Tag Archives: Pandemic

Six Technologies The Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic Could Accelerate

Humanity is capable of amazing feats when given the right incentive and circumstances. The problem is that humanity is also rather stubborn when it comes to incentives and exceedingly evasive when it comes to changing circumstances. We’ll go the extra distance and beat the odds eventually. We just need to be dragged kicking and screaming for a while.

When it comes to the ultimate incentives and circumstances, few check more boxes than a global pandemic. I don’t think I need to belabor how bad the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has been. Even without media distortions and political agendas, there’s no getting around the damage it has and continues to inflict.

People are dying.

People suffering.

Societies and economies are teetering on the brink of collapse.

This is not a tenable situation and one nobody wants to see again. As bad as it is, there might be one silver lining to this global tragedy. It could help accelerate the development of technology that was already in the works, but lacked the necessary motivation to develop faster.

What follows are a few technologies that I believe this horrible pandemic might help in the sense that it’ll add some urgency. Nobody wants to see a mess like this again. Whether you’re rich, poor, powerful, or powerless, we have every reason to find new ways of preventing these plagues before they happen and these technologies are instrumental in doing just that.


Artificial Intelligence (Not Necessarily The Advanced Kind)

It’s impossible to overstate the potential benefits of artificial intelligence. I’ve certainly made a concerted effort when writing about it in the past. However, in the context of battling plagues, we don’t necessarily need the kind of super-advanced, super-intelligent AI to provide some of those benefits. When it comes to combating plagues, we don’t need an AI to be as intelligent as a human. We just need it to help us combat deadly disease.

This can be done without the kind of AI that finds its way into Skynet or Hal 9000. An AI that can better-analyze genetic data, run simulations on possible treatments, and track the spread of a disease can do plenty to prevent or mitigate future plagues. If it can just help us identify and isolate new cases in a short span of time, then that alone could save millions.

At a certain point, AI could get powerful enough to calculate entire treatment programs once it has the genetic data of a pathogen or condition. After this global, well-publicized crisis, it’ll have plenty of data to work with.


Space-Based Broadband Internet

When it comes to dealing with pandemics, the incentives don’t stop at treating the disease. Given all the closures and cancellations caused by COVID-19, we now know how challenging it is to endure an extended quarantine, especially for kids with no school and sports fans with no sports.

Enduring this crisis has revealed just how critical it is to have a strong, robust internet connection. It may not treat the disease, but it makes the measures recommended by the authorities more bearable. The problem is our current infrastructure for the internet is badly in need of upgrades and its role in helping us function has been made abundantly clear during this crisis.

For work, play, and just avoiding crippling boredom, we need a better internet. That’s where space-based internet, like the ones being developed by companies like FaceBook and Google come in. The idea is as simple as it is awesome. Use satellites and other high-flying crafts to deliver data more efficiently and reliably.

There are a few space-based internet service providers now, but they’re incredibly limited. This crisis, which needs reliable internet for so many reasons, might help pick up the pace in refining this technology. At the very least, it will allow people to binge-watch Netflix from the summit of Mount Everest.


Nanoparticle Vaccines

On the medical side of things, this crisis should go a long way towards teaching people the importance of vaccines. While I don’t doubt the anti-vax crowd will find an excuse to protest, even those skeptical of modern medicine can’t deny the need for better preventative measures for these treatments. Unfortunately, vaccine technology has been stagnant for decades.

This pandemic will hopefully change that and not a minute too soon. The current process for producing a vaccine is long and cumbersome, taking upwards of two years. It’s a process that has a lot of room for improvement. That’s where technology like nanoparticles come in.

The key to any medical treatment is the effectiveness of the delivery system. Vaccines have always had to take a messy path, but nanoparticles could change that. Instead of relying on the biological equivalent of a blunt instrument, nanoparticles could become biological smart-bombs, targeting pathogens with the precision we need to keep them from ever becoming pandemics.

Anti-vaxxers who refuse these just have a death with.


Gene Editing/Synthetic Biology

Not unlike vaccines, gene editing and synthetic biology stand to get a major boost from this crisis. I’ve written about gene editing tool like CRISPR in the past. I’ve touted it as a tool that could potentially treat all infectious disease, especially when combined with synthetic biology. That might have been hyperbole, but I stand by my claims on it’s potential.

