Part of our “Hey! Look at That!” Series.
It’s Friday. Let’s take a short break from you-know-who’s latest Twitter temper tantrum. Let’s ignore from political gridlock for a day. Be gone, gloom and doom news. Heck, if we take an hour or so off, we might find we have gained a couple more presidential candidates!
Today I offer short summaries and hot links to some amazing stories in science and medicine. Some fascinating and encouraging things are happening all around us folks. Let’s take a look, shall we?
First, a Few Health Notes
A Blockbuster Gene Therapy: A harbinger of things to come (with a price). This one is full of good news, and bad news. First, the good news. A pharmaceutical has developed a gene therapy that will save infants with a fatal disease -spinal muscular atrophy. Initial tests have shown spectacular results, with no side effects. The bad news? Treatment could cost over $2 million dollars. Yeah, you read that right. Not enough patients are afflicted with this disease to spread the costs. This story is of interest, besides the humanity factors, for two reasons.
One, this is the sixth gene therapy announced over the last year. So far, they have a mixed set of results, but we are on the cusp of real breakthroughs. We are about to banish diseases that heretofore were unconquerable. Gene therapy could be a game changer like nothing else in medicine. Like all new things, there will be some rough spots, but we are about to hit the entrance ramp for high speed progress. As this article notes, expect 10-20 breakthroughs every year to be the norm shortly.
Two, the costs are unacceptable. In this latest breakthrough, the talk is about payment over time, like a mortgage. This is not as unique as one may think. We need new models for how research gets funded and how medicine is priced. There has to be better ways than the mess we have today.
Read more about this medicine and these issues here:
Let’s Get Fit: Are you jealous of those movie stars and athletes with personal trainers? Relax – Artificial Intelligence (AI) has an app for that. Meet your home fitness trainer – a robot. This is not as far-fetched as you may think, and it offers real potential for a healthier life. The basic idea is a smart platform that takes all kinds of measurements while you exercise. It combines the data with your health, medical history, and other factors. It evaluates how you did, for what benefits. Then it designs tomorrow’s program, custom built justfor you. I can see this eventually – soon- incorporating a robot. That robot spots for you when lifting, paces you for running, spars with you in reflex training, etc.
I remember when Peloton started selling indoor exercise bikes. These bikes link the rider to a live instructor, putting the rider in a class with people from all over the world. Gimmick, I thought. Who would want to do that and why? Apparently, quite a lot of people do and are willing to pay a premium for doing it. On reflection, I get it. This eliminates solitary exercise, which is hard for some people. It creates an interactive group activity. Imagine what your AI equipped training environment could do.
Read all about it:
Other Bits of Human Progress
Reflections on the Meaning Today of the Industrial Revolution: The National Review is not a magazine I turn to very often, but they had a recent article that got me thinking. The basic premise is that for all the unforeseen consequences and problems that industrialization caused, industrialization changed our species forever. It did so often in very good and important ways. Perhaps industrialization changed human history more than any other transition in history. I would not deny the terrible excesses and harm that came from industrialization. Neither can I deny the progress it enabled.
Such reflection naturally leads to thinking about the next such revolution. (See, great minds think alike. You thought it was just you making that leap, didn’t you?). The information age is upon us and has been for some time. Are we ready for it? In a word, no. But we might yet figure it out. Few people saw how damaging social media could be, in so many ways. Many of us thought computers would be the end of paper documents. Privacy concerns? What privacy concerns? Have you read about ‘deep fakes” yet? These are remarkably realistic movies that can be made flawlessly in an afternoon with free software, creating events that never happened. Any political implications there? So, yes, we are terrible at predicting what our revolutions yield.
Take a read and think about what might be coming next:
The American Way of Burial. Wait – This is NOT a Depressing Story: This blog has touched briefly on a growing movement toward more natural burial, and more natural burial sites. It is a fascinating movement. Now it seems to be a fast growing phenomena, and it is taking some interesting twists. Sure, anyone can be buried under a tree and become a part of it over time. But now you can become part of a giant redwood – for a giant price.
That last comment was a bit snarky; don’t let it put you off. This is a movement that I predict will quickly become part of the American culture. Years ago, everyone was embalmed and buried in cemeteries. Today, most are cremated and buried or scattered in an infinite variety of places. We are seeing trends of complete decomposition, of becoming one with trees by being “planted” in forests, and more variations. I know these changes have caught my attention. They have me rethinking what sounds like a better decision than the more traditional choices. I am about ready to pick out my tree! The idea of recycling and becoming a part of a living forest has a natural ring to it, doesn’t it? There are some most interesting options here. Read on in Patheos about one variant of the forest option:
See You Next Week
Have a good weekend, everyone. Monday, we will be back to politics – with a vengeance. We turned several interesting political corners this week. Let’s talk about them next week.
If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:
(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.
(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (https://agentsofreason.com). Let’s grow our circle.