Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Diary: foot problem + Game of Thrones + AlphaGo + genetics

I vaguely recall jamming my foot against the side of the bed while hoovering last week. By Easter Sunday the entire right foot was red, the skin taut and swollen over the toe joint and I was limping around in socks. The last few days have seen a slow improvement but I think it may be the weekend before I can claim to be back to normal. Some observations.
  1. I haven't taken any pain medication, believing that pain is a signal which I do well to heed and analgesics probably mess up self-healing. I recognise I may be in a minority on this.

  2. The body's response to damage seems to affect many aspects of its functioning, not just the topical region. I feel a bit tired and - strangely - a bit more relaxed, like I'm let off worrying about stuff. Interesting.

  3. Doctor Google was reassuring. The alternative suggestion of gout was excluded - no causal pathway from over-indulgence in Easter eggs.

A Game of Thrones (book vol 1) is highly addictive, once you've printed off the family trees of the various noble houses. It reminds me how natural the ties of family, personal loyalty and honour are, and how alien the cool, depersonalised, transactional styles of modern urban capitalism. No wonder American politicians and business people engaged with negotiators from traditional societies talk past each other in mutual incomprehension.

What would the noble protagonists of GoT make of "The Martian", which we saw on DVD Saturday evening?
The hero is some kind of insolent, wise-cracking, artisan-monkey who refuses to die quietly on Mars as he should. His liege-lord commander shows weakness by beating herself up over leaving him (she did her duty: so problem?).

The world actually cares about this minion, and the powers-that-be indulge their idiotic sentimentality. Could never happen.

Thank the Gods it's only far-fetched speculative fiction.

I thought this was a good article about AlphaGo - assessing its significance now the dust has settled a bit.


This from Professor Greely, Director at the Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University, as set out in his book, 'The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction'.
“In 20 to 40 years, when a couple wants a baby, he’ll provide sperm and she’ll provide a punch of skin,” Prof Greenly told The Times.

"He said the female skin sample will be used to create stem cells, which can in turn be used to create eggs.

"These eggs can then be fertilised with the sperm cells, resulting in a selection of embryos.

"Prof Greenly predicts these embryos will be studied for any signs of malady.

“The prospective parents will be told, ‘These five have really serious diseases, you don’t want them’.

"Of the other 95, they will be given the pluses and minuses,” he said.

"He said that after weighing up the prospective advantages and disadvantages of the healthier embryos, the parents will choose one to be implanted into the woman, which will become their child.

“Parents will get the embryos grouped by categories,” Prof Greenly said.

“One category will be very severe, untreatable, nasty diseases. This will affect one to two per cent of embryos.

“Another category will be other diseases.

“The third is cosmetics: hair, eyes, shape, whether the hair goes white early. We don’t know much about this yet, but we will.

“A fourth category is behavioural. I think here information will be limited. We won’t be able to say, ‘This child is in the top one per cent of intelligence’. We probably will be able to say, ‘This child has a 60 per cent chance of being in the top half’.”
He's being judiciously careful here. In 20 years time we'll be able to read off from the genome both IQ and personality type more accurately than current psychometric testing can.

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