(NOTE: I published this yesterday on FB. The response was so large and positive that I thought I would share it with ISTM readers as well.)
I woke up this morning and discovered that sometime during the night I had become 75. My first inclination was to demand a recount, but I had no connections with influence in that area.
A quick inventory revealed that I still had the same number of toes, fingers and they were all functioning as well today as they did yesterday, despite data confirming I was a year older.
I feel the same, I look the same. My health has a few hiccups, but a few days ago I managed to hike 12 miles in the Marin Headlands, grateful along the way at how many places near my home were among the most beautiful I’d ever seen, and if I can brag about anything—I have seen a great many places.
So, really, I reflected, what is the big difference? My wife and dog both still look at me with recognition and affection. I still have the same clients using my help to fine hone their company stories, and I still waste far too much time playing online Scrabble and hollering into the echo chamber that is my Facebook.
So what’s the big deal: another day, another milestone … pass the salt. No big deal.
Dribble & Complain
But there is this something. The sound of the words seventy-five. It resonates with old and gray and connotes people who forget and dribble and complain about younger generations and how much better certain thing used to be.
Long ago, I swore I would never be like that. When I was in my 40s there was a hit song called Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow. It promised times ahead would be better than the yesterday that is gone. It became a personal anthem and it remains so today on the first day of my 75th year.
Still, I think about tomorrow with the hope that the disruptive technologies I have championed for so long will make life and work better than they are. An issue that is now much harder to predict than I had thought it would be.
It is also more difficult than I thought it would be to see a future of peace and love and freedom on a healthy planet where people evolve to understand that we are far more alike than different and that by hating them—those others—people who look and speak and pray differently than we do, we are in fact hating ourselves.
Common Ground Unlikely
I came of age in the 1960s, a time of great social unrest, of political infighting that made it seem unlikely to find common ground. My generation was marked by a love for peace, love and freedom, of marching hand-in-hand, of believing we shall overcome, of believing that ours was a virtuous generation that would do the right thing for the tired, poor and huddled masses of the world.
It doesn’t seem to me that things turned out quite that way. You don’t have to be reflecting on your 75th birthday to know that these are dangerously divisive times, where the survival for the entire planet is in doubt and where huddled masses are treated with greater disdain and outright contempt than ever before.
It is very easy for people my age, the Hippies and dissidents of yesteryear, to become those cranky old people we feared becoming back in the day. We were a milestone generation, like the Greatest Generation before us and the Flappers of the 20s. Milestone generations are defined as such because there are large numbers of them, and their culture changes the direction of the world.
Now, there is a new Milestone Generation called the Millennials. Social anthropologists say Millennials will have a bigger thumbprint on history than us Boomers made and it would be very easy for me at 75 to blame them for the diminished state of the world today. Observers note that the first time they could vote for president, they stayed away in droves thus helping Donald Trump get elected.
I don’t. Millennials did not create the problems we have today. But they have inherited them. In the coming years, they are the only hope we have.
The torch of global influence has already passed from us Boomers to those Millennials. I would have liked on this my 75th birthday to have gathered some thoughts and words of wisdom to pass down to them. I would have hoped that my generation would have left them a peaceful planet with abundance for all to live in comfort and health: we didn’t even come close.
We promised peace and freedom and while we failed in achieving that, we did contribute a few good things, such as the PC, the Worldwide Web, social networks and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
And that brings me to my main point. I address it to the Millennials, the generation of my four grandchildren: Samantha, Michael, Oliver and Isla. We wanted to give you peace and prosperity, but we didn’t quite succeed. But our legacy to you is in the digital tools we will leave behind. Take them and use them wisely. If you do the world can still be saved—perhaps just in the nick of time.
As for me, I am going to keep doing everything I was doing back when I was 74 and even younger. I am also going to not stop thinking about tomorrow and I will do my best to never become jaded about the world my generation will inevitably leave behind.
A Robot in Your Shorts
Engadget posted an interesting story this week about robotic shorts to help people run and exercise better. It’s the kind of news item I sometimes poke fun at, except I find this to be significant because it shows how wearable technologies are finally evolving at a rapid pace.
As far back as 2011, I was writing about a company called Ekso Bionics. A company using AI to build external skeletons that can allow paraplegics to move about independently, using a couple of hand-controlled buttons. Eventually, they want to use AI to serve quadriplegics with Brain-Computer Interfaced (BCI) controls that would allow independent moving about. The downside is that they were big and clumsy and expensive. These new shorts hint to me that wearable assistants are emerging at an encouraging pace.
Wearables promise to help people with all sorts of new and better gadgets. I have been a diabetic for 30 years, jabbing my fingers three-to-five times daily to monitor my glucose. I haven’t done the math, but there’s a lot of little holes in my fingers. But still, daily samplings are not very precise and like most diabetics, I get a few random highs and lows each month which are not helpful to my overall health.
In October I will be fitted with a new Dexcom G6, a wearable sensor that will constantly monitor my glucose while eliminating my daily jabbings. I will now use a phone app to see when I need to either eat or inject insulin to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. I can’t wait for the obvious next step which would be to have the same monitoring device give me painless microinjections of insulin as needed.
This second part is still years away. Insulin would need to be far more concentrated than it is today. And my device might need to be taken off when the weather gets too hot.
But still you can see how wearables are going to make many of us healthier and this will be helped in part by wearables in running shorts that will have commercial value. And when tech finds a consumer market, the medical wearables will come along far faster, or so it seems to me.
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