Monthly Archives: May 2014

Culture and Big Data

J Edgar Big DataIn a digital world the big bad wolf isn’t hairy, doesn’t have claws, and doesn’t have fangs. The big bad wolf in the Digital Age, is us- ourselves.

Big data is about us. The collection, storing and coding of what we do, how we do it and a compression of why we do it, with a projection of what we might do as a reference point. If properly analyzed it can be quite enterprising; but Big Data all lumped and clumped together can be quite daunting. Still it’s there, all there, albeit on a Cloud and soon to be added, our medical folders. All of that information… POOF!

American culture has always liked information. President Roosevelt’s New Deal added value, with its issuance of a social security numbers. J.Edgar Hoover, who served under 6 U.S. Presidents (March 23, 1935 – May 2, 1972) mastered in the collection of information and data. And we Baby Boomers were born into it, so we recall applying and receiving those little bluish cards in the mail.

The card came in a #10 business size envelope with your whole government name typed out. It signaled to your parents, indeed to the whole world, that you were “somebody”. And that you could officially be hired to get a real job, something more than a newspaper route!

America’s social security system was a step towards tax collection with the fringe benefit of tracking and collecting information; a little piece at a time, bit by bit.

My social security number has followed me since I was sixteen years old. It came with me as I changed addresses from state to state, changed schools and when I went to college in Minnesota. It stayed with me when I was hired at the 3M World Center and again, when I purchased my first round trip airplane ticket to New Orleans.

When President Reagan fired the U.S. Air Traffic Controllers, I applied for and took the Civil Service Exam, a youthful scab. And again, when I went to work at the country’s leading University in Cambridge, MA.

Come to think of it, before I was issued a passport, I used my social security number for vacations. I used it to travel to Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas, all multiple times. In fact, on one visit to the Bahamas, the authorities detained me and accused me of not being an American citizen. Then my social security number was of no consequence; as they decided to give me an exam on American history, that I subsequently failed. Ironically, they released me, because I did fail, citing that anyone who was actually trying to sneak into the U.S. would have studied and passed the test. Go figure.

So my privacy– what I eat, where I’ve been and who I’ve married, my taxes, my income, my loans and how much debt I’ve incurred, is all there, tucked neatly beside my social security number. It also includes any driving infractions, which I have none. Our privacy was compromised a long time ago. Tracking me, my patterns, that is my behavior has been going on a long time.

I suppose, when I was younger privacy didn’t matter to me. Internet terms like Cookies and Breadcrumbs lull me into a false sense of security. Whimsical, as they always are in fairytales like Hansel and Gretel. But I’ve grown up some and I see the world differently. Things that didn’t matter before, matter now. And things that were once left unnoticed; now cause me to look up at the huge responsibility of a Cloud.

To Be continued…

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Internet, Privacy, Twitter, Women

Like Asking Graphene To Dance


My foot was already in the shoe when my phone went off.  So I missed the call.  And I was filled with guilt. 

Not so long ago I was free.   I wasn’t tethered to my cellphone; back then “free” really meant free.  And the word wasn’t just used as a reply when asked about your weekend plans or the elated outcry after divorce proceedings. 

We thought everyone was entitled to freedom, and we blindly fought wars to that end.   But the world has changed; mostly our roles in it.

And having become a society of the “entitled”, we’ve also blindly given things up.  For me it’s been my freedom to dine out, to dance, to socialize without interruption.  Technology it seems prospers when the least amount of resistance is applied.  It doesn’t matter whether you get it, you’re getting it or you’re one of the one’s who already had it; it’s gone.

Because here’s the thing, technology is getting smarter and we’re getting older.  And technology doesn’t age.  Welcome to the Age of Technology.

Our grandparents wouldn’t have liked it in this world so much.  They didn’t like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World either, too strange.  But that’s what the generation gap is all about; it’s only strange because it’s new.  Meanwhile the gap is widening, because the technology is getting smarter. 

