In writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s remarkable short story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age, there is a modest little story that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest. Its title: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” In it Fitzgerald tells of a person who is born an old man, then gets younger as the years pass, finally becoming a tiny baby and disappearing. The recent movie based on it won three Academy Awards, including visual effects, art direction and makeup. Producers worked on the film for 18 years before finally completing it. It has been a box office flop in America but leads foreign box office revenues. 

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At a very personal level, this movie means much to me. I took early retirement from my university at the age of 61.   I then began a new career, working with managers and companies. That new career gave me many insights into how best to do executive development, as an educator.  

I wish I were Benjamin Button. I wish I could now go back and apply that knowledge, in my university. It is a bitter paradox that we gain wisdom through life, and just when it peaks, as pensioners we are probably unable to apply it — and then the wisdom, most of it tacit, disappears together with us, is never transferred to others and is thus lost forever.

One of the great innovations we need today is a “Benjamin Button button.” Press a button, and the wisdom of older people is digitized, captured, organized and transferred to others. As this happens, the persons imparting the wisdom become younger.

On second thought — such an invention exists. It is called a digital recorder. 

I urge my fellow golden-agers to find ways to capture and impart what they have learned. It will make you younger, in spirit if not in years. 

Can someone build a website that might facilitate a Benjamin Button process?

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