Friday, February 26, 2016

The next Supreme Court justice could serve for 400 years

The debate over replacing Antonin Scalia is already extremely contentious because most people assume the next justice will sit on the bench for about 3-4 decades, but the stakes could actually be radically higher. There is the small but real possibility the next Supreme Court justice could end up holding that position for the next 3-4 centuries.

Let's assume President Obama is able to nominate and get confirmed someone who is 45 years old. Even without any further advances in medical technology, we could expect that justice to live to the year 2065. While so far technology has only enabled modest increases in longevity, that could easily change by 2060.

Google Venture is dropping hundreds of millions into research to reverse aging. According to Bill Maris, the president of Google Venture, “If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes.” Nor are they the only group working on a cure for aging. There is some promising research all over the world, from Japan to Harvard. Some people are figuring out ways to make our bodies stop aging, others are looking at ways to grow replacement organs, and some are trying to transfer our minds into completely new bodies.

Some of the more optimistic investors and researchers think the big breakthrough will come before 2065. While it is likely any such technology will be very expensive and limited at first, someone as important as a Supreme Court justice would have no trouble getting access to it.

Lifetime appointments are already a very bad idea for numerous reasons, but with the growing possibility that a lifetime appointment could span centuries, it is a rule that needs to be reconsidered.

My first sci-fi novel, Cobalt Slave, is now on sale at Amazon.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lex Luthor as the ultimate tragic hero

Lex Luthor may potentially be the ultimate tragic hero since his heroism is not known to the people who share his fictitious world, the readers, or even to most of the writers. To understand how such a popular villain may, in fact, be a hero, you first need to understand the true nature of Superman.

Superman's powers aren't simply that he is "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!" His real power is so much greater. He is able to save people from great falls by simply catching them midair, even though the laws of physics say such a move should break every bone in a person's body. He can lift huge objects with a single hand, even though these objects should crumble from so much force exerted on such a small area. He can even turn back time by simply flying backwards around the world.

As a result, you must conclude that Superman's powers aren't simply limited to super strength. Instead, he must have a truly awesome ability to manipulate reality and the basic laws of physics when it suits he needs. Since Superman never acknowledges this is his true power, he must be doing it  subconsciously. This then begs the question, just how great are Superman's powers, and to what extent has he been using them?

In the DC universe there were basically no superpowered entities until Superman came along, but within a few decades the planet was overrun with them emerging from everywhere. It stands to reason that maybe this explosion of powerful villains and heroes may have all subconsciously been the doing of the incredibly powerful Superman. After all, what would an alien with near limitless power subconsciously wish for if he was raised by a nice couple from Kansas to be a honest, dutiful, and just young man? He would probably wish to be able to blend in with humans perfectly (which is why an alien could look so much like a human, even though it is basically a statistical impossibility). He would probably wish for powerful friends that would understand him (the Justice League). He was also probably wish for challenges, excitement, admiration, and ways to prove himself (by fighting and defeating his superpowered enemies). Almost everything in the DC universe, including the frequent city-destroying battles, could unknowingly be Superman's doing.

This is where Lex Luthor's potential heroism comes in. He has no powers, and unlike most DC villains his current existence on Earth seems to predate Superman coming into his own. He is simply one of the smartest and richest people alive and probably was basically the same before Superman began heavily distorting reality. Luthor is a relic of the old world, the pre-Superman world -- the real world.

This along with his incredible intelligence and position give Luthor the unique ability to sense something is truly wrong. While even Luthor can't completely see through the distortion, he is able to understand the cause of this great wrong and what must be done. This is the source of Luthor's seemingly irrational hatred of Superman. While Luthor can't fully explain it, at some level he knows that Superman isn't Earth's one defense against a constant stream of monsters. Superman is the one wishing them into existence.

From this perspective, Luthor is the ultimate hero: a mere mortal trying to save his world from the acts of a near god when no one, not even Luthor himself, can fully understand why he fights.

My first sci-fi novel, Cobalt Slave, is now on sale at Amazon.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How political ideas become real

Bernie Sanders (22546886990 f800475f7b n)There are many legitimate reasons to criticize a politician's proposal. You can think it will be bad for you, bad for society as a whole, unworkable, too expensive, too invasive, etc... But criticizing a proposal simply because it "won't happen" since not enough other politicians currently support it is beyond idiotic. Sadly, though, this is the logic behind the criticisms -- coming from many Clinton-leaning pundits -- of Bernie Sanders' single payer health care plan.

At the simplest level, this is how political change normally happens: Someone comes up with an idea, which at first is often labeled radical. They manage to convince a few bold politicians to support it. If these politicians do well, they in turn convince more politicians to support the idea until there is enough support to change the law.

There was a time abolishing slavery among Western nations was seen as radical and unrealistic, given the truly massive, entrenched money involved in the trade. Yet a few politicians started to advocate the idea. Eventually that lead to a few more, and after a while the disgraceful practice was finally outlawed. Similarly, there was a time when women's suffrage was seen as radical and unworkable since it would depend on men voting to dilute their own voting power. Yet a few daring politicians backed the idea. They got more politicians to back the women's suffrage movement, and eventually we got equality. It has been the same story for basically every major policy change so far, and it will be the same story for any major changes moving forward.

While it is true that not enough members of Congress support single payer for it to currently be approved, the only way to get to that point is to encourage politicians who have officially backed the idea. Then, they will put pressure on other politicians to follow suit. That is why you elect a president who supports ideas you agree with. If you honestly don't think having the president advocate for an idea for eight years won't dramatically change where their party's congressional members stand on the issue, you haven't been paying attention. The New Deal, Civil Rights Act, the Iraq war, and same-sex marriage are all examples of the strong push of a President changing how their party and the country acts.

More importantly, if you claim Sanders' plan is "flawed" because it currently won't pass Congress, then you basically have to admit every single proposal from Clinton or Sanders is equally flawed. The chance of Democrats winning full control of Congress this year is extremely slim, and there is no way the Republican House will vote for any of their ideas.

On sale at Amazon
My first sci-fi novel, Cobalt Slave, is now on sale at Amazon.