Many years ago I was on the fast track to become a religious leader, complete with a congregation and place to practice. I knew the books backwards and forwards. I could debate the contexts and meanings of parables with the best of them. People could ask me about different belief systems and I could answer intelligently without resorting to incorrect or flawed fear-mongering explanations of the other religions. What's the difference between Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Calvinism? I could explain this in excruciating detail to the people who really wanted to know. Who was Lucian Pulvermacher and why did he make his own church? I could tell you that, too … not that I wanted anything to do with his order. Religion was very exciting many years ago, but it's also very dangerous when used inappropriately. My goal (back then) was to bring some balance to the table and show people that we could appreciate everyone's belief system without being stupid about it.
In the 90s TV series X-Files, one of the protagonists had a poster on the wall in his office that read "Trust No One". These three simple words embodied the extent of the man's paranoia and became an incredibly powerful idea in popular culture at the time. Paranoia is, after all, something that can fuel a number of well intentioned people to take away many of the perceived freedoms we have come to enjoy. While Reiko and I were watching a news report on the recent Boston Marathon bombing, I mentioned that new laws will likely be put into place to reduce some of the liberties that Americans currently enjoy. In response, she said that it's better to be safe than sorry.
A recent essay in the Journal of American Medical Association argues that not enough has been done to reduce the number of fatal road accidents caused by people who are distracted by their mobile devices. A number of countries around the world have instituted laws that ban the use of cell phones while sitting behind the wheel, regardless of whether we're talking or trying to type out a quick message at a red light. However, this doesn't seem to be sufficient as there are still thousands of people killed every year for taking their eyes off the road for just a few seconds and not seeing something happen in time to stop it. As a result, it seems only natural that two very intelligent and well-intentioned doctors would suggest technology steps in to ensure that people who are in control of a motor vehicle will not be distracted by the little devices that we carry with us. There are a number of problems with this line of thinking, though.
Yesterday the Guardian ran an article about a South Korean researcher by the name of Insung Hwang who is offering to Samsung our pets for the low price of $100,000 as they reach the end of their lives. Cloning has come a long way over the last decade and it's gaining a lot of traction, particularly in the area of human organ transplants1. I've shared my thoughts on this topic in the past so won't get into the discussion here, but instead look at something in the Guardian article that caught my eye2.
Every so often when the wife and I are in the car for an extended period the radio is turned on as a way to add a bit of coherent background noise to the journey. Unlike the radio stations I would listen to while growing up in Canada, a Japanese station can completely change it's genre from one hour to the next. This happened today on the way to the train station, and the stark difference between the type of radio I grew up with and the type of radio that exists today in this part of the country brought to mind a number of questions, the first of which asked who could follow along with the ever-changing genres? The second question focused more on the content of the songs and why incredibly explicit language isn't cleaned up before being broadcast at 8:30 in the morning.