Ageless Nation

Recently I’ve been skim-reading Ageless Nation: The Quest for Superlongevity and Physical Perfection written by futurist Michael G Zey, PH.D. The basic premise of the book is that in the not-too-distant future humans will be able to have lifespans of ~400 years due to nanotechnology, genetic engineering and alike. Not only would we live longer, we would live in a state of youthful health.

(Again: full disclosure, I skim read). In the book, Zey briefly addresses the concern that such technology will be a widening between the rich and poor. He thinks otherwise; he points to the fact that once we thought automobiles and computers were playthings of the ultra-rich. That’s not the case now he says, and age-extending tech will likewise be available to all.

Personally I’d love to live for 400 years – especially if that was in a relatively good state of health. Life is short, and there are so many things I would love to do that I know I’ll never have the time for. I’d love to study a plethora of subjects and have the potential to write thousands of books over an extended lifetime.

But there is something disturbing about the premise. Perhaps that is why he calls the book Ageless Nation instead of Ageless World. The reality is that there are places in the world where the vast majority of people don’t have cars or computers. Or even safe drinking water.

The concept of living 400 years is good, but I’m not sure I could do it knowing that in some places in the world life expectancy is just 50 years (today). Regardless of technological advances, there will be a vast number of people in the world who would miss out.

Honestly, I’m not sure what the answer is. In today’s world the disparity between rich and poor is already disturbing. Even using the word disturbing, I suspect is an attempt to make something palatable, to hold back the true nature, to pretend and attempt to remain in blind ignorance. If I considered it deeply, the disturbance would likely seep into my consciousness – and, I suspect – change a great many things. Already it is too much; I can’t fathom a world where that gap would be increased so massively as to grant some hundreds of years and others so few; life itself a commodity.

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Mind Blowing

Developing a Writing Tool

A quick blog post to announce what I’ve been working on. Some might call it procrastination and not writing, but I prefer to think of it as tool development for myself and for you.

I’m working up an Excel workbook which can be used to keep statistics, plot information and whatever else I think of adding to aid in the writing process. I’m actually pretty close to finishing v1.0, but I really should do some writing so I will try to shelve it for today.

As a taster, here is the Character Point-Of-View chart which can be used to visually display how often a character is getting a turn. This chart is automatically generated based off information entered into a table. Using the drop-down list next to “Select Character” you can highlight an individual character. (This is an evolutionary improvement on my earlier visualisation).

Character POV chart

Mind Blowing Reading

I’ve been reading through Weird Life by David Toomey. Here are two quotes that describe how cells work (page 86 and 87 respectively).

To take one example, when a cell somewhere in your body needs insulin, certain proteins inside the cell pull apart a section of the DNA molecule pairs, exposing the particular sequence of base pairs that signifies one of the many amino acids needed to make an insulin molecule. Other proteins read the sequence and make an ad hoc and temporary copy called messenger RNA. Then, still other proteins work over the messenger RNA, slicing and splicing until they’ve fashioned the amino acid needed. Finally, the molecules of protein and DNA called ribosomes (the structure that, you may recall, may set the lower size limit of a cell) pull the newly formed amino acid together with others made the same way by other proteins, and coordinate with other ribosomes, all now pulling and pushing their own amino acids to assemble a molecule of insulin.

And then

As complex as chores necessary to maintaining a metabolism are, they are in some ways mere prelude and preparations for the main event: reproduction. Familiar life can reproduce, of course, because cells divide. For cells with nuclei, it all begins inside the nucleus, when proteins don’t pull apart merely a section of the DNA molecule; they unwind and unzip the entire molecule along one strand, make a copy, correct and repair proofreading errors, and, from material in the surrounding cytoplasm, fashion a matching strand that winds together with the copy, base locking neatly to a base. Then the parent DNA, its own strands zipped up and rewound, is pulled to one side of the nucleus, the child DNA is pulled to the other, and the nucleus itself is squeezed in the middle until it splits into halves. Shortly thereafter the cell does likewise, with each half holding a nucleus. Where there was one cell, now there are two.

I don’t know about you but to me, that is absolutely mind-blowing.

The irony is, even with talk of having nanobots in the future, all they will be doing is replicating (and improving on) to what our body already does.

Personally I think it takes more faith to believe in creation big-bang style than it does to believe that God’s hand and mind were at work.

The Stories I want to Read

“Marriage is a lifestyle” were the first words spoken at a recent wedding we attended.

It is so true. Marriage is not an event, a single point in time, but an ongoing choice. As I’ve written on numerous occasions I’m a huge fan of marriage. I have a fantastic marriage and so I know how beneficial a great marriage can be. Having a great marriage can take a lot of work, but the dividends it pays are the greatest profit in life you’ll ever make.

Divorce rates are too high. Daily we see in our media stories of celebrity couples breaking up, divorcing or caught being unfaithful to the one they promised to love to the exclusion of all others.

But where are the good stories? The stories of couples who have stayed together through the ups and downs of life? Where are the stories of people who know the true worth of what binds them together? They are the stories I want to read, the testimonies I want to hear.

Let’s have a book full of stories of people who have successfully chosen to ‘put their spouse first’ and who together have endured the storms of life, and come through much better for them.

Contentment in Life

I wasn’t in a particularly good place a few minutes ago.

Having cerebal palsy, and not having taken proactive-care of my health, my mobility is becoming more problematic. In the last few months this has become much more apparent. My legs are have lost flexibility, and my arms can no longer always cajole them to behave. (Actually cajole is too soft a word, let’s go with force). Even the simple act of putting on shoes takes more effort than it once did. Add to that, my gait is now so bad that the rate at which I go through shoes is not an insignificant cost.

