Really, I had to post something for Halloween, didn’t I?
Jean Twenge’s longform article in the Atlantic about the damage of smartphones has been making the rounds on my social media channels since it came out in September. It’s stayed with me perhaps because it’s another parenting conundrum to keep one up at night.
I was reminded of the article as well because of a recent piece in the Independent that pointed out how Bill Gates and Steve Jobs kept their kids low tech.
Hey, at least whatever parenting choice I make, they’ll be someone and some article to tell me I’m doing it wrong. So, there’s that.
Sean Illing has an interview in Vox with biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey about his work on tackling aging.
Aubrey de Grey, whose prodigious beard is dwarfed by his prodigious research ambitions, famously believes that combating aging is an engineering problem. In other words, medical therapies can be developed and can be worked on now given our current scientific understanding of aging damage.
I remember first learning about the work of Dr. de Grey when he and others set up the Methuselah Foundation a little over a decade ago. While Methuselah still continues its work, de Grey has since co-founded another research foundation. They are actively working on what they term seven different categories of aging “damage” presumably trying to mitigate or outright reverse what we know of as aging.
It’s hard not to read about these goals and think of the countless times aging and immortality have been brought up in works of fantasy and science fiction. Once again, we seem to be living in a science fiction future already — though the possibility of living in a dystopia or even a Robert Ludlum techno-thriller also seems to be in the cards (maybe linked to an international conspiracy dating back to World War II!).
I have to confess, one of the reasons I like to check back on the work of de Grey, et al –besides the fact that I find the prospects both fascinating and frightening– is that I can’t be ignorant of what science fiction is becoming science fact in this area. I mean, if I’m writing stories about future humans, it might be good to know how soon we may reasonably become post-human. One of the conceits in Rogue Tyger is that all the humans in the Imperium are, to a certain extent, transhuman. The idea is that we humans wouldn’t be able to regularly cross the big black of space without some improvements to combat cosmic radiation, prolonged weightlessness, and so on. Not coincidentally, this means that most of the humans age normally, but live well past 100 Earth years old. A 150-year old human would be viewed how we might view an 80-90 year old today.
Of course, the modest increases in human lifespans I was thinking of are nothing compared to what the SENS Research Foundation is after. And before we even get to reversing aging damage, there’s a host of other questions about genetic engineering that might be in our very near future. Check out this interview with Michael Bess in Vox — also by Sean Illing. I don’t know about you, but it’s enough to just explain to my kids about why the sky is blue, let alone potential massive changes in how humans love.
Guess I better get to writing that fiction while it’s still charming fiction.
I have a long, long list of articles I save to read later… and eventually, later becomes “now.”
Alan Levinovitz has a piece in Vox from March 2016 that is sure to chill certain technophiles to the bone: going through modern life without a cell phone.
Missing a friend’s birthday party was my final impetus to get a cell phone originally. My confusion about the location would have been solved with a two minute phone call or a couple of texts. Using a cell phone to actually alert emergency responders a few years later rather cemented its utility. And now, the smartphone is for me what it is for so many people: a handy pocket computer/digital assistant/reference guide.
What I like about Levinovitz’s article is that it is not a holier-than-thou screed against mobile phones, but a use case in how someone gets by in the modern world without a smartphone… or any cell phone at all. It makes one think about how much the normalization of cell phone use is really necessary.
And if that doesn’t work, you can always research if cell phones are going to kill you.
So much of writing can roll up into “having something to say,” so I found Alan Jacobs’ piece in The Atlantic on Tolkien and Technology interesting.
Tolkien casts such a long shadow across the world of fantasy, that it’s interesting to consider how much his views on technology color other works in fantasy.