Re: The First Immortal

Peter C. McCluskey (
Thu, 5 Feb 1998 08:41:38 -0800 (Hal Finney) writes:
>> June 20, 1998 - The FDA authorizes human trials on a robot to assist
>> in brain surgery. The one-tenth-inch-diameter robotic probe, which uses
>> neural net software to survey the brain, is equipped with pressure sensors
>> allowing it to locate edges of tumors without damaging arteries or nerves.
>I'm guessing, since he put this so near, that there is such a device
>under development in the lab. I don't know anything about it, but
>I would be very surprised if we had human trials on a brain surgery
>robot in 6 months! The FDA is known to be extremely cautious about
>new technologies. I'd want a robot helping with an appendectomy long
>before I'd trust it to do brain surgery.

I think he's only off by a small amount here. From _Barron's_, 1/5/98,
page MW9 blurb on Computer Motion (NASDAQ:RBOT):
"The FDA cleared the sale of the company's voice-controlled surgical
robots, called the Aesop 3000, which are used in minimally invasive
heart surgery."

>> January 11, 1999 - Michigan sees new economic growth, possibly the
>> result of having recently eliminated juries in all nonfederal civil
>> trials.

I'm puzzled by the connection between economic growth and jury trials.
I guess I need to read the book.

>I can't believe that any state would remove the right to trial by jury,
>even in civil trials, not within this next year, anyway.

The 6th and 7th amendments look clear enough that there shouldn't be
any risk of this; however, this quote from a 1996 story makes me wonder:

WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday a
defendant who is prosecuted in a single trial for multiple petty
offenses does not have a constitutional right to a jury trial, even if
the penalties add up to more than six months.