And so, at crazy-stupid-o’clock this was bearing down on me, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself, and all involved. I guess it’s like growing old – only I’m experiencing it a few decades too early.

One could continue to wallow in self-pity, but that really is an ugly thing. Especially when I sit in a first world country with all that it offers. I’ve found through life’s varied challenges, physical or otherwise, that self-pity calls for a perspective change. It’s not about looking at what you don’t have, but being thankful for what you do have. Sure, my legs aren’t all that great, but I do still have good mobility. Sure, I should own shares in a shoe company, but at least I can afford to buy shoes.

It reminded me of the amazing Nick Vujicic. Nick doesn’t have any limbs, but he does have incredible determination, adaptability and a joy that shines through.

In his book Unstoppable Nick speaks of a man named Phil Toth who was an encouragement to him. Among other things, Phil shows us that age, experience or circumstance are no barrier to being used by God. The value of Phil’s example is so poignant that I must share the passage:

For nearly two years his doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong, but they finally diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)…

The life expectancy for one with this incurable disease, which destroys the motor nerve cells in the brain and spine and causes muscles to deteriorate, is usually two to five years. Initially, Phil’s doctors told him that his case was advancing so quickly that he might not survive another three months. Instead, Phil lived for five years, and I think it was because he did not focus on his suffering. He focused instead on encouraging others to pray and trust God. Phil dealt with his deadly illness by celebrating life and reaching out to help others, even though he could not lift his arms or legs from his bed.

ALS is both wickedly cruel and extremely painful. Within a few years, Phil was bedridden and unable to do much for himself. His large circle of loving family and friends provided constant care. Even his voice was affected, making it difficult for people to understand him.

Despite his pain and suffering, Phil remained deeply devoted to his Christian faith, and beyond that he even found a way to put his faith into action so that he could reach out to console and inspire others who were suffering debilitating and deadly illnesses. By God’s grace, with all his physical challenges, Phil created the website that my mother discovered through the church. Here is part of the message he posted about his illness and the impact it had on his faith:

“I thank God for leading me through this! It has brought me closer to God [it would be worth it if this is all it did], it has caused me to reevaluate my life and see if I’m in the faith, caused me to experience the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, near and far. Taught me to depend fully on the Word of God, my knowledge of the Word has increased, as well as maturing in the faith. My family and friends are a lot closer now. Additionally I’ve been learning a lot more about health, nutrition, and taking care of my body. The benefits of my situation are endless.”

Make every moment count.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

Marriage Is Forever

I am a huge fan of marriage and believe that marriage is intended to be forever or as used to be popular, ‘until death do us part’. Marriage can be really hard work but if you invest in your marriage then it pays dividends a thousand times over.

Both spouses needs to learn how to forgive, be patient and support each other. Both must learn that it is no longer about I but about we. As a friend of mine puts it, “You take your car in for regular maintenance, why would you not treat the most important relationship you have in the same way… doing regular checkups on it?” Or as Pastor Craig Groeschel from Life.Church says, “Why would anyone be happy with a 50% chance of marriage success? For anything in your life wouldn’t you do something to try and give it a higher chance of success?”

As a man blessed with a great marriage and one who wants others to also enjoy the fruit of such blessing I cannot highly recommend enough the lecture series Christ-Centred Marriage by Dr Bryan Chapell. The lecture series is available from Covenant Theological Seminary website and you will need to sign-up to download it. (Obviously this is presenting the Christian biblical instructions for marriage).

It is a profound, challenging and inspiring listen. Carrying on with the car analogy, I call this a major service. It is time well-invested.

The Missing Week

I’m going to disappear for the next week…I’m refreshing my knowledge for a job application. 

Alas, the timid donkey of leisure which does not yet pay (writing) must move aside when the heavy machinery of income barrel down the road. 

I’m loving the new WordPress Android app. It used to be so limited, but they’ve finally improved it. 

On a side note I’ve been thinking about how important relationships are. It’s a fairly constant thought, but one you can never be overemphasized.

Hope you have a great week. 

A Sense of Déjà vu

Walking to work I observed the people that I passed: there were adults talking while they waited for the bus, people sitting on benches reading books and school children laughing and jostling around a tennis ball…

None of that is true. It probably felt false to you, a warning bell clanging that the statements sounded hollow somehow. Or was it a glitch in the matrix? It may be how we envision the world, but it is not reality. Not any more.

Many science fiction movies and TV shows have covered the plot of humans trapped in un-reality:

  • The Matrix where humanity lives out a computer-generated fantasy; all the while being enslaved and used as living batteries by the conquering technology.
  • In Continuum people are brainwashed into a robot-like state by evil corporations.(They never really explain why that is more effective than machinery, but anyway…)
  • In SG-1 the team is trapped and their experiences are re-lived for the entertainment of a community living in stasis.

On my walk to work that day I saw many individuals: most of whom were absorbed entirely by their mobile devices. We may not be trapped permanently yet, but we are on the way. Will the next generation even know what it is to not have mobiles to use? Unlikely.

The point is that people are trapped by technology and disconnected from reality. But I wonder, at what cost?

[Researcher Dr Hisao Ishii] warned: ‘Genuine conversation will be driven out by superficial communication, in which the act of contacting one another is all that matters, leading to a deterioration in the quality of relationships. Indeed, the very fabric of society may be threatened.’ (Source)

I think this is the tip of the iceberg. Any new Terminator movie should clearly be based on SkyNet knowing how to flood the market with shiny new apps.

Sent from my Samsung Mobile.