Friday, April 25, 2014

In Memory of Aaron Swartz and my memory of raising Y generation kids


Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 - January 11, 2013)

He may not be as famous as Steve Jobs whom I've done a previous memorial post for when he passed away on Oct 5, 2011. In fact it's been over a year since Aaron passed away on Jan 11, 2013 as I only got to know him recently as explained partially at the end of an earlier post on the date 24 April 2014. Details about his life's work and achievements can be found at wikipedia here.

Aaron was born in the time period known as the Y generation, similar to all the children in our family ie. born roughly in the 1980s to the middle of the 90s. These are usually the children of Baby Boomers and people in early Gen X. Generation Y grew up with many world-changing events including the rise of mass communication and the Internet as described in a generation chart here. He grew up to become a computer programmer, probably a Geek with good programming skills and even hacking skills. This could be naturally so as his father Robert Swartz had the background of a computer programmer who started a software firm in Chicago, Illinois.

As I could relate to Steve Jobs as the founder of Apple Computers due to the experience of my early days in starting a business of supplying Apple compatibles to corporations in Malaysia, I am also able to relate to Aaron with a father in the software business as I had also ventured into the software business not long after the hardware business was set up. Besides the common business application programs like accounting or payroll that our team could source or develop, and then market and support, I knew our team had exceptional programming skills in the low level language of assembler to be able to produce what I called 'Geek like' products. The following are some press releases of our venture :


 

 

Now Aaron had hacking skills which I had seen in a couple of our top programmers who had incredible high IQ scores and therefore can understand and appreciate the calibre of Aarons computing skills. He was therefore involved in the development projects of a number of breakthrough products like the web feed format RSS that essentially is used to to publish frequently updated information for blog entries, news headlines etc. It was the project that he was  involved in with the organization of Creative Commons that I found his name while reading a website of archived books using the Creative Commons licence.

It was Aaron's later work focused on sociology, civil awareness and activism that eventually led him to serious trouble with the authorities for his act of downloading and distributing  information without authorisation. According to the wikipedia link of his life given above, he was charged by Federal prosecutors with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release. Two years later, two days after the prosecution denied his lawyer's second offer of a plea bargain, Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn, New York apartment, where he had hanged himself.

In January 2014 at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah, a documentary film made about his life had its world premier with the title, 'The Internet's Own Boy : The Story of Aaron Swartz'. The video below tells more about his life with interviews with his father and brother :


(Postdated development : As it sometimes happens, some published videos may later not be accessible for some reason. Click here for an alternative video.Here is yet another. )

We also get to hear from the writer and director of the documentary in the video below :


A film guide can be read here.

There seems to be some injustice by the American authorities exercising their legal powers in prosecuting this young man who seem to have not committed any criminal acts for his own personal gain!

I am aware of another case where a documentary was produced to show a similar abuse of power by the authorities in the US to prosecute a medical doctor. Watch the movie and be a judge of the case :


(Postdated development : As it sometimes happens, some published videos may later not be accessible for some reason. Click here for an alternative to the same video.)

Now on to the subject of our raising Y generation kids from my memory of it and starting with good advice from the Richard and Linda Eyre who visited Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in the previous month of April :


One can watch this video to understand what their book is about :


They also have a blog following the title of the book ie The Entitlement Trap and one can read this introductory post to know why parents say “Entitlement” is the biggest problem of this Generation of Kids.

The following is my recent facebook post :


Click at the like and comments icon section above to view the interactive comments and other stories shared that will be displayed in another page.

My last comment above in the facebook post on 'striking a creative optimal balance' is probably the best description of how I had tried to raise a family, not 1 or 2 kids but 6 together with my dear wife who sacrificed much for all of us. The foundation of having the M culture was a plus as playfully described in our Christmas Story of 2013 and more seriously in a spiritual post of the Next Generation. We balanced hard work with fun and play, pains with humor and laughter with mindful thoughts and firmness in our planning but heartfelt patience and forgiveness when plans fail. A paradox of opposites to be balanced as the cherished prayer of General Douglas MacArthur, a famous war hero in the USA :

Build me a son, O God, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know thee - and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men. One who will reach into the future, yet, never forgets the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never takes himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember  the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength,

Then I, his father, will dare whisper, "I have not lived in vain!"

But there is a challenge for the Y generation to attain such a balance. They are the generation that have become soft from a time like in the computer era where hardware dominance gave way to software supremacy, creating a world wide web that figuratively captures the hearts and minds of the next generation. This virtual world can blur the divide between what is good and bad, and users expect lifes blemishes can be easily removed with instagram!

We have to watch out for this whether we're old or very young as it can come at a time of our lowest moments in life. I remember when I was very young, my father had retired and was given a round the world trip by the government, with my mother accompanying. At home being the youngest without them, I was boycotted by my youngest sister, next oldest to me, who teamed up with our sister-in-law to leave me out from their fun and games at home. Tears swelled in my eyes as I walked out of the house to the empty land next door and just sat there by myself, filled with lots of self pity till it was late and past dinner time! Out in the darkness, my only brother in the home came out to me and extended his hand of compassion with a soothing voice to tell me, let's go back home and have dinner! I just rose up and never remembered anything more about my sadness. However I've never forgotten that single event of self-pitiness in my life and took a different course to quite the opposite thereafter to create a balance in my life of self reliance.

