of us, 13 inches is big enough, but still portable. And you can always hook your laptop to an external monitor when you are home.

PROCESSOR - Doesn’t matter. Even an entry level processor is ridiculously more powerful than anything you used 5 years ago.

BATTERY LIFE - “Battery life will vary depending on the product configuration, product model, applications loaded on the product, power management setting of the product, and product features used by the customer.” In other words, battery-life specs don't mean a thing. Get to know your battery's life in the context of your individual computer usage.

MEMORY - Unlike the processor, RAM (random access memory) does matter. You want 4 gigabytes of RAM. A laptop with less than that will seem sluggish, with annoying delays between the time you click on a menu command or hit a key and something actually happens.

STORAGE - This used to matter a lot, but with the rise of streaming services and cloud computing, the amount of storage on your computer has become a lot less important. Today, almost any laptop north of $300 has 500GB of storage, which could hold nearly 500 hours of video, or around 8,300 hours of music. For some perspective, an application like Microsoft Office requires three gigabytes of space. (Remember when it took an hour to download Microsoft Office? I downloaded the entire thing on my son's new laptop in 5 minutes.)

GRAPHICS CARD - See “Processor.” For regular use, any graphics processor is going to do the trick.

WIRELESS - Get the Wi-Fi-only model.

OPTICAL DRIVE - This is that slot or tray you have been using for DVDs or recordable CDs and it is falling by the wayside. Music has gone largely digital, forgoing physical media. Video seems next. Applications are increasingly downloaded from online stores. So you don’t need the optical drive.

PRICE - Spending $500 or so will get you a PC. You will need to spend twice as much to get the entry level MacBook Pro. See "MAC or PC" below.

MAC OR PC - Get a Mac, get a Mac, get a Mac. I know what I am talking about. I worked for a company that was entirely Mac, I worked for a company that was entirely PC. At one point my family was entirely PC, and now we are almost entirely Mac. Macs don't require endless calls to tech support, or anti-virus protection. Pick up a $1,000 PC and compare it to a $1,000 Mac. You can feel the difference. My husband's expensive Sony Vaio is always on the fritz. Besides, odds are that you have an iPhone, and it is lovely to have all of your gadgets seamlessly integrate with each other.

TRY IT OUT - All the specs in the world won’t tell you if the keyboard’s too cramped, the screen is not to your liking or the speakers are tinny. To figure that out, you need to go to a brick-and-mortar store.

Then go out an buy an entry level Mac laptop. That is all you need.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Web Secret #218: New Media Medicine

I have moved to a new home, and will be looking for all new physicians and allied health professionals close to my new location. All except for my internist, Joon Lee MD.

There are a number of reasons for this decision. First and foremost, in addition to her excellent training and knowledge, Dr. Lee is the only doctor I have ever seen who practices medicine in a collaborative manner. She is actually interested in what I think, and open to my feedback about her recommendations. She also is willing to tackle problems from multiple perspectives, including traditional Western medicine, as well as alternative therapies such as acupuncture. And she is an exemplar of New Media Medicine at its best.

New Media Medicine is a concept being extensively studied at MIT. To quote:
"The Internet has all but destroyed the information asymmetry, [between doctors and patients], but the inequality remains... We believe that people, working together in creative new ways, can succeed where the medical establishment has failed. As a society, we have dramatically underestimated the power of ordinary people to transform the system, to take care of their own health, to help develop therapies and to help solve massive public health problems. It’s time for a powershift in health care. We are pioneering new media technologies that will enable radical new collaborations between doctors, patients and communities, to catalyze a revolution in human health"
Now that I have moved, I will join Dr. Lee's patient portal. It will allow me to:
  • view my medical records
  • arrange for a telephonic or a video consultation
  • schedule an office appointment
  • send her a message
  • renew a prescription
If I need to travel to her office, I will. But at other times, I will be able to have a virtual consultation with her, which will save me time and money, and provide me with much more immediate care. Dr. Lee is practicing the medicine of the future - today. And beyond today - this is what's coming:

Count me in.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Web Secret #217: the 100,000 Student Classroom

Do you sometimes forget that you have advanced technology at your fingertips? I do it all the time, it's just not native to me.

I was apartment hunting recently. Did I remember that I can use my iPhone to film an apartment, so that I can show my kids where we might be moving? No.

