Whos Looking at you on Facebook?


Sometime ago I wrote a couple of blogs about What can they find out about you on Facebook. In the second blog I did some digging into a random person who hadn’t managed her privacy settings. You will find many references to Facebook and other social network applications in my recent blogs, but here’s the thing, I wrote about what they could find out about you, but not so much about who’s looking.

I have also often blogged about how Science Fiction has a way of becoming reality and it seems that many of my favourite writers were foretelling the future. Some of these blogs were: A San Francisco Artist wanting a bionic eye, Living Longer with Cryonics, using In-Vitro to feed the future, Sky Scrapers and High Society, and tracking people with RFID.

Whether it was Orwell, Bradbury, Philip K Dick, Heinlein or any of my other favourites, they often had a common thread. That is a police state environment where privacy and personal freedom becomes something for people to fight to win back. Where for whatever good reason, governments gave themselves the right, initially with good intentions, to spy on the public or restrict their ability to communicate their personal beliefs. That was what the 5th Ammendment was all about. Of course some countries, like New Zealand don’t have a formal constitution and we generally have the attitude that everyone is trustworthy and honest until proven otherwise. I’d have to say that in many ways this has also served us well downunder, in that even though crime is rising at alarming rates, especially violent crime and the police now charge people for using unreasonable force in defending themselves, we are a much safer country than many I have visited in recent years.

Just on that topic of self defence. What actually is reasonable force. If you are faced with someone with a gun or other weapon, who knows how to use it and has experience with violence and you don’t, the situation is very different for a law abiding person who has never had to defend themselves before. If you know someone else will use whatever means they can to hurt you, possibly even kill you and are unpredictable. At what point does self defence become unreasonable. If the person who attacked you is o the ground but you are afraid they will get up again and running isn’t an option. If you are afraid and your heart is full of adrenalin, how can you be expected to know how or when to stop? Police are trained in the use of restraint and know how to deal with difficult situations, where the public are not. I don’t have the answer, but I do feel that criminals need to know that they won’t always get away with violent crime and that victims should have the rigt to defend themselves. But I digress.

Anyway, what prompted this reminder, that I hadn’t focussed much on who would want to look at your personal information on Facebook, was a story in this morning’s NZ Herald (which I couldn’t find online), with the Headline Govt plans to spy on social website users. I did find a story from the Daily Mail yesterday which in essence says that they plan to be able to monitor all email, social networking sites etc, because it is fertile ground for terrorists to communicate and plan.

Now I don’t have a problem, providing information is monitored under a search warrant, but blanket ability to go through all Internet usage of everyone is pushing it a little too far don’t you think? They are wanting the right to not only read everything you write, publish or comment on the net, but even to get a record of every single URL or website you visit.

I’ve always worked on the basis that I have nothing to hide, and indeed if you Google my name, you will be able to find out pretty much anything you want to know about me and my life. Maybe that’s a good thing because it makes me kind of transparent. But by giving government organisations rights beyond what anyone can do on the internet, the ability to intercept everything you do on the web, must be an invasion of good citizens privacy and I hope that there will be restrictions put in place, just as is required in most countries for telephone taps etc. The fear is that in any society there are corrupt individuals who could abuse their position. That is where we need protection.

There is no doubt that the threat of terrorism means that new measures must be put in place to locate terrorists, terrorist training grounds and do whatever is necessary to keep us safe from harm. But like any law and order legislation and policies, there must be reasonable suspicion and controls. Otherwise the risk that more of the Science Fiction writers stories about oppressive states undermining the rights of its citizens could become a reality in the ‘developed world’. I want to feel safe from harm, but I also want to know that my individual rights to freedom of expression and belief are protected.

 

Living longer with Cryonic Suspension


Cryogenics has been the subject of science fiction for as long as I can remember, but it has now become an accepted science in many ways.

Cryogenics is now commonplace for use in fertility health. It is quite common now for people to store eggs or embryo’s for future implantation. Organisations like Fertility Associates in New Zealand have had success with freezing sperm, eggs and much more.

More and more people are starting to freeze the umbilical cord of newly born babies with a view to being able to use the cells to aid in treating serious immune conditions such as cancer with a guarantee of acceptance of the cells by the person, because they are in fact their own genetic matter.

Now there are companies like the American Cryonics Society who are offering a service to freeze human bodies with a view to restoring them to life at a later date. This may be a matter of freezing a sick person for an illness that we currently have no cure for, for people who are well, but know that there will be treatments available in the future to prolong life, or perhaps those who want to be able to experience the future.

You would think that this would be an expense that only extremely wealthy people can access, but there are now opportunities through people like Rudi Hoffman who are offering insurance plans that will cover the costs of cryogenics when they are needed. This means that you can plan to live longer if you wish to take the risk that it will be viable. He is also looking into your needs if and when you are revived. The insurance and investments will ensure that you have an income available to you if you do come back and also protecting your property from others who are looking for an inheritance.

