What’ll We Leave to our Kids?

Mitch is back on the air with news that his son is just about recovered from acute appendicitis. Mitch has been offline since last Wednesday, so I’ve felt apprehensive. He had written that he was thinking a lot about how to be a Dad and therefore a human:

…if we start using this technology the right way, maybe he and other kids will grow up to spend more time with their kids. I remember going to the hospital a couple times around his age and not seeing my father for more than a few minutes at a time, where I slept by my son’s bed (or, rather, didn’t sleep). So, while we take care of this I appreciate your coming by the blog to check if there’s anything new.

The hospital has given me a lot of time to think about how we use technology, why I use it to work more rather than less, and so forth. I believe, looking backward and forward, that many folks have forgotten the emigrant ethos of making a better world for our kids. We dote on them more, but when you look around the hospital it is clear that a lot of what we do is create distractions — from pain, from life. There are Nintendo systems and geegaws and, yesterday, a Mardi Gras party. But what happens when we step out the door, kid in tow? Do we go back to work? Do we stay engaged? Do we work to make it better? I know, we all want our kids to go to college, but that is a sort of maintenance effort these days — like sending a child off to apprentice with the local printer or silversmith 200 years ago.

Everything about the level of connectivity I enjoy tells me there are powerful forces that could substantially improve my kids’ lives if they are put to use to make them participants in, and not just consumers of, the media in which we live.

My kids Brian and Kelly are in their early 30’s. They’re doing fine and living the lives they want (Brian’s a GIS specialist in environmental remediation and Kelly’s a yoga teacher/artist/poet/web designer). But from where I sit, their economic environment seems too iffy. I feel that our generation has let them down, so focused on our own path that we’ve left too many divots in the playing field.

Tonight on West Wing, they’ll replay the episode where Toby and Josh spend the night in a motel in Indiana and meet a dad taking his daughter to a college interview. They run into this dad in the bar because he’s avoiding telling his daughter he doesn’t know how to pay for her college. He and his wife have good jobs and are frugal but can’t do this vital thing for their daughter. They expect to work hard, but can’t it be just a little easier?

Can’t it be just a little easier?

Indeed. Everyone is working harder but most seem to me to be less sure of the trajectory of their lives. It’s clear we’ve mastered the trick of overfeeding ourselves and keeping a pretty good roof over our heads, but the level of effort to match our expectations seems so over-the-top that it clearly cannot be sustained.

Most of us lead lives that can’t scale.

Perhaps part of the problem is that our cultural flight plan has vectored us into the Bermuda Triangle. The 50’s offered unlimited promise; the 60’s, passion and enfranchisement; the 70’s, consolidation and a recovery; the 80’s a technical and financial renaissance; the 90’s an eruption of promise, wealth and unlimited horizons. Each decade seemed worth investing more time and effort to achieve what our immigrant forebears had wished for us.

But the market bust and our reaction to the 19 fanatics who got lucky have caused us to slip into a spiral of pessimism and doubt. As usual, these distortions have brought out opportunists who leap at the chance to turn public difficulty to private advantage. Meanwhile, most of the people who do the heavy lifting in our culture are wondering how their lives became so daunting.

Everything’s a Nail to Me

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, so naturally I want to give our livelihoods a good Xpertweb whack. In looking at Andre Durand’s suggestion that individuals hijack the Liberty Alliance protocol, Mitch points out today that Xpertweb is one way to enable a strip-mall solution rather than nothing-but-net ideas. It’s true, and I hadn’t thought of it that way.

When I was a real estate developer in Denver, I built the Kipling Place strip mall. One of our tenants was Rocco’s Deli, owned by a former Johns Manville accountant from New Jersey. Rocco’s is the kind of place that would benefit from Xpertweb, and I think the accountant in Rocco would love the data stream that Xpertweb generates automatically. And from the customer’s point of view, if you’re looking for a Ruben sandwich, do you wanna go to the Southwest Plaza food court or to Rocco’s, whose Ruben is rated 97.4% with customer comments that make your mouth water? Fuggedaboutit!

Everyone wants to re-calibrate their future. That’s the same everyone who does all the work and the everyone who has all the money. There is no technical barrier to building a public economic utility for everyone, a place where everyone’s kids can find work and mentorship and build a reputation, and everyone can find certain satisfaction from vendors vetted by everyone else.

12:27:55 AM    

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