When my oldest was involved in a disputed fender bender, did I remember to take photos of the incident with my smartphone immediately after it happened, so I could make my case with the insurance company? No.

When I forgot to DVR a pivotal episode of Game of Thrones, did I immediately remember I could watch it streaming on HBO to go? No.

Because of advances in computer and Internet technologies, we are in the midst of a major paradigm shift. But we don't always remember to use what we already have.

Peter Norvig is a prominent professor at Stanford University, where he teaches a famous course on Artificial Intelligence. But it wasn't until the fall of 2011, that he realized he could make his class available to thousands of students across the world.

Peter didn't just make a video of the course he was used to giving. Instead, he completely reinvented it, breaking it down into 2-6 minute segments, followed by a question that allowed participants to check if they actually understood the concept that had just been taught.

He transformed his course so that it was accessible online. 160,000 people in 209 countries signed up. All watched at least one class, and 20,000 actually handed in all the homework and completed the course.

The potential he unleashed makes me shiver.

Now, if I could only remember.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Web Secret #216: HP 2610

I am drooling at the prospect of upgrading to an iPhone 5, dying for a Mac Book Pro with Retina Display, and coveting the new iPad.

But I am utterly loyal, and have no intention of upgrading my Hewlett-Packard 2610, an all in one machine that prints, faxes, scans and copies. My HP 2610 has served me without ever missing a beat since 2005. That's like 30 years in electronic time.

As the 7 years have gone by, I have watched my spouse and children go through a veritable arsenal of Canon and HP printers, only one of which is still in our possession. All of these machines have been uniformly crappy, jamming and refusing to work wirelessly on a consistent basis. (I know, I am the Geek Squad at my house.)  Accordingly, they have been thrown out.

What happened after 2005? HP and Canon started making sh--ty machines. Just lift one up, it weighs nothing, being made of the flimsiest plastic possible. My HP is hard to lift and solid. You get the point. Newer is not always better.

By the way, the same goes for Mac versus PC. Pick up my husband's Sony Vaio laptop, and you can tell it's a piece of junk. Pick up a Mac and you know your holding a solid, well built machine. Yes, it's more expensive, but guess what? It lasts a whole lot longer and doesn't break down on a regular basis. In contrast, my teenage daughter put her MacBook through torture tests. She accidentally dropped it off her bed (several times), spilled hot chocolate on the keyboard, left it in the broiling sun, and all around abused it. And it kept on ticking, as the old Timex ads used to say.

What inspired "will it blend"? 

Timex Torture Tests, of course

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Web Secret #215: October The First Is Too Late

One of my favorite works of science fiction, "October The First Is Too Late," was written by British Astronomer Fred Hoyle. The premise of the book is that a transmission of energy plays havoc with time. England is in the 60's but WWI is still raging in western Europe. Greece is in the golden age of Pericles, America some thousands of years in the future; while Russia & Asia are a glass-like plain, its surface fused together by the burnt-out sun of a far distant future. 

I recently presented a social media workshop to tech newbies. These were educated, professional people. Some of them did not know what an app is, or use a smartphone, or even understand that the World Wide Web is made up of coded pages. I live in 2012, and they live in 1990. Maybe even earlier.

At the end of Hoyle's novel, the two main protagonists realize that time is about to re-stabilize. One of them stays in the future and the other elects to go back to his past. My memory of what my life was like pre-Internet is rapidly fading. I couldn't go back even if I wanted to. 

I stay in my crowd sourced world, where a universe of information, data, and people awaits, just one click away. 

I no longer remember a time when I was sheltered and closed off. 

It's both good and bad.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Web Secret #214: Let There Be Light

Bad news sells newspapers, and every other type of media, so feel good stories about the Internet are few and far between. This week, time for some good news.

In 1945, famed director John Huston, then a major in the Signal Corps, was asked by the US Army to film a documentary about their approach to treating "shell-shock," what we call today "post traumatic stress disorder." Huston was given unprecedented access to the soldiers, treating psychiatrists, therapeutic procedures, and grounds of the massive Mason General Hospital on Long Island.

