What Do We Sacrifice For “Perfection”?

September 29, 2015 § 1 Comment

It looked like any other hospital waiting room. Well, any other hospital waiting room in the year 2050. I’ve been told that you weren’t kept behind bars like a common criminal. I’ve been told the doors didn’t always have locks on the outside. Hell, I’ve even been told the rooms had chairs to sit in. . . . I’m pretty sure most of those are myths though. I guess it really doesn’t matter how the rooms might have been though. I’m here now and that is all that really matters.

Eventually they come for you. You don’t know when it will be. You just don’t know . . . but they come eventually. People leave one by one. Where they go I can only imagine, but I guess I will find out soon enough. No one really seems to be nervous and I guess they don’t really have a reason to be. We aren’t here voluntarily. We don’t have a choice, an escape, an alternative. You just accept your fate as it comes.

There was a general trend in the room. None of us looked old than five or six and most of us had obvious defects. You were snatched up as soon as something seemed off with you. For some they were born lucky. Infants with a clear disorder were treated on the spot. They won’t even remember the treatment. Not all of us were so lucky. The boy across from me sat drooped over in his wheelchair. His legs looked frail and thin.

He will walk soon enough. Everything will be fixed soon.

How I found myself in this mess was entirely different. You can’t tell something is wrong with me just by looking at me. The moment I was born my parents could sigh in relief that they would never have to turn their child over to the state. I am more sorry for them than I am for myself as I sit here. I’m an anomaly. It all started when I was three or four and I insisted I was a girl. “But Michael, you’re my baby boy,” my mother would insist. She would force trucks and army men into my hands to play with. She dressed me exclusively in blue. She put me in karate and never let me have girl friends. I was defective.

But medicine can fix all of that now. I am told that after the surgery I won’t even remember wanting to be a girl. I will be my mommy’s strong little man after all.

And with that, they came for me.

——————————————————————————

            I deliberately chose something that would offend or shock. Being transgender is not a defect. It is not something inherently wrong with the person. It is not something to treat. So why did I chose the issue of being transgender as the main driving force of my narrative?

To make you think and question.

Medicine and genetic research has come leaps and bounds from where it began. Thus far, the progress has been something that I support wholeheartedly. Stem cells have incredible potential to change the world. Finding a foolproof cure to cancer would revolutionize the world. But where do we draw the line?

Something I think about is where genetic engineering must stop. My fear is not so much what we as human beings can create, but rather how we choose to use that technology. My greatest fear is that we find ways to change things that are simply hard to understand or not the “norm.”

I have incredibly strong friends who have a wide variety of sexual orientations, gender identities, disabilities, you name it. They are the strongest people I know and I know that they wouldn’t change who they are if given the chance. Nothing is wrong with them. They are unique and beautiful. But as someone who loves them all deeply and unconditionally, I fear that less tolerant people will try to change them. I used to paint my friend’s nails at sleepovers just to take it off in the morning before returning home. Thankfully, Claire*  was able to transition to the person I had always accepted her to be when she moved out of her house. I know her parents would have changed her to accept being male, the sex she had been born with, if given the chance.

I hope I did not offend you, but I do hope I shocked you. We need to think about the limits to genetic engineering. Not the scientific limits, but the moral and ethical limits. Just because something may be possible, doesn’t mean we should necessarily do it. I don’t really know where we should draw the line in the sand, but I hope we can start the dialogue.

Maybe this story can be the pebble that creates waves.

*Name changed for privacy. 

  • S. Jamison
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Always Eat Your Meat

September 11, 2015 § 1 Comment

Once upon a time ahead

The world began anew

The animals we’ve known were dead

Homo sapiens vanished, too

Our kind may have disappeared

But others still remained

One race was brutish, to be feared

The other, not the same

The first ones-Morlocks, they were named

Had bodies white as milk

They hunted flesh, were beasts untamed

And wore no clothes, no silk

The others—Eloi—had few faults

When it came down to looks

But—they didn’t work at all

And had no care for books

All they did was lounge around

And pick their teeth all day

But far below, under the ground

To Morlocks, they were prey

For Morlocks, though they looked like apes

And (likely) smelled like feet

They disregarded greens and grapes

And settled for Eloi meat

See—they were smart, you understand

Had culinary taste

The Eloi, on the other hand

Lived off of gross health shakes

So to the untrained eye, it seems

The Eloi’s lives are neat

But you and I can clearly see

That they have no meat

So when the future does come near,

It may be not be so bleak

Just remember to contribute to society, eliminate classism and get off of your aristocratic high horse

And always eat your meat.

Bushra Rahman

. . . Goes It So And

September 3, 2015 § 2 Comments

“It will only be a little pinch.”

