The Splendid Quill

July1st

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I found myself perusing, as I often do, Gizmodo.com when I stumbled upon an article, which very much held my curiosity. It regarded a patent that had been filed by an optical engineer at USC who had pioneered a method for implanting nanotech cameras into people’s eyes:

“…a better idea is to implant the camera directly within the eye, but avoiding the retina.

[Michelle Hauer] and colleagues have come up with a design that is small enough to be implanted within the lens of the eye, and takes into account the effect of the cornea on incoming light.

The device transmits images to a chip at the back of the eye, which passes the image signals on to the nerve cells.”

In layman’s terms they figured out how to make the blind see.

A feat not replicated since Jesus hung out with Bartimaeus:

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

I instantly wanted to have night-vision cum-infrared technology implanted in my eyes a la The Predator films.

Jest aside, this is fascinating science, and being a product of the Generation X cusp group called the “Doom Generation” I had a rather optimistic outlook on this latest news that would surely bring about a more colorful end to the world.

This eye implant article triggered a memory about some research I’d heard involving a biotech company in San Diego that had recently used a stem cell combined with a man’s DNA to clone an embryo. Obviously, my immediate thought was “oh crap, we just cloned a human being.” The news story would seem to indicate that I was incorrect in making this clearly fanciful leap. Apparently, “a cloned embryo does not a ‘human’ make” or so the adage would go. As suddenly as I had decided that I wanted Predator vision I saw a post-apocalyptic future before us. The ride might be bumpy. Fasten your seatbelts and lets get rolling.

In my alternate future it became clear what was to be achieved by this medical marvel: the end goal is to replicate human organs which could be grown and then used to help cure disease or even replacement within the DNA-donor. Not a bad idea. I am an American and I eat food that’s designed to taste great and kill me slowly. In the future, once my heart has enlarged and hardened to the point where it’s preference would be on exploding rather than beating, I could hopefully head to my local cloning megacenter and grow a new heart for easy implantation. The beauty of this is that I might be well into my 70’s when lo, I would have the heart of a teenager! Wonders never cease in our technologically enhanced culture. Sure it’s a major surgery, but everyone’s having them these days. While I was at it, I bet I could replace my smoke-blackened lungs, my cirrhotic liver, over-used pancreas, heavy-metal laden kidneys, dried out gallbladder and ruptured spleen. Okay what the hell, I’ll get a new appendix because I sort of miss it and it comes with my neat OrganMart GoldPLUS package.

Of course, who would want to live life with a brand new set of guts and a leftover aging body? Where would the fun be in that? It’s too bad that I can’t get a new brain. Then I wouldn’t be me anymore. They can clone me, but it’s just a DNA match…not a memory match, and like Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” So I probably shouldn’t give up my mind.

Or could there be a way? I already have these really cool Predator eyes that allow me to see heat and see in the dark. The super eyes talk to my brain through electronic stimulus. And my brain talks back. It knows how to switch over to Predator vision. This is important, because while cool, it can kind of make driving a challenge when everything suddenly turns on all at once and all I see is crazy color. So, I had to teach my brain to talk to my bionic super eyes.

There is some good news though! I’m not the only one with this aging body/young organ dichotomy. There are millions of other Americans just like me who are afraid of losing their grip on life! So what’s the good news you ask? Demand!

Our economy works on demand. You don’t think there’s a Starbucks on every corner because we don’t like the stuff do you? Of course not, we love it. We can’t get enough of it. We screamed and yelled till we were blue in the face. Then along came St. Starbuck and he started plopping his stores in a manner such that we would never be more than a quarter mile from a hot steamy blended mocha frap with no whip cream and low fat milk(or was it soy?).

Good old capitalism will work for me and my “oldly-young brethren.” Like modern America’s old, we’ll have the money and power, but unlike them we’ll have the organs to live another 70 years! By my estimation, that should let us live long enough to have funded some young Sergey Brin-like (who will be one of my oldly-young brethren) genius to figure out memory capacitors to suck my knowledge into a hard drive.

Look, I know what you’re thinking, but this is my DNA and I’m the boss of it. It’s about time we finally figured out how to make it work for us. Shoot, in the past all it ever did was make the kids stronger, smarter and better looking. We’re just doing the Affirmative Action thing and giving it the chance to work for all of us.

Here’s where things get dodgy though. Since we can download our memories and make new versions of us, what’s there to do?

Just upload the old-me memories into the new-me body. Presto, we’re young again. Could live forever. Which is dandy until the population growth catches up with us since there’s no more death. But that’s okay. All of us old, yet young, wise folk have a plan.

First of all, we won’t have this problem until us originators are in our third or fourth cycle of bodies anyway. And since this is no inexpensive procedure there are going to be a lot of rich people out there. Think about it, the rich aren’t dying and the poor are. So that’s cool. And, we inadvertently took care of a major socioeconomic problem! People have been trying to wipe out poverty for centuries. This is our chance to strategically introduce a world full of people who only have a high socioeconomic status.

It’s a fairly simple strategy. By this time our scientists are super good at genetically altering our DNA (demand increased back in the second cycle to start altering genes in the new bodies so we don’t get sick, have acne, get fat or have bad hair days). They’re also really good at this memory upload download thing. All we have to do is figure out what to do with the surplus population. We can’t just axe the poor, because who would do the menial labor work? Robots are handy, but nothing cleans up a house better than a live maid.

Then it dawned on us. We could grow a labor force. A small, but strong and unobtrusive labor pool that only has the appendages needed for the tasks they are assigned. They’ll be engineered with limited minds, good looks, and no ability to learn. Then we can upload only pertinent information into their diminutive heads so all they’ll ever want to do is clean the bathroom, do laundry, work in factories and other funless and thankless jobs we hate to do. We can give them cool names like Whangzoodles and make sure that their made to be cute and furry, but crossed with a poodle so they won’t shed.

I’m really pretty excited to see how the first round comes out. Then we can finally just get rid of the poor once and for all. After that all we need to do is create a law that says a newborn has until the age of thirty to hit certain profit and income goals to qualify for the body-replacement class. If they make it, their in and set for life. If they don’t, we’ll just recycle them back into the gene pool. It’s a pretty straightforward approach to living forever.

Or as a society we can just rethink how much we’re playing God by having our fingers in the genetic pie. So much for my Predator vision.

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