Gene editing can do more than make pet fish glow. In theory, it can tweak and rewrite the DNA of organism, including the viruses that infect us. The challenge is refining the procedure so that we know how to modify diseases or create entirely new organisms that combat them through synthetic biology.

It’s not a small challenge. I’m grossly oversimplifying the obstacles in refining this technology into something usable. However, those obstacles are not insurmountable. It just requires time, resources, and motivation. After being economically and socially ravaged by a global pandemic, these efforts will have a lot more urgency.


Immersive Virtual Reality

While the scientists and doctors take up the challenge of fighting future pandemics, the rest of us are tasked with enduring the boredom they incur. I’ve noted before how boredom could become the plague of the future. I hope those stuck at home for weeks on end are done doubting me.

The entertainment industry may never be as vital as the medical industry, but it’ll play an important role in helping people stay sane, calm, and kind. Binge-watching TV and playing video games is helpful, but there’s room for improvement. At the end of the day, you’re still just sitting on a couch, looking at a screen.

To keep things both interesting and active, the development of virtual reality should get a major boost. It has existed for years and grown considerably from the days of the Virtual Boy, but it has room for improvement. Thanks to improving computer technology and more advanced interfaces like Neuralink, the experience could become even more immersive.

Beyond simply treating boredom, it could allow a greater sense of active engagement, which is critical when everyone is practicing social distancing. Being isolated and cut off from human contact may help temper a plague, but it’s not healthy. A way to immerse yourself in a realistic environment could help make future quarantines more bearable while also opening a new market, which gaming companies are sure to exploit.


Sex Robots (Obviously)

Does this one really need an explanation? When you’re stuck inside, horny, and run out of things to binge-watch, things are going to happen. Even if your partner or significant other is with you, they might get sick and you might feel lonely. Given how pandemics tend to temper the market for sex workers, a sex robot might be the best and only option.

If at least one company or horny entrepreneur hasn’t realized that by now, I’ll be shocked. The market for sex robots has been growing in recent years. After enduring a pandemic and weeks of social isolation, that market has likely grown. People rarely forget big global events like this. They’ll remember how lonely they were and that memory will fuel the development of sex robots more than any libido.

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Body Weight Exercises For Those Wanting To Stay In Shape During A Crisis

At this point, almost everyone’s life has been disrupted in some form or another by the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Unless you live on a deserted island, a cave, or shack in the mountains, you’ve been effected by this crisis. Whether it’s living in an area that’s on total lockdown or just had your favorite sporting events cancelled, you’re feel the pinch of this crisis.

I certainly have. Recently, the crisis hit home in another profound way. Every gym in my area, including the one I go to on a regular basis, closed for the foreseeable future. A few may not open again until mid-May. That’s a long time to not have access to a gym. If ever you wanted an excuse to avoid working out, this is it.

However, I actually enjoy working out. That’s something my 21-year-old self might laugh at, but it’s true. Working out is one of the most cathartic parts of my week. The prospect of not having a gym to go to is genuinely jarring for me.

As difficult as it is, that doesn’t mean I’m just going to let myself go. I still intend to stay in shape and I strongly encourage everyone else to do the same. If you have free weights, an exercise bike, a treadmill, or some other piece of gym equipment in your house, I say use it. I don’t because I always had access to a gym. I didn’t imagine everything could be shut down to this extent.

Luckily, there are ways to stay in shape without the aid of equipment. I know because I’ve used them whenever I’ve had to travel or be away from home for an extended period. They mostly consist of bodyweight exercises, which is exactly what it sounds like. You work out, but you don’t use weights or a machine. You just use your body, physics, and a clear space.

They’re not quite as effective or satisfying, in my opinion, as using weights. They still get the job done for the most part. Combined with regular running and jogging, which I highly recommend as well, you can maintain your health and your physique. At a time when a novel disease is ravaging civilization, good health has never been more important.

To that effect, here are some handy charts I’ve found that depict both the types of bodyweight exercises you can do and ways to go about doing them. If I find a routine that works, I’ll gladly share it. If you have a routine, please share it in the comments.

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Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay awesome everyone.

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When Crisis Brings Humor, Irony, And Religious Absurdities

Whenever the news is consistently awful, you tend to get numb to it. At some point, you just can’t bring yourself to get too worked up anymore. It’s not a good thing. Once you get numb to terrible news, you’re less inclined to do something about it. That’s not healthy for any society.