Doctors always say that. I think they say it more for themselves than for the patient. A little asterisk to fluff their conscious. They hurt you, but they tell themselves it is to help you. They hurt you, but it only hurts a little bit. You tell me when the last time was that you got a shot and it didn’t hurt. The shots that don’t hurt aren’t described as a little pinch, they don’t need to be.

In the years since the civil war, Earth was simply a shell of a civilization. The neighborhoods still stood, but no community to be found. The office buildings still kissed the sky, but no businesses to fill them. There was no economy. No politics. No trust. But there was pain. The civil war took our humanity but it didn’t take our pain.

I was sick of the pain. Fight or flight had served our ancestors well, but I was never one for running, nor fighting really. I was the perfect candidate for the study: weak, depressed, and desperate.

My thoughts were interrupted by the searing pain inflicted by the hundreds of needles suddenly in each vein. No wonder they strapped me down, I thought, running suddenly seemed like the perfect hobby. I could feel the glistening serum fill my veins. With each and every drop I could feel myself changing.

I drifted home after that. What a quack. If anything I was in more pain. My back ached; my knees ached. When we learned how to travel faster than light, so did our knowledge. Cancer was stomped out like a bug within days. Nearly half our population had moved to Mars. But each day we lived with pain.

My disappointment clung to me like dirt. I needed a shower. I scrubbed until my arms were raw but I couldn’t wash away my disappointment. As the steam cleared I looked in the mirror. Terrified, another being looked back at me. His forehead was broad, nose flat, and head rounded. I moved. He moved. I blinked. He blinked.

I was the monster.

I tried to scream but it was a screech that rang out. I needed to see the doctor. I needed to know what was wrong with me. And so I went.

Running down the desolate streets, my backache gradually turned into searing pain. Hunching helped. And so I went.

When I barged into the office the doctor didn’t look surprised. Instead, he looked relieved. I tried to explain my terror but I couldn’t find the words. And so he went.

“I understand your terror. You sought relief from your pain, but to treat your pain would be to treat a symptom, not the cause.”

“Civil war spread like a disease after the human intellect doubled and tripled. It was John Stuart Mill that said ‘it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied,’ but he did not account for the emptiness and desperation that accompanies dissatisfaction.”

“The desire for perfection was a virus that ran rampant after that. We tried to regroup but it was too far-gone. It is only through regression to our primitive selves that can truly cure the pain that civilization suffers from.”

“Consider yourself ground zero for the civilization that is to evolve.”

And so it goes. . .

7605-illustration-of-an-evolution-progression-pv

S. Jamison

The Epidemic Scenario

November 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

Most “First Contact” scenarios seem to leave out a pretty crucial aspect of encountering aliens from a completely different world. Everybody is always worrying about whether they have better weapons than us, or whether they think like us, but these concerns skip over some much bigger problems that could be at hand in this situation.

Let me lay out the situation for you: you’re on a spaceship and you run into an alien vessel floating around out there. They seem pretty friendly, so you let them come aboard. Assuming they look like us and have similar social customs, the alien captain comes up to shake your hand. Here is where the dilemma comes into play – do you really want to shake his hand? I mean, do you know where his hand has been? Actually you know exactly where it’s been: all over some alien world that you know nothing about. They might use feces for soap over there, for all you know.

But seriously, the transferal of diseases between humans and aliens does get skipped over in a lot of stories and theories about the first contact with another intelligent race. Yeah, H.G. Wells kind of made the point in War of the Worlds, (SPOILER ALERT) but even then it was a little unrealistic that we would just happen to get lucky, and the Martians would be the only side harmed by this effect because their planet didn’t have bacteria on it at all. I’m left thinking: “So, where did all the life come from if there are no microscopic organisms there?” It was definitely a tooth fairy, but still (END SPOILER ALERT).

Any alien life that we encounter will most likely be evolved to fight off countless diseases from their home world, but we will have no defense to these without first figuring out what they are and how to vaccinate for them. That being said, the aliens would also have the same problem with our diseases, so before we start shaking hands with them, we should probably take it easy and swap some medical records.

 

Hadley Wilson (B7)

Why getting rid of “bad” is bad

September 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

B4: Ironically, altruism can be a pretty contentious term.  In fields ranging from philosophy to biology to economics, people have very different perceptions regarding the origins and motivations of selfless behavior.  Regardless, altruism is almost universally esteemed in our society; actions exhibiting an “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others,” as Merriam-Webster puts it, are seen as making the world a better place.