Recently, I spoke with Don Fitts of AARP TEK, Life @50+ and he talked about hands on tech learning, where the youth will teach grandparents how to use day to day gadgets, like tablets.  How it will bring two generations together, and I thought brilliant!

Luckily our children, the offspring of our entitlement, have greatly benefitted from not being intimidated by technology.   In fact, they’re laid back, which allows the student to now become the perfect teacher. 

For me, there’s something nostalgic about our youth working with older citizens; like a Norman Rockwell magazine cover.  A universal moment in a commonplace situation; a snapshot that shows the connectivity between us all.

Truth is a Smartphone doesn’t by osmosis make any of us, anymore smart.  I can’t fix an iPad or the camera on my daughter’s Android phone.  

Which brings me to that missed phone call, as quiet as it’s kept; I’m happy I missed my daughter’s call.  For in that brief moment of time, I was free and I didn’t feel inadequate. 



Filed under AARP, Apps, Baby boomers, gadget, tech, technology

Free Knowledge, Must Bring Your Own Container

New gadgetry is allowing us to re-train the brain and learn all kinds of new things! And the Internet of Things (IoT) just made learning really cool.

If there’s a lesson book on the art of aging, I’ve never read it. But I do know that age has a way of leveling the playing field, that is no amount of toned muscle and body mass will make you a competitor in the next Olympics.

Wisdom keeps life in perspective. A subtle reminder that the brain, unlike the body is more forgiving; and old adages like, “You can’t teach old dog new tricks”, just aren’t true anymore. You can retrain the brain and learn. That is, you can teach old dog new tricks, but usually he’s just a tad slower on the uptake.

Enter a smorgasbord of technology, a Tsunami of technology from Machine to Machine (M2M) to the Internet of Things (IoT) this is real, it’s large and apparently we Baby Boomers have arrived just in time, because if we arrived later, it would’ve went “swoosh” right over our heads!

I recently visited the Home Booth at AARP Life@50+ and spoke with Nono Kusuma an engineer. He showed me quite a bit of HOME technology, those things that we wouldn’t usually associate with technology, say like a light bulb. Yes, there’s an App for that and “Hue”, a lighting system by Philips.

Home security systems, the Do-It-Yourself variety that didn’t but could be used in conjunction with a monitoring company, your cable provider or direct to your Smartphone. Yes, there’s an App for that, in fact, nearly everything that I suggested, from temperature control to venetian blinds that open and closed, had an App. The Internet of things is real.

I was reminded of my old home security system, years ago we had the electric timer. We’d plug it into the wall outlet and plug the appliance, lamp or radio into it. We’d set the clock dial to AM/PM, pick the time and we’d head out in the station wagon to that cabin in the mountains. Voilà!

After a while we got creative and used two timers, at one end of the house we’d plug in a radio and at the other a light bulb. At night the empty house would have a radio on and lights would go out or vice versa.

Fortunately for us, we always came home to a tightly secured house. We’ll never know whether it was the efficiency of the blaring radio or the light bulb; or if it was just pure luck. But whatever the case, we did return to a house that was as we had left it, that is locked.

In fact, the only unpleasant part about coming home was that the house was overheated. But even that small inconvenience is a thing of the past, because the house temperature can be controlled by the Smartphone. Yes, there’s an App for that.

The business of learning doesn’t go away with age. It does however change, bringing its own set of rewards– coming home to a secure house that’s cool inside, that’s just one of life’s joys.

Free knowledge, must bring your own container.

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Graphene, A New Technology For Women

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We women have an astounding amount of buying power.  Market estimates vary, but reports indicate that women spend between $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually.  Trillion.

So, tell me why is all the really cool technology geared towards men?  Is it some James Bond Double O-Seven fetish? 

I’m only noticing now, because this week I started to plan our family’s summer vacation and while it’ll be based on affordability, fun and location; we’ll also need accessibility. 