I don’t deny that the news surrounding the Coronavirus/COVID-19 has been awful. It might be the single worst news story we’ve collectively endured in over a decade. It’s bad, especially if you’re a sports fan. It may very well get worse before it gets better.

However, it’s for that same reason that we should all laugh and take comfort in stories that expose absurdities, frauds, and assholes who don’t deserve the notoriety they usually enjoy. Of all the things that fit every one of those criteria, faith healers are right up there with creationists, snake oil salesmen, and conspiracy theorists.

Now, I could go on an extended rant about how faith healers are one of the most perverse manifestations of organized religion. I’ve gone on similar rants before on far less serious subjects. However, this is one instance where no rant is necessary. The facts alone expose the absurdity, hypocrisy, and stupidity of the whole endeavor.

It comes courtesy of a megachurch in California and a story covered by Raw Story. Rather than describe all the crazy details, I’ll just leave a link and a brief summary of the best parts.

Raw Story: ‘Faith-healing’ megachurch cancels hospital sessions over coronavirus fears

A megachurch in California that regularly conducts “faith-healing” sessions at local hospitals apparently doesn’t believe the power of prayer is strong enough to cure coronavirus.

The Bethel Church in Redding, California, which serves as the spiritual home to an estimated 6,300 weekly worshipers, announced this week that it is canceling its regularly scheduled visits to hospitals as fears of the coronavirus pandemic take hold.

Think about that for a moment. Faith healers profess the power of healing through prayer, specifically through prayers to their favored deity. They claim that their spiritual service can bring wellness to the sick while protecting the healthy. That’s the power of their faith.

Then, a virus comes along that is utterly unaffected by their dogma. It infects everyone, regardless of what they believe, and no amount of prayers can stop it. The fact that these “faith healers” have ceased going to hospitals out of fear of infection is an indirect admission that their healing doesn’t work. It also exposes just how weak it really is.

A virus is not some invading army or repressive government. It’s a tiny bit of biomatter. Despite that, it’s still strong enough to defeat any prayers that a believer may offer. No matter how ardent they may be, the virus still infects because wishful thinking is no match for harsh reality.

Now, I’m not foolish enough to believe that this crisis will put all faith healers out of business. At the very least, this offers a huge red flag to anyone whoever crosses paths with someone claiming to heal by faith. If they can’t heal you from a simple virus, then what does that say about their faith, their religion, and their motivations?

In this case, washing your hands more powerful than any prayers you could offer.

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Quarantines, Cabin Fever, And Baby Booms

As I write this, the state I live in has declared a State of Emergency. In my local jurisdiction, every school is closed for the next two to four weeks. Every non-essential worker is encouraged to work from home. On top of that, every major sports league has canceled every game, movie premiers have been pushed back, the stock market has tanked, and major gatherings have been banned.

This is bad. There’s no way around it. The Coronavirus/COVID-19 is officially a worldwide pandemic. There’s no way to spin it. There’s no way to twist the facts or interpret the data. This is a historically significant event that’s sure have long-lasting consequences for years to come.

However, I don’t want to focus on all the negatives. Instead, I want to offer one seamy little tidbit that feels perfectly appropriate for an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I don’t want to make light of this situation. It’s still very bad. I just want to speculate on one not-so-minor effect that will likely go unreported.

This extended quarantine and societal shut-down may lead to a miniature baby boom.

Before you roll your eyes, just take a moment to consider the situation here. For the next couple weeks, people are going to be stuck at home for extended periods with nothing to do. No big movies are coming out. No major sporting events are on TV. No big events can happen. At some point, people are going to get bored. When people get bored, they do crazy things to alleviate it.

For couples who happen to be in close proximity of one another, that usually means they’re going to have sex. It might not be romantic. It might not even be that memorable. However, if they have enough spare time, sufficient food, and excess energy, they’re going to get horny at some point and they’re going to have sex. Unlike the world before this plague, there just aren’t enough distractions to stop it.

I suspect this could lead to a miniature baby boom, not unlike the kind documented in cities that have won major championships. We probably won’t see it until January 2021, but if it happens, it’ll be noticeable and we’ll be able to connect the dots.

I’m not saying it’s inevitable. I’m just saying that for the next two weeks, couples are going to have a lot of free time on their hands. People don’t need a lot of excuses to get frisky. Even when they’re afraid of the news, they’re still going to get horny. For some people, fear makes them horny. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when, how, and to what extent.

