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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Being a Robot Ain't So Bad

I'm not saying I want to be one. But here's how it will happen.

Nanobots are the size of a skin cell. Bill Gates, et al. will find a way to use them to fight disease, soothe the nervous system, repair brain damage, you name it. Sounds like a good deal. I'm in.

Then soon nanobots will be used to replace cells. They function and divide just like organic blood cells, replicating the DNA of the cells they're replacing. Your kidney stopped working? Nanobots rebuild it, slowly replacing the organic cells that are flushed out. In a month, you have an artificial kidney that works like aces.

Nanobots now target the brain. They repair damaged tissue, restore healthy synaptic pathways, activate creative and intellectual byways. And since they're nanobots, you don't need to buy a computer.


Want to send a text? Just think it at me. Want to speak Japanese? Download it from Rosetta Stone. Want to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix?

Yeah, Jimi.

Nanobots put you in complete control of your nervous system. You no longer need to feel unnecessary pain. Addiction no longer exists. Overeating is a thing of the past. Reprogram your taste buds and broccoli tastes like tenderloin. Broken bones heal quickly and flesh wounds rapidly vanish.

Don't like feeling agitated? Depressed? Angry? Ancient history, we now control our emotions. We decide what we want to feel... curious, happy, joyful, courageous. We are whatever we want to be.

Here's the problem.

At what point do you become a machine? When do you cease to be real? 25% nanobot? 50%? There are people today with artificial legs, ears, hearts... are they less human?

The bottom line: Who am I?

We need to ask that question every day, every breath. Am I my body? My thoughts? My emotions? If I decide what I want to feel, who is deciding that?

In The Discovery of Socket Greeny, I posit a future of nanotechnology that spawns a new race of duplicates: nanobot-humans that view organic humans as imperfect and cancerous. They make the argument that God created humankind in His image and humankind created the duplicate. Therefore, God created the duplicate race.

Move over, human. Evolution works that way.

For more speculative science-fiction regarding nanotechnology, check out Post-Human by David Simpson and Feed by MT Anderson.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

F'n Thank You

My dad wanted a roast.

He turned 70 and wanted us to roast him in front of people. His idea.

Some folks figured I would go off. After all, I have a history of going over the top of the inappropriate high bar. He was not a perfect father. I was not a perfect son.

You might be putting flame to gun powder.

When I was in my 20s, I sat next to a high school English teacher on a plane. She seemed good. Nice. I got to thinking, my high school English teacher wouldn't remember me. If she did, it would NOTbe fondly. I passed notes during classes, cheated off my future sister-in-law, and looked out the window. A lot.

But I worked my ass off on that term paper. It was sink or swim and I got a C. I was thrilled. I don't think I passed her class by a whole lot, but here I was 10 years later trying to write for a career and recalling how much I learned in her class. She wasn't burnt out, like high school teachers can get. Not jaded or hollow. There was something genuine about her. I sure as hell didn't recognize it then, but -- 10 years later -- I did.

So I wrote her a letter. I told her all that.

She wrote me back. I don't think she remembered me, but that didn't matter. It was important that she heard it. Even if it was 10 years late.

So when my dad's roast arrived, I was humbled.

Humbled to have the opportunity to make him laugh. Humbled to tell him that, despite all the shit, he really mattered to me.

Humbled to say, F'n thank you, Pop.

It was a roast, after all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bad Reviews Sting Like a B*

No one likes a bad review.

A bad review cuts. It burns. It stings like a thousand angry bees. A bad review is like an emotional iron maiden.

I recently got one. It wasn't so much a bad review. More like a beating.

It wasn't for one of my novels, it was in another line of work. The review used the words colossal waste of time and insulting...

It was a beatdown.

No one is immune to bad reviews. Someone out there isn't going to like the way you do things, the way you say them or present them. Or they just don't like you. It will happen. No way around it. Bad reviews are part of the creative game -- writing, painting, photography, design, teaching. At some point, someone will call your work stupid, unimaginative, or hack.

Or a colossal waste of time.

A bad review, though, could be your best review. It could be the one that cuts through your blind spots. It's the one that might push you where you need to go.

Experience the ugly feeling. Open to the heartache as someone else's opinion shreds your ideas about who and what you are. Let the initial firebomb burn your attachments to praise and attaboys until they're ash. Notice where you're getting your value.

I'm a good person if they love me.
I'm worthwhile if I succeed.
I exist if someone values me.

All thoughts.
All attachments.

Attachments don't feel so bad when we get yummy feelings, like when we're good. The bad review is like a forest fire, burning through the hubris of attachment (good or bad) to start anew. It hurts. It burns. But if we let it, we grow.

The person that annoys you in the office, the relative that steps on your last nerve, the bad review that stabs... we practice to be grateful for them. They are Buddhas. They show us our deficiencies, they bring our attachments into the light for us to see.

I read my bad review. I experienced the gut-wrenching reaction. I noticed the thoughts (see above).

Read and repeat. And notice.

And when the ash settled, I saw where I could be a better teacher. I saw where I could improve what I was doing.

And I still hate bad reviews.