The documentary, "Let There Be Light," pioneered unscripted interview techniques to take an unprecedented look into the psychological wounds of war. Its remarkable innovations in style and subject were at least a decade ahead of their time. Upon its completion, the Army promptly censored the film, and it wasn't publicly shown until 1980, when a poor quality print was premiered at a John Huston retrospective.

Recently, the National Film Preservation Foundation lovingly restored the film, and it can now be viewed in its entirety on the NFPF website.

The film is fascinating on a dozen different levels. Clinicians will be interested by the PTSD symptoms of World War II veterans, and treatment modalities used including group therapy, occupational therapy, and the use of Sodium Pentothal to treat "psychoneurosis."

History buffs will notice that everyone is constantly smoking, and note that the hospital patient population is integrated, while remembering that the armed forces remained racially segregated until 1948.

Anyone who has worked in an inpatient psychiatric facility will be amazed by the fact that no one is precipitously discharged from the hospital because their insurance has run out - the typical course of treatment was 8 weeks long.

As for me, I was mesmerized. My exposure to the 1940s comes from viewing photos, reading books, and seeing old movies. To see real patients and psychiatrists, view actual treatment was simply amazing.

I realized that ultimately, I could never understand them, anymore than they could ever understand me.

I was separated from these young soldiers, these psychiatrists, by over 60 years of history, social change, and scientific progress.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Web Secret #213: 6 Tips for Internet Privacy

"You know that dream where you suddenly realize you’re stark naked?

You’re living it whenever you open your browser." Or so reporter Kate Murphy opines in a New York Times article.

She continues:
"There are no secrets online. That emotional e-mail you sent to your ex, the illness you searched for in a fit of hypochondria, those hours spent watching kitten videos  — can all be gathered to create a defining profile of you...while it’s probably impossible to cloak your online activities fully, you can take steps to do the technological equivalent of throwing on a pair of boxers and a T-shirt."
Here are 6 suggestions:

1. Log off Google and Facebook as soon as practicably possible and try not using the same provider for multiple functions. “If you search on Google, maybe you don’t want to use Gmail for your e-mail.”

2. If you do not want the content of your e-mail messages examined or analyzed at all, consider a free encrypted e-mail service like HushMail. If you are communicating with clients and want to ensure confidentiality, both you and the client need to sign up for HushMail.

3. Register your own domain with Hover, which cost $55 to $85 a year. You get not only the company’s assurance of privacy but also an address unlike anyone else’s, like

4. Use the search engine DuckDuckGo, which does not track or bubble you. Bubbling is the filtering of search results based on your search history.

5. Regardless of which search engine you use, turn on your browser’s “private mode,” usually found under Preferences, Tools or Settings. When this mode is activated, tracking cookies are deleted once you close your browser, which wipes your history clean.

6. Shield your I.P. address by connecting to a virtual private network, or V.P.N., such as YourPrivateVPN. These services, whose prices price from $40 to $90 a year, route your data stream to what is called a proxy server, where it is stripped of your I.P. address before it is sent on to its destination.

How many of these suggestions should you adopt?

It depends on your level paranoia, or whether you have clients or decide to engage in e-counseling of any kind.

If all of this is technical mumbo-jumbo to you, consider taking  a Therapeutic Use of Technology course from the Online Therapy Institute

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Web Secret #212: KONY 2012 and Other Stories

Social media can change attitudes. In a big, big way. Here are 3 stories from the Internet trenches that speak to that very point.

Story 1 - KONY 2012:

Before March 5, 2012, had you heard of Kony? Neither had I, but thanks to a brilliant YouTube video

almost 90 million people have now heard. After the video went viral, things got kind of controversial, and the pundits lost track of the most amazing aspect of the story. 90 million people, mostly teenagers, watched a 27 minute video about an obscure African war lord. Up to that point, the rule of thumb was that no one, certainly not teens, would watch a video longer than 2, maybe 5 minutes.

Story 2 - Facebook includes donor status on its pages:

It was announced quite simply, on May 1, 2012:
Starting today, you can add that you're an organ donor to your timeline, and share your story about when, where or why you decided to become a donor. If you're not already registered with your state or national registry and want to be, you'll find a link to the official donor registry there as well.
By the end of the day, more than 900 million people had already chosen the organ donor status on Facebook.

Story 3 -

Proving that you don't need to be an Internet behemoth to make a difference, a young teen decided to do something about the bullying she had suffered, creating the We Stop Hate website and a compelling video that already has 80,000 hits.