I don’t mean free Wi-Fi in the hotel room internet accessibility.  I don’t mean poolside free Wi-Fi because we’re not going to be tethered to either.   We’re hoping to go down the unbeaten trails, but we’re not interested in accruing roaming charges. 

We want to take selfies next to the waterfalls and upload them to our friends back home.  We want to be able to check and respond to emails, and update Facebook.  And yes, I want to Tweet about any inconveniences that we encounter during our idyllic getaway.

So, we need gadgetry, like men’s Wi-Fi cufflinks, but not cufflinks because we’re not going to a wedding or a formal dance.

I’ve done some research and there’s a new product called Graphene that Scientists discovered back in 2004.   Made of pure carbon, Graphene efficiently conducts heat and electricity; it’s lightweight and remarkably strong.  Scientists believe it will replace silicon. Companies like Apple are interested in it, so am I.  It’s flexible and has a great deal of potential and I’m thinking it can also be used for Wi-Fi underwire. 

I hope that some tech firm will think of women.  That they’ll think outside the box.  Think of something new.  Enough of the “same old same old”, those blue jeans, mascara and stockings.  Oh My!

Frightening, because there’s so much more to women.  But the most obvious would be our fetish for shoes.  A huge market right there; hi-heels, low-heels and sandals too; I could think of a few improvements to them.

Maybe made with a collapsible heel for more efficient dancing.  Heels that transform into flats, now there’s a novel idea.  And Graphene being both flexible and light-weight would be perfect.  Of course the shoe has to be fashionable.  So, partner it with a reputable clothing designer, construct it with Wi-Fi, (cleverly concealed in the heel) and Kapow!  Portable, interchangeable and to optimize them, make them in a variety of colors!

Now that’s new technology for women.  Rethink the thought and make it happen; life re-imagined.

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Filed under Baby boomers, Consumers, gadget, Gender, profitability, tech, technology, Wi-Fi, Women

Booming Tech: A Silver Mardi Gras


Rest easy, there’s no silver tsunami coming, the catch phrase coined to describe the coming of age of 76.4 million American Baby Boomers.  It’s not coming because we’re not your grandparents @ 50+. 

Think more along the lines of a Silver Mardi Gras— Silver beads, shirts on, tablets and smartphones up. 

We Baby Boomers are the offspring of great social changes, the Civil Rights Movements and Women’s Equality.  We don’t march, we dance and it’s a lively beat; kind of like steel drums.  

Years of formal education, from kindergarten to college didn’t teach us how to grow old and die.  In fact, none of us mastered in the art of dying or its companion set– rolling over and playing dead. 

Why would we?  We’re having too much fun.   So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re still vibrant members of our communities; that we’re educated, experienced and still have a little money to spend on tech toys and cool gadgets.  Especially tech tools that make our lives easier.

Last week, I attended the Washington Post Live- Booming Tech Forum on technology and Baby Boomers that was held in Boston.  The opening remarks made by AARP’s Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Hollis “Terry” Bradwell III set the tone, when he affectionately spoke of the Etch-A-Sketch toy, as the “iPad of our day”.  He got that right, it was!   Other speakers, like MIT’s AgeLab Director, Joseph Coughlin spoke of age disruption as being “young not youthful” and had me thinking that’s the place I want to be.  

Michael Cantor, Chief Medical Officer @ New England Quality Care Alliance spoke of technology for life, the coming of electronic medical records, wellness and longevity.  While Geri Brin, Founder and President spoke of women entrepreneurs on the web, startups and growing up on the internet.  Jeanne Sullivan Co-Founder of StarVest Partners spoke of the Startup Age in a tech world and they were exuberant with the very real possibilities of life @ 50+.  