Personally, I encourage. There are worse ways to cope with this situation. I just hope that before anyone gets frisky, they remember to stay safe. That includes washing their hands.

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A (Hopeful) Perspective On The Coronavirus

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As a general rule, I always watch the news with a skeptical eye. That’s not just because we live in an era of fake news, misguided outrage, and conspiracy theories about shape-shifting lizard people. I’ve learned from time, experience, and observation that the news can only ever tell part of a story as it’s happening. The full story never comes out until much later. Sometimes, it’s years later.

That’s not easy when following stories like the coronavirus. Unlike other major news stories that make headlines for all the wrong reasons, this is a serious issue. This is something the public needs to know about. The coronavirus is not just a nasty cold. It’s killing people all over the world. That’s an indisputable fact and one that warrants serious concern.

At the same time, there’s a context worth noting. As bad as the coronavirus is, it’s not the second coming of the Black Death or the Spanish Flu. This is not the kind of disease that will turn the planet into a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the mold of a Stephen King novel. It’s still serious, but it’s not a global cataclysm. Even if it ends up killing millions, there are over 7.6 billion people on this planet.

Human beings adapt.

Human beings survive.

It’s one of the few things we’re good at.

There’s another perspective worth considering when following the news of the coronavirus. Unlike the devastating plagues of the past, humanity has developed a decent infrastructure for medicine, technology, and research. Granted, it took us centuries of trial, error, and mass death and there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but that system is there. It’s better than nothing. Just ask Medieval Europe.

That system is already doing its job in combating the virus. Already, researchers at the University of Texas in Austin have mapped out critical portions of the virus. That sort of thing couldn’t have been done this quickly or at all just 30 years ago. This data is critical for the development of treatments and, ultimately, a vaccine.

The fact that this happened so quickly after the outbreak is something the news hasn’t reported on. Even if treatments develop and the virus is contained, as we’ve seen with other recent outbreaks, it probably won’t be a huge story within the ever-changing news cycle.

We know this because in late 2019, the first vaccine for Ebola was approved for use by the FDA and it barely showed up in the headlines. Considering how much panic the Ebola outbreak caused several years ago, this is quite a triumph. It shows just how quickly our current system can respond to these diseases.

Again, there’s still room for improvement and accessibility to medicine is a major issue, but the coronavirus is not some new form of disease. It’s a virus. We know what viruses are. We have the technology to study, treat, and combat them, more so than we have at any point in human history. Considering how much better we’ve gotten since the heyday of the AIDS pandemic, I say that’s reason to be hopeful.

That doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. When the CDC issues a warning about the coronavirus, we should take it seriously. At the same time, we should take comfort in the knowledge that we live in an era where human ingenuity has limited the suffering caused by these devastating plagues.

As with Ebola, we will eventually develop a treatment for the coronavirus. It won’t be perfect, but it will limit the death and suffering it causes. It also won’t make the news because it’s just not scary or dire enough. At this point, finding effective treatments for diseases is so mundane it barely qualifies as news. That’s an objectively good thing.

I hope that helps provide a bit of context and hope to the news surrounding the coronavirus. It’s still worth taking seriously, but we shouldn’t let grim headlines distract us from the great things that humanity achieves when faced with a challenge.

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A Disease-Free World: It’s Closer Than You Think

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Last year, I proposed a little thought experiment that I’m sure everyone whoever sat through a high school health class outside of Texas has contemplated at some point. I simply asked people to imagine a world where all the dreaded infectious diseases, including the very unsexy kind, were cured.

I tailored the thought experiment to focus on our sex lives because disease is still a major concern for anyone that is sexually active. That’s not just because diseases are used as scare tactics to dissuade teenagers from having more sex than priests, rabbis, mullahs, and monks have deemed appropriate. These diseases still carry a stigma to them that you just don’t get with the cold or flu.

Anything that effects disease is bound to affect our sex lives and many underestimate just how big an effect it’s already had. Many attribute the sexual revolution of the 1960s to the rise of contraception, but in observing the historical data, it’s now clear that this remarkable advancement didn’t play quite as big a role.

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If any one breakthrough should be credited with the sexual revolution and the greater sexual freedom that came with it, it’s modern antibiotics. That’s right. Penicillin probably did more for your sex life than the pill ever did.

