My Final Days, a Reverie


A vision for my future is to spend my final days in a hospital bed at home. In this dream, I would experience something very similar to what I experience now in a hospital or nursing home….but a little better. I would still be able to go to a hospital or skilled nursing facility if there was a reason to go there, for example, for surgery, but otherwise, why leave home? I press a call button and don’t have to wait 20 minutes to tell the nurse what I need. My overhead screen pops on and I talk to one of those nice kids in India. And lickety-split, in just a few minutes, a nurse shows up with the bed pan I needed. But I’m home. I don’t have to put up with the lame ass cable channels at the hospital. I’m home and I still get my Red Zone football channel. I can yell at the dog when it barks too much and feed him peanut butter like I’m not supposed to. Family and friends can come and go…..no visiting hours here. Just like in the hospital, aides and orderlies come and go to clean my room, change my linens, bathe me, and chastise my wife for bringing me milkshakes. I will be home. That is my dream.


I like that. Maybe it isn’t for everybody but that’s the way I would like it to be. God willing, so it shall be. It’s a nice dream and today I know that it is not only possible but affordably available for a few hundred dollars in Consumer Electronics equipment. This is not new technology. In Internet terms, some of the stuff needed to do this is antiquated. That’s good news, however. Old technology is very affordable and often, very inexpensive (think dollar store).

It has been possible to turn my dream into reality for a long time now, well in Internet time anyway. It has been possible at least since 1989 or 1990. That’s when the World Wide Web came to be.

So, why hasn’t it happened sooner?

I think for a number of reasons. For one, the number of people who understand this new technology has been fairly low. At the beginning of the technical adoption curve, Innovators and Early adopters typically represent minorities of the greater population. In the early days of the World Wide Web, these folks were busy scooping up the low hanging fruit. They moved to those areas where there was the least resistance and greatest opportunities.

Personal privacy is a principal right held dear by most Americans. It is a right granted to us in the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. There has been a lot of debate lately around privacy on social media platforms like Facebook. This is a debate we need to have and I believe we are far from resolving what privacy will look like as a norm in the Internet Age. Some people even say privacy is already dead. Actually, there are many layers of privacy. We all know this as members of American culture. There are things that we will share in the intimacy of our own homes with friends and family that we would not share publicly. We as human beings, and so says our constitution, have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

There is an even deeper level of privacy. There are personal and private things that we share with almost no one or definitely with only a select few. For many issues it’s considered impolite to do otherwise. We do not as a matter of practice, share with just anyone the frequency and texture of our bowel movements….and to the guy who was sharing that information with someone in a restaurant booth adjacent to mine the other day, please stop doing that. Go see your doctor for crissakes and tell her about it. I don’t want to hear it, especially not over my lunch.

Precisely!!!

There are things that we as individuals share with trusted professional caregivers that we do not even share with family members as a matter of regular conversation. This is the level of personal privacy I am talking about, medical records. We have very strict customs, rules and laws about how information like that should be handled by trusted individuals and agencies. The bottom line, however, is that the individual has the right to share that with whomever they want.

Ok……but it’s one thing to share in a most rude and insensitive manner…..and yes sir from that restaurant booth a few days ago, that was rude and offensive….but that conversation is soon forgotten by most in a short time….but not me sir, I will not let it go……I digress. It’s totally another thing to share this on the Internet. The Internet never forgets and with only a little extra effort, if that conversation had occurred on the Internet instead of a booth in a restaurant, we would know who was inflicting himself on me during my lunch.

As I write this essay, there is an interesting interview being conducted by Steve Kroft of CBS 60 Minutes with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Whether I agree or disagree with Mr. Assange’s position, whether you feel he is a hero or traitor, I cannot escape evaluating my own positions on some fundamental tenets of American Democracy in order to form an opinion. I have to decide how I feel about the need for governments to maintain secrets and balance that against my own predisposition toward believing that governments deserve suspicion and scrutiny. Every person must reexamine their own heart relative to issues of secrets, freedom of speech, and privacy. This is the depth of disruption that a disruptive technology brings. It forces us to reconsider our most deeply held beliefs, those beliefs that we believed before the disruption to be rock solid. The disruption actually re-weaves our social fabric.

Consider that the Protestant Reformation began (1517) in Europe 77 years after the invention of the printing press (1440). The Protestant Reformation did not occur because of the printing press but neither would it have been possible without it. Many mark the beginning of the Protestant Reformation with the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. It was the printing press that made it possible for Luther and his followers to disseminate widely these theses that were originally tacked to a cathedral door. The printing press represented a form of communication that had previously been unavailable in the history of mankind. The full power of the Catholic Church was leveled at this movement but because the Catholic Church did not understand this new medium yet, they fanned the flames of revolution by using outmoded forms of sanction, like excommunication. The subject of their wrath, Luther, and his followers were free to fight back with mass produced thoughts that were free to anyone who had the ability to read them……what was only years before considered impossible, was now a fact. People had a voice, had something to say, and dared to speak to power.

This is the nature of disruptive technology. The Internet is such a technology.

Some of the early thought leaders of the Internet Age spoke to this disruptive phenomenon and chose the Protestant Reformation as a metaphor to frame their conversation. Eric Raymond wrote the Cathedral and Bazaar (1997). In this piece Mr. Raymond contrasts the top down process of producing content in the Industrial (printing press) Age to the bottom up process of the Internet Age. The top down process is represented by the Cathedral and the bottom up process symbolized by the Bazaar. The cathedral is old thinking and the bazaar is new thinking. Rather than building a massive structure that serves one purpose and is hard to change, we now do business in a free, open, and collaborative market where business of all kinds is transacted rapidly. The market is ever changing, ever evolving. It is the bazaar.

This metaphor was continued when some guys got together and wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto. The centerpiece of this work is their 95 Theses. This was written over ten years ago. Take a look at these 95 theses and consider how you think they fit in your understanding of the world now, in a world with ten more years of internet experience. They were describing the new rules of business, law and culture in the Internet economy. It was not a mistake that they chose to do this with 95 theses and it is not a large leap of logic or faith to see how their theses are much the same as Luther’s were nearly five hundred years ago, a clarion call to everyone that the locus of power had shifted in all of society.

Wow, ok professor….but what does this have to do with alarm systems and aging in place?

Because, the human value of personal privacy is closely held and not easily challenged or changed. People have been slow to share this kind of information across such a public and unforgiving medium, the Internet, for good reason. It would take a big tragedy or crisis to penetrate the skin of this deeply held value. That day is here.

For good or bad, the door is now open. Home Care will never be the same. I think a smart Home Care Agency owner will bone up as fast as possible on Smart Home technology and Internet technology. If you don’t have skills in that area, find a business partner. Our customers will expect that we carry as a matter of regular business, a full line of Consumer Electronic products to help them manage aging in place. This is how you will find business in the bazaar, the new marketplace. There is a robust and unfettered conversation. It is controversial, some times frightening. It shapes whole societies and cultures. It is capable of destroying whole industries and it can create new ones that were previously unimaginable.

And if you guys can weather that storm, my dream will, God willing, come true. You have a few years to get it right.

Creative Commons License
My Final Days, a Reverie by Mark Shea is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at wp.me.

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