Thanks to Al Gore you are reading this post! Seriously, Tim Berners-Lee changed the world in his March, 1989 paper proposing a more sophisticated information management system. Arthur Clark predicted in 1970 “the world’s accumulated knowledge” would one day be at everyone’s fingertips on small computers. In 1993 CERN declared the W3 would be royalty free and initiated the most dramatic change since man harnessed fire.
The timing was ideal for my failing body. In 1987 I worked with a man named Cantrell Griffith. Cantrell introduced me to Prodigy an online service sold by retailer Sears. When I retired on disability in ’90 I subscribed to the service. Prodigy’s business model was focused on rapidly growing advertisers and online shopping, but the growth was in its message boards and electronic mail. Those message boards were my first connection to other ALS sufferers around the country. I had been operating on the need to know basis regarding ALS. I only wanted to have enough knowledge about the disease to deal with current health challenges, but the message boards was an a shocking enlightenment to what was ahead. The two stand out memories I have from ALS board were meeting Atlanta ALS sufferer Susan Duffey Pension whose husband divorced her following the diagnosis and becoming friends with Steve from Dallas, Texas.
I was floored that Susan’s husband left her, but I could somewhat relate because not long after being diagnosed my first wife created a façade for the world to see. I wish she would have had the guts to divorce me much sooner than she did. Rather, I allowed her to treat me only as a tremendous burden. Absolutely no argument from me that being married to an individual with this disease is very difficult, but her selfish motives and my inaction resulted in two children becoming adults without empathy. I will never forgive myself for my greatest failure.
Steve lived in a nursing home and typed with a big toe. Still in denial though my body was deteriorating rapidly, I could not allow myself to accept Steve’s reality was my destiny. We communicated personally several times a week and I read his board posts daily. Steve was lonely, but a small part of me was encouraged that he had a positive outlook spiting his progressed state. One day the conversation abruptly stopped. I was so concerned and frustrated with no other means to check on my friend. A week later someone posted Steve had died. The news devastated me even though I had not a clue what my friend looked like other than fonts on a screen. Our friendship predated digital photograph uploading. I had not lost a friend to this damn disease until Steve and never fathomed I would lose count of friends lost because of ALS.
Next was Netscape and attempting to navigate the web myself when a disk arrived in the mailbox called America Online. The service served me well taking my online experience from a 800 baud Hayes external dial up modem through DSL. I was thrilled when I found the option to silence, “Welcome! You’ve got mail.” AOL enabled me to found a national grassroots coalition to amend Medicare law. At the time I used a switch that I clicked with a finger to type and joked in an article once the internet empowered me to change the government with one finger.
Think of the differences in our lives since the development of the web twenty years ago. If not for having children I would have no need for cash with online banking, electronic transfers and debit cards. I have not had coins in my pocket for two decades. Like Al’s whopper I invented online shopping or at least perfected the art of it. Since childhood I loved Christmas shopping, making a list, getting out in the crowds enjoying the hustle and bustle of the season. A wheelchair and the inability to turn my head ended the enjoyment of that annual tradition. Online shopping was a timely dream come true for me. Seeing products square in front of my mug without maneuvering the wheelchair knocking down merchandise on display in the crowded isles was better than sliced bread. Finding the highly desired product at a competitive price without leaving the comforts of home was icing on the cake.
I predict identity theft will become a thing of the past and thought of as the unprotected banks were in the wild wild west. The changes will come in ways that fulfill biblical prophecy concluding with an international monetary collapse. The Euro will be a lesson long forgotten. The United States will have succumbed to excessive debt and the blind eye to minority education and culture if vertical learning does not happen first.
We still have time to be more Jetsons’ like. For now online grocery shopping is too labor intensive and hard to replicate that perfect squeeze of a fruit. Convenience will rule the day. Technology advancements will perfect the nutritional value and taste of meals ready to eat to an experience fresh off the farm our automated homes order. This will occur before meals are consumed in pill form that release endorphins of fullness after a meal at a five star restaurant. .
The learning curve of the world’s accumulated knowledge is predicted to become vertical in the next twenty years, diseases will be cured and eliminated, problems solved and averted all at an exponentially increasing speeds. I just need to stick around. Thanks for reading. Have a great day! dj