However, if afforded the option to give my child an “altruistic gene,” my answer would absolutely be “No.”  All practical consequences aside, my opposition to this notion is based first and foremost on moral grounds.  I realize this represents something of a paradox since morality is concerned with the principles of right and wrong, or good and bad, where altruism represents the desired right or good.  But let me explain:

Take a child endowed with the hypothetical altruistic gene.  As this child grows up, he performs only good actions.  He shares his toys, looks out for bullied peers, gives his birthday money to charity.  Yet, this whole time, he does not realize he is doing good.  In fact, he has not even the slightest concept of good (or, for that matter, bad).  He is a slave to his altruistic instincts.  He simply does.  While the selfish actions of others strike him as utterly perplexing and irrational, he likewise cannot conceive of them as bad.  The very purpose of his exceptional gene is lost upon him, because by taking away the choice between good and bad, one takes away the crux of morality, destroying it entirely.

And this is no small thing.  As it is, humans are constantly presented with choices that, whether on a large or small scale, pertain to morality, and over time, these decisions fuel personal growth and shape our outlooks on life.  Maybe we don’t share toys sometimes, or we don’t always stand up to bullies, or we prefer to treat ourselves when we receive some extra cash.  In any case, we learn.  By observation and reflection, we develop and continually refine our sense of good and bad.  Rather than simply constituting a result of our interactions, this moral code comes to shape how we interact with the world around us, allowing us to at least partially escape the biological drive to survive.

In my opinion, one aspect that defines the human experience and sets it apart from that of all other living organisms is precisely this extraordinary capacity to operate outside the jurisdiction of instinct and evolution.  To be certain, this power can be used for good or bad.  But the duality of good and bad, too, is essentially human.

~Sam

The Unforeseen Future

September 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Although time travel has remained a popular theme for science fiction stories over the decades, every author has a different perspective of what the future holds. For instance, in H. G. Wells “The Time Machine,” the human race has bifurcated into two species in the future – one species that has become the predators who reside below ground in the dark and another that has evolved into the prey. In comparison, Robert Heinlein’s story “By His Bootstraps” portrays future humans as docile and compliant individuals who have lost their drive in life.

Heinlein’s future human race and Wells’ human prey species are similar in the fluid language individuals communicate in as well as their primitive intellect. I similarly believe that language will evolve into a simpler and universal form, but I don’t believe that the human race will become a docile species or divide into multiple species before becoming extinct in the future.

I’ve always been fascinated by what the future will be like in thousand years. I believe that if we were able to use a time machine to travel to the future, we would find an extremely intelligent and technologically advanced human race. However, it would truly surprise me if human beings remained on earth – instead, the future would be a place where humans have created habitable environments on other planets. If the earth becomes uninhabitable, I think that our species’ drive and fight to survive will lead us to explore options beyond the planet we know.

It’s possible that little might be left on earth in the future and the atmosphere will completely change, such as what occurs in Wells’ “The Time Machine.” However, I believe there would be the opportunity for people to travel to various other planets or space stations, and that the human race would still exist far into the future.

-Lexi Zarecky

Divergent Evolution

September 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Terra, or at least that’s what she referred to herself as, was separated from her sister at birth.  Now she often (every second for her, every million or so years for us) wonders what became of her, but for the first billion years of her life, Terra existed without a single thought or dream or movement.  Then one day, in the heat that remained from the fire of her birth, her first cell arose.  This cell grew and divided, and grew and divided, and eventually transformed the poisonous gases which were suffocating Terra into clean oxygen.  And at the age of 1 and a half billion, Terra took her first breath of clean air.  Terra still had no nervous system to speak of, no method of transporting information from one side of her face to another.  However, a significant period of Terra’s development took place when she was 4 billion years old.  This is about the time in her species when tissues begin to form when cells come together.  At first they merely existed with little organization, but after only a few million years they had discovered the efficiency of specialization, and formed groups together which benefitted not only themselves, but Terra also.  These groups, analogous to our organs, had a great range of functions.  Some continued to replenish Terra’s oxygen, allowing other organs to continue to thrive.  Most importantly, however, were the tissues which began to transport information across Terra’s body.  These tissues were still rather small, only about 5 to 6 of our feet in height, but tremendous in numbers.  At first this exchange of information was slow, limited by the movement of one tissue to another.  Nevertheless, like the electrical impulses of our axons, information was moving.  And Terra began thinking.  Although still a child, she longed for her sister she was launched from all that time ago, and she became bent on finding her.  Her tissues became more adept at transporting information.  Some tissues became specialized to produce tissue carrying molecules which could move substantially faster than before.  Terra could think faster, only taking thousands of years to make decisions and take action.  Eventually, fibers were built allowing tissue communication without any movement at all.  Terra’s curiosity grew, and at 4.5 billion years of age, she extended her arm out to the nearest member of her species she could see.  After 3 days, she reached her newfound friend only to find a body as motionless as she was for her first billion years of life.  While her disappointment grew, so did her brain.  Complex networks now connected most of the tissues in her body.  This complexity had evolved a level of consciousness which we as humans might be familiar with.  In her loneliness she resolved to continue her search, and felt an emotion which I could only describe as “hope” that her long lost sister was doing the same.

 

-A.M.A.

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