What is the moral of the story?

To quote the KONY 2012 video: "This connection is changing the way the world works."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Web Secret #211: Don't Stand Still

In December 2011, I wrote a post about a Canadian Employee Assistance Program's (EAP) ground breaking mobile app,  My EAP. And then I sat back and waited to see other EAPs, treatment facilities and mental health clinic jump on the app bandwagon.

And nothing happened. As far as I know Canada is still leading the app pack.

Oh, wait. Something did happen. The Canadian company, Morneau Shepell updated their app, and came out with an improved version.

I'll let them describe some of the improvements:
My EAP version 2.0 includes expert health and wellness articles, videos, and new interactive tools which are all now available on a global basis.

New features and improved functionality allow users to:

  • contact EAP support toll-free, anytime, anywhere worldwide;
  • register for E-Counseling directly through the app (Canada and US), instead of through a computer;
  • determine their stress levels via a new tool called My Stress Index; and
  • evaluate their relationship using a new tool called My Relationship Meter.
So I throw down the gauntlet, and urge you to put your big toe in the app and social media waters.

Before Morneau Shepell comes up with version 3.0.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Web Secret #210: Don't Touch My User Interface

I think you will all agree that this blog has featured a minimal amount of whining. That is about to change.

Several months ago, when I signed into Blogger to create a new blog post, I noticed the words that strike fear into my heart: "Blogger is getting a new look!"

I have also received the following announcements, (forgive me for paraphrasing):
  • "Facebook is getting a new look"
  • "Your Aptela phone system is now Vocalocity!"
  • "Your gmail is getting a new look!"
Usually, you receive this horrible news a number of months before the change takes place and can ignore it. But sooner or later, like death and taxes, they will force the new look/system/user interface on you.

This will be announced thusly: "Blogger has a new look! Introducing the completely new, streamlined blogging experience that makes it easier for you to find what you need and focus on writing great blog posts."

Take my word for this, 99.99% of the time, this "upgrade" does not make anything easier. Au contraire, it means that what you used to accomplish without any difficulty whatsoever, is now gone forever, and you are going to have to take hours of your time to learn the "new and improved" version of, in this case, Blogger.

As Charlie Brown used to scream, "AAUGH!!!"

The other day, I heard that one of the marked characteristics of the successful 21st century employee, will be his/her ability to constantly learn new stuff, in contrast with earlier centuries, when you learned stuff in school or an apprenticeship, and once you entered the workforce, you applied what you learned for the rest of your life.

So we are not so lucky. But wait, there's more.

This is not an across the board problem.

Take cars for example. If I don't want a car that works like a computer - a 2013 model with Bluetooth, a slot for your iPhone, GPS, a warning that sounds if you change lanes without signaling, etc., etc. - I can buy an older version of that car.

You can hang on to that retro feeling 2005 Dell Inspiron laptop.

Not so with social media tools, or computer software. Were you in love with Windows XP? Sorry Charlie, Microsoft has announced it will no longer support it.

Am I concerned that the pace of change is accelerating with every passing month, to the point where I am spending increasing amounts of time learning the "new look" of an increasing number of "streamlined" systems? And it's not just new versions of known systems. How about the fact that there are new social media channels and technologies being introduced all the time? (And remember, I love technology...)

There is a silver lining in this cloud of change. If you didn't jump on the social media bandwagon in 2008, you can just pick up whatever is going on right now.

Pinterest, anyone?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Web Secret #209: Pinterest

I have never had a guest blogger on my site. Until now.

Months ago, my 23 year old daughter - and new media expert - told me about a new social media channel - "This is going to be the next big thing," she assured me.

I opened the site - glanced at it and zoned out.

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago, when, at an elegant Manhattan wedding, a distinguished 60 something woman asked me, "What do you think about Pinterest? I'm thinking of using it for my antiques business."

Oops! Guess I better get up to speed.

Jamie, you have the floor:

"Pinterest is a site made up of pins - photographs and videos of anything that you can imagine - positioned on pin boards (virtual bulletin boards.) These visuals includes clothes, animals, architecture, DIY projects, tech gadgets, and much more. Anyone can open an account in a matter of minutes for FREE and create one, or dozens of boards to showcase products, opinions, ideas, etc. Remember that no one buys anything they can’t see.