One of the common questions, including mine are the damage that would be caused by ice crystals forming in the body, and especially the brain, but as Ben Best says in his Cryonics FAQ, we already use compounds to stop crystalisation such as propylene glycol which stops ice cream from crystalising and keeps it smooth. In cryogenics there are chemicals used to cause vitrification, thus preserving the tissue without damage.

According to Alcor, the other Cryogenics company in the USA less than 100 people have been frozen to date, but the exciting thing is that they have.

I find this fascinating, but am left with lots of questions:

  • People talk about proof that animals have been frozen using cryonics and then reanimated, but I couldn’t find any evidence on the web.
  • If you are already sick or dying, what is the likelihood that you could be brought back to life? What are the odds that if you could, that they would treat your condition over and above people living at the time you were brought back, unless you have huge financial resources to cover the costs.
  • Will your brain still function normally after it has been frozen?
  • If you come back, are you still you? Is your essence the same?
  • Would your chances be better if you didthis while you are still young and can take advantage of future sciences to keep you young, as opposed to someone who already has old cells that aren’t reproducing with the same youthfull excellence, in effect your body has already significantly deteriorated?

Then of course there are all sorts of religious and ethical issues which I’ll leave for someone else to ponder over.

This is fascinating and there are all sorts of opportunities for the future. For example the ability to freeze astronauts so that they can travel light years away without physically or mentally ageing.

I suspect this technology has to come, but there are so many surrounding issues that will need to be considered and I’m sure it won’t be an option for me in my lifetime. This is another example of Science Fiction becoming reality and babies are being born without defects from frozen eggs, sperm and embryos. Admittedly they are less complex than human adults, but the fact that this works suggests that it is only a matter of time before people can be frozen and reanimated. But when will this be achieved? Don’t hold your breath.

I would love to be frozen and come back for a year in every 10, but I also want to enjoy my family today. Other than dying of an incurable disease you would have to be very selfish and self indulgent to turn your back on your family in order to outlive them.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

In Vitro Grown Meat – Feeding the Future


The other day I was thinking about the proposed manned Mars trip and trying to get my head around how to feed a number of astronauts for a 1,000 day trip in a small space craft. The thought was started while reading an article about Cosmic Rays, which are a potential threat to astronauts, but that is entirely another discussion.

Our planet today has a number of problems in being able to feed a growing population, which combined with major droughts in some parts of the world and heavy rains in others, exacerbated or caused by global warming, we are already in a situation of food crisis. If you are reading this blog, you probably don’t personally have a problem, but the problem is nevertheless there.

The first problem, which is the most difficult, is poverty. According to the World Hunger Education Service, almost 1 billion people have incomes of no more than US$1 per day. That doesn’t buy a whole lot of food.

Given the climate conditions, growth of population, finding the ground to plant sufficient crops that are not labour and water intensive is difficult and another issue is lack of certain key needs such as proteins.

One option for this going forward could be to grow food in vats. All kinds of food could be grown in vats and they have been doing this in Science Fiction books for close to 100 years. Now vegetable matter, fungus and yeast are relatvely easy, meat is a different story.

As I continued on my thread, I was thinking about chicken being one of the most popular if not the most popular meat being eaten today. The way they bread chickens in poultry farms for meat or eggs is commonly regarded as cruelty although the farmers will argue that they have little choice.

Tissue engineering is a science that has been around for quite a while. In fact if you have a child today, you already have the option of harvesting the stem cells from your baby’s umbilical cord. Cordbank in New Zealand offers cryogenic storage of your baby’s umbilicus, so that if your child ever got cancer and needed fresh stem cells, they are there and ready. The Stem Cells have your child’s exact DNA, so there are no risks of rejection if they are needed and at this stage they have no age damage. Stem cells have the inherent ability to become pretty much any human organ.

Tissue engineering has the potential to not only save lives, but also to prolong it. In future it could be used to help people recover from brain injuries and perhaps condiions such as Parkinsons Disease. It can help with regenerating heart tissue and much much more.

It can also be used to generate food. Distasteful as it may sound, I’m sure in the future if you were offered fish chunks that were made in a lab in a double blind test with real fish of the same sort, you would struggle to tell whch one was real. This isn’t Sci-Fi, it has already been achieved. One of the motives for this research was the type of space travel I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.

If you could eat nice white chicken meat that was tender and had the same texture you expected, but no chickens were mistreated or battery grown in cramped conditions, i.e. no sentience and no pain. Why wouldn’t you? If you could provide healthy food to millions of people in environments where they otherwise couldn’t get it and would suffer from malnutrition and eventually die a horrible death, why not?

I’m not sure what, if any research in tissue engineering is happening in NZ, but we have the credentials to do it and government support for biotechnology. In the medical world there is plenty happening such as the orthopaedic research at Otago University. If I’m lucky, I could live longer because of this research. I would love to see 120 or 130 years on this planet, and not vegetating in a rest home, wouldn’t you?