Representatives from two tech generations, Perry Hewitt, Chief Digital Officer @ Harvard University and Zachary Hamed, Designer, respectively Generation X and the Millennium Generation weighed in on continuing and protecting the Tech Age.  While J.P. O’Rourke, columnist for The Daily Beast and author of The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way… And It Wasn’t My Fault… And I’ll Never Do It Again.  Discussed what’s wrong with the Technology Age, a little too glad that he wouldn’t be around for the fall out. 

With each speaker I became giddy with hope, everything reinforced what I already knew, that is we Baby Boomers are relevant in the Tech Age.  We’re mostly healthy, vibrant members of society, still active in our communities, still making contributions and willing to volunteer to improve on this world.   Why wouldn’t we? 

We were born into a world with our eyes opened, sometimes pried and held open to injustices.   There was no veil of delusion that hid institutionalized prejudice and discrimination from us.  Instead, we viewed sweeping changes on our television sets–  excitedly, we watched mankind land on the moon; and in horror, we watched a U.S. President be assassinated.  Confused, we watched U.S. soldiers being killed in Viet Nam and shocked, we watched fellow American citizens being hosed and beat down because they wanted to sit down at a counter.  It was a new world, full of social change and it swept us up along with it.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” with inter-racial dating, wasn’t simply a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, it was our very real world being portrayed in film.  I know, because my father has blue eyes. 

So here’s the thing, there’s no silver tsunami coming; that would be too destructive.  Think more of a Silver Mardi Gras with silver beads, shirts on, smartphones and tablets up!


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Filed under AARP, Apps, Baby boomers, Consumers, gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, tech, technology

Small Business Start-Up: Re-Think Technically

Business logo

Life doesn’t always allow us to know that what we’re doing and what we’re saying can and does make a difference.  For many of us, we’ve been making all the motions and haven’t gotten anywhere, but that’s about to change.   

It’s small business week, time to rethink a thought and think technically.   

The internet has completely changed the ways and means of starting a small business, from mailings to research to training; everything now seems reasonable and do-able!  

For many of us, time hasn’t been our friend.  In fact, most recently, time has been a struggle.  Everything seemed to come down on us at once; the rent coming due when the kids needed new sneakers and just when the fuel tank needle dropped to empty and a kid got sick!   

For every step that we took forward, there seemed to be two steps back. But somehow we muddled along.  And when there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day; we squeezed out another moment and got it done just in the nick of time.   

And all the while, we were unaware that we had been doing the Suze Orman juggle, and making ends meet.  We had stretched our dollars and lived within our means for so long, that it had become second nature to us, this check to check lifestyle, without the economic mystery of Adam Smith’s invisible hand distributing the goodies; which had long ago become ineffectual. 

And now here’s the pay-off; we’re wiser, we’re consumers and we’re our own purveyors.   Our kids are grown, and even if they haven’t moved out yet, we’re comforted in knowing that our job as paying parents is done. That is we’re no longer responsible for their name-brand sneakers! Yes, we have a little money left over.     

Time, our old nemesis has become friendlier.  As if there’s a mutual respect between us.  We’re no longer wasting time by procrastinating and time is no longer zipping by.   

Sure, a lot of things have changed.  The umbrella of social security is leaking and retirement will never be what it once was, but according to a study at MIT, baby boomers are twice as successful as their younger counterparts when starting up a technology business.

And this week is small business week; a time to acknowledge and appreciate small businesses.  A reminder that we don’t need silver spoons to mold dreams, when we have our hands.   Small businesses are built by forming new friendships, establishing networks and creating new online communities. Dedication and hard work will prevail.    

And later, in the cool of the afternoon, we’ll make time to look through old photographs and see that we smiled and laughed.   

And more importantly, once again we’ll make a difference.

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TEK Inclusive, Not Elusive

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Life doesn’t come with instructions.  Whether we’re pushed out or carefully extracted, we enter this world ill prepared for the journey ahead of us. 

In our youth, the journey was thrilling and eventful; we often jumped to conclusions and leapt before thinking and did so with little consequence.  But we’re older now and know better. 