The social media aspect is that there are millions of pinners all over the world, so just like Facebook, or a blog, you can follow, “like”, and comment on people, brands, single pins, or entire pin boards. Pinterest is a massive network of people who simply like all sorts of stuff, and you have the opportunity to make them like you, your products, and your ideas.

If I were you, I would get going before your pins get lost in the mix.

Still not sold? There is a tab at the top of the Pinterest home page titled “gifts,” which allows users to name a price range for items they might want to buy. In the blink of an eye, a page with a huge number of purchasable products of all kinds appear on your computer screen. Just click on a pin and you are linked to the site where that product is sold.

There are other great things about Pinterest. You can spend time checking out your competition, communicating with fans, or posting a short video, hoping it goes viral. Did I mention that there is a smartphone app?

Pinterest is a marketer’s best friend
. And in case you’re saying to your computer screen, “I’m not a marketer,” you’re in denial - because every professional needs to become a brand in this day and age in order to be successful.

Happy Pinning!"

Thank you, Jamie.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Web Secret #208: Cryptocat

Internet privacy is a growing concern. When you participate in an online chat, can others listen in? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Fortunately, thanks to Nadim Kobeissi, a brilliant 21 year old college student, there is Once you are on Cryptocat, you click a link and you’re chatting with someone over an encrypted chat room. Better yet, up to 9 of your friends/family/associates can join you.

Cryptocat is ridiculously easy to use, but just in case you want to know more, watch the video.

Spy vs. Spy

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Web Secret #207: FamilyLeaf

About a year ago, I wrote a post on Dunbar's Number. Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist, suggested that from a neurological standpoint, the human brain can handle no more than 150 meaningful relationships. The implication for social media is that you may not need 1,000 followers on Twitter to be effective.

Every time I give a social media presentation, a number of audience members will express their horror at the openness and magnitude of Facebook and Twitter.

Well, attendees, your concerns have been heard - enter FamilyLeaf. FamilyLeaf is designed to be that small, closed, private network for your closest compadres. Check out the demo.

For your smartphone, there is Path. A Path network, allows you a maximum of 150 friends.

PS According to the article in the New York Times (by Randall Stross) that inspired this post, Dunbar, is alive and kicking as a professor at Oxford. He further elaborated his theory as follows: "social networks resemble a set of concentric circles: 150 people constitute the outer boundary of friends, 50 is the limit for trusted friends, 15 for good friends, and 5 for best friends."


I can handle that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Web Secret #206: The Age of Spiritual Machines

Raymond Kurzweil is a well known futurist who has been lauded for his uncanny ability to predict the future of artificial intelligence and the human race. In 1999, Ray published his second book of predictions, "The Age of Spiritual Machines."

Here are some of them:

2019 (only 7 years from now)
  • A $1,000 personal computer has as much raw power as the human brain.
  • Computers are embedded everywhere in the environment (inside of furniture, jewelry, walls, clothing, etc.).
  • People experience 3-D virtual reality through glasses and contact lenses that beam images directly to their retinas (retinal display). Guess What? Google is already working on that! Check out "Project Glass":

  • People communicate with their computers via two-way speech and gestures instead of with keyboards.
  • Cables connecting computers and peripherals have almost completely disappeared. Almost there right now!
  • Computers have made paper books and documents almost completely obsolete. Kindle anyone?
  • Household robots are ubiquitous and reliable. Where is my Roomba?
  • Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated personalities. The depth of some computer personalities convinces some people that they should be accorded more rights.
2029 (only 17 years from now)
  • A $1,000 personal computer is 1,000 times more powerful than the human brain.
  • Computers are now capable of learning and creating new knowledge entirely on their own and with no human help. Some computers "know" literally every scientific discovery, book and movie, every public statement, etc. generated by human beings.
  • The rise of Artificial Intelligence creates a real "robot rights" movement, and there is public debate over what sorts of civil rights and legal protections machines should have. The existence of humans with heavy levels of cybernetic augmentation and implants lead to further arguments over what constitutes a "human being." Ever see "AI"?
  • Machines have attained equal legal status with humans.
I stopped reading after that - I was getting too freaked out.


In 1974, Arthur C. Clarke predicted the Internet and the personal computer.