I believe there is no single formula or exercise to optimally develop the brain and mind of a child. The Y generation kids enjoy incredible sensations of the computer and the internet but the truth is ....

I should know that as I was one of those pioneers who brought in the first PCs into the country to help every office have one with the vision that every home would also have one too. I had also exposed them early to our children with mindfulness to be aware that how it is used is more important than what it can do. I was always careful to share with others that you cannot replace good human judgement and experience with computers in business in the same way it cannot replace good guidance and lessons from parents to the Y generation kids. The computer was invented as an extension of the brain to facilitate repetition of productive tasks in the beginning and later on after perfecting the task of data processing and management shifted to facilitate data or idea creation instead. This is the part that we have to be careful for the brain is neutral to good and bad but if it is overexposed to routines that mould the brain towards certain negative ideas, beliefs or emotions, it could be hard to undo them just like undoing alcoholism or drug addiction that hits modern societies. Are more people finding it harder to sleep early or enough in this internet era to even require sleeping pills?


When our computer business shifted more towards the software industry, I learnt even more about how content is more important than just the fact that computer softwares could churn out educational programs that could be tirelessly repetitive intended to create smarter kids. See how did our oldest boy fare in response to one of the first educational programs locally designed for children :


See how he responds to his mistakes from an accurate repeated response from the computer to say, "You are Wrong!" I'm glad that later in life he did get an A in his A levels for music composition where he extensively used music software to assist him. I am sure he never would have expected that with the advent of Youtube and Facebook, his voluntary missionary service for the Church in the UK would result in him singing on the internet media as the general authorities of the Church themselves made their presence in Facebook.

Today the workings of my brain or mind has been extended to the computer in my blog writings by way that all that I think of or write about is always linked to diverse past experiences or even my past writings which I will create links to them when relevant. After posting the above video, I am inspired to share again a passage of my previous post with its corresponding acknowledgement of its source from a Life Coach in Singapore named Evelyn Lim with her Abundance Tapestry website. It is a computer support dialogue about installing the most importance force of life in the human computer :


A customer ran into some computer problems and called the help desk for assistance. Here was how the conversation went….

Tech Support: Yes, how can I help you?
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running ?

Customer: Let’s see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However,you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off ?

Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error – Program not run on external components.” What should I do?

Tech Support: Don’t worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.

Customer: So, what should I do?

Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.

Customer: Okay, done.

Tech Support: Now, copy them to the “My Heart” directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.

Customer: Thank you, God.

God/Tech Support: You’re Welcome, Anytime.

— Anonymous

So it seems that raising Y Generations kids is a test of the ability of parents to provide a HEART filled with love that is soft or soothing balanced with a MIND capable of teaching correct principles, even the hard truths of life. Individuals are supposedly to be built with these two components to live a balanced life. It is interesting to note that somehow parents of children come naturally in a pair of a Male and Female parents who have a tendency to possess these apparently opposite traits. 

Put in Y Generation simplistic computer terms, the male could perhaps be providing the mindful focus of developing the hardware thoughts of a child while the female could be the one providing the heartfelt influential software feelings to be of a compliment. This may be an overly simplistic model to explain parenthood but add a spiritual component that can fill the heart and mind to direct it may sufficiently make the model sophisticated enough to be worth contemplating. This is what I did when I started a series of writings entitled 'My Heart and Mind' that has covered intricate details that can be said to be simplified but yet challenging to be fully understood or applied. Don't forget to click 'Next' at the bottom of each  page to advance to the next page of thoughts I have shared in the website I had referred to.

A married couple, both law professors from Yale and accomplished writers, where the wife Amy Chua became known as the 'Tiger Mom' for her book entitled 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' recently came out with a controversial new book that makes sweeping like conclusions of different groups of people in America to explain why one group does better than the other. Their book has a simplified title of 'The Triple Package.' I bought it at a timely moment when my thoughts were focused on the subject of raising Y generation kids, not knowing that it would have anything to do with raising children. It is really their observation of how 3 qualities have created groups of people in the United States who have become more successful than other groups despite all the challenges or downturn of the economy that the country has been facing. Some of these groups named  include the Jews, Mormons, Asian Americans and others. You may like to click the link given above that has a video of the couple giving detailed explanation of the 3 qualities emphasized in the book.

It seems that these groups show a superiority attribute yet possess an insecurity trait which gives them the extra drive to succeed. They call the third quality 'impulse control' that can be seen as a strength of these successful groups of people or culture. Being a Mormon and also an Asian though not American, I can totally relate to what they have independently observed as qualities in our culture, religion or race that apparently has been recognized today as producing a more successful group of people in America. Furthermore with reference to my own writings of my Heart and Mind mentioned earlier that relates to the Body Mind and Spirit of Man, I could explain how the 3 qualities have come about in the context of the ancient philosophy of the Body Mind and Spirit. I believe the Superiority with Inferiority qualities come from having a Spirit that is strong and the Body that is weak with the Mind trained to handle the task of emotional or impulse control as the writers call it.

It seems that raising children has become more sophisticated as each generation of time goes by! Indeed X generation parents may have to do more than what their predecessor parents had to do to raise successful children the same way the Y generation will have to follow suit to tackle the Z generation of their own creation! It is timely as this post comes to its natural ending as Mother's day befalls us. Let us therefore move to focus about the contribution of the female motherhood aspect of family roles in this next post. 

Click here to read the answer to the question below presented in an interesting cartoon style by Tim Urban :




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