Technology, is best used with knowledge, but sometimes it doesn’t come with paper instructions and just seems daunting. 

It wasn’t always that way.   Once upon a time, when you purchased a product it came with instructions that seamlessly guided you along, so that you could enjoy the device.  These were usually written on crisp white paper and after you read them, you were well prepared to use the device. Then you’d carefully fold the paper instructions and store them neatly away for future reference.

But the future came quickly, without warning the instructions began to appear on recycled paper.  These thin greyish slips of paper easily tore, and usually didn’t offer a grace period, that is a small window of time in which in complete frustration you’d ball up the instructions and promptly tossed them into the trash. Later, you’d retrieve them with a cooler head; logic prevailed. You’d get it, you needed those instructions.

And then the instructions changed form again, now they were being printed in multiple languages. English on one side and Spanish or Chinese on the other.  You were left more frustrated than before and joked about it; if you didn’t understand the instructions in English, then how could you possibly understand them in another language?

And then, without warning they had the last laugh, when they intentionally stopped putting the instructions into the box!

Instead a CD needed to be inserted and run on a computer. And that too began to change as you could only gain access to the instructions by visiting the website and downloading them.   A quandary if you didn’t have the knowledge to download a PDF, yet another acronym that popped into the English vernacular.

Which brings me back to the top of this page; that you’re not born with life instructions in hand; but perhaps you don’t need them to be.   After all, we have this unique ability to communicate, that is we can paint and erect a sign to prevent others from falling off a cliff. Technology shouldn’t be viewed as a cliff.

Besides, the journey of life is fun, meant to be enjoyed; teaching, educating and sharing knowledge are important to character, integrity and human development.

It’s nice to know that there’s still instructions included on things that smell good, like boxes of cake mix.  And if that changes and a cake mix requires a kitchen mobile APP, well it’s equally nice to know there’s a 50+ community available to help you.

Taking the fear out of technology and yes, there’s AARP TEK for that.

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Filed under AARP, Apps, Baby boomers, Consumers, Marketability, profitability, social media, tech, technology

Eye Technology: What Would Gene Roddenberry See

Google Glass Visor Like so many others, I got excited when I read that Google was tinkering with glasses; that this eye technology might be a little more scientific than gadgetry got my attention. And then Google Glass was released.

The product did what it was touted to do, but it did little for technology in an aging world.

Google Glass is a toy for the outdoorsy types, who like to jump out of perfectly good airplanes and who like the thrill of scaling sheer mountainsides. But not so much for 75% of the Americans who wear some form of corrective lens and who have some degree of AMD- age-related Macular degeneration of the eye. America is getting older, perhaps it’s time to put away its toys.

I’m reminded of Opti-Grab, the fictional eyewear gadget that Steve Martin’s character invented in the movie, The Jerk. In the end, all its users ended up cross-eyed, for having repeatedly used the little eyeglass handle between their eyes. Label it gadget fail.

But could the influence of science fiction writers like Jules Verne and Gene Roddenberry, who gave us such great inspirational communication technology, likewise have stifled eye technology by mostly leaving it out of their written works?

What if Star Trek’s Lieutenant Commander LaForge had been cured of his blindness? What if scientists had eradicated that defect, would Google Glass have evolved as lighter version of the commander’s visor? Google Glass Visor
And maybe that’s the whole point, not to see the world as it is, but to see it as we would like it to be.

Because if we were given a pair of glasses that flipped images upside down, and we wore them for a few days, our brains would flip the images right side up. That’s been scientifically proven.

And I think that’s what happened last month, when Google released it’s Beta version of Google Glass. Now, it’s up to us to figure out some good use to put them to and for that, I’d like to first be paid.

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Filed under AARP, Apps, Baby boomers, Consumers, Eyegalsses, gadget, Google Glass, profitability, social media, technology, Television, Vision, Visor