That’s because up until the 20th century, nasty diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia weren’t just more prevalent. They were downright debilitating. Just ask Al Capone. There was a legitimate reason to avoid excessive sexual promiscuity. It could actually kill you.

These days, however, the diseases that ravaged generations and scared the extremely horny to death are no big deal. If caught early, a thorough round of antibiotics will ensure your blood is as clean as a chaste nun. While religious conservatives may hate that, it is one of the many benefits that modern medicine has bestowed upon us that our disease-weary ancestors could only dream of.

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At the moment, HIV is the only disease that’s still fatal, but even that is losing its grip because modern antiviral drugs can contain it to the point where it’s manageable. It’s still a concern and it’s still ravaging certain parts of the world. However, at some point, even diseases like this will succumb to modern medicine.

I bring all this up because a future without infectious disease, including the unsexy kind, is actually closer than you think. I’m not saying it’ll happen in the next few years so don’t throw all your condoms away just yet. Within the next couple decades, though, we may very well see a future where the horrifying diseases we dread today no longer plague us.

To understand the scope of this issue, we first need to understand how most of our modern medicine works when it comes to treating infectious disease. Modern antibiotics, as well as antiviral drugs, operate in a way that’s akin to carpet bombing in World War II. Anyone who has seen one too many History Channel documentary knows about that.

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It’s a messy, destructive, and potentially counterproductive effort that does a lot of collateral damage. Sure, you’ll probably kill a few Nazis, but you may also kill some of the folks opposing them. For many diseases, though, it does the trick. Our bodies can take the necessary punishment to take down these nasty bugs.

Now, we may have a new tool with which to fight disease and this one go beyond merely bombing its target. It’s more akin to sending a legion of Navy SEALs and ninjas to take down a handful of targets and do so with an efficiency that gives military commanders wet dreams. It’s called CRISPR and it will change the world in ways that even antibiotics never managed.

CRISPR stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,” but make no mistake. This exceedingly wordy, overly technical jargon is a game-changer. It’s modern medicines first functional gene-editing tool that allows scientists to cut and paste genes the same way we cut and paste text on a computer. That may not sound like a big deal, but if you’re concerned about your sex life, trust me. It’s a huge deal.

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Infectious disease, be they a sore throat or total organ failure, relies on pathogenic organisms that are genetically programmed to infect others and spread to as many other hosts as possible. Anyone who saw the movie “Outbreak” understands this. Until CRISPR came along, we really couldn’t attack those genetics. That’s why we needed the biological equivalent of carpet bombing to combat them.

CRISPR changes that. It can specifically identify certain segments of DNA within an orgasm, snip them out, and either replace them with something else or nothing at all. For any robust infectious pathogen looking to ruin your weekend, that’s the equivalent of a head shot with a 44 magnum.

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CRISPR is still in the early stages of its development. It is, essentially, in beta test mode wherein scientists and researchers are working out the kinks and refining various editing techniques. However, the implications are already taking shape.

Last year, a team at Temple University successfully proved that CRISPR could be used to remove HIV from infected cells. If CRISPR can take down something as robust and devious as HIV, a disease that has tormented medicine for decades, then all bets are off. Every disease that relies on a pathogenic microorganism is screwed.

Even antibiotic resistance won’t help them this time. That’s because CRISPR is akin to a chainsaw and a tree. The tree can only adapt so much to resist chemicals, pollutants, or whatever other lifeforms are used to kill it. No amount of adaptation will save it from a chainsaw. That’s why there are no chainsaw-resistant trees.

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Modern medicine already spurred one sexual revolution, but that one still had limits. This brings me back to the same thought experiment I pitched last year. What will happen to our society when tools like CRISPR are perfected and every infectious disease we ever worried about is no more?

This isn’t some distant scenario either. There may very well be children alive today who will grow into a world where they never have to worry about diseases like AIDS, the flu, SARS, or hepatitis. Add in advances in contraception like Vasalgel and the possibilities become even more intriguing, not to mention sexy.

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Again, don’t throw away your condoms just yet. CRISPR isn’t perfected just yet, but its potential is already clear. The days of the diseases that sex ed teachers have used to scare teenagers out of having sex are numbered. A world without infectious disease isn’t just possible. It’s very probable now. The question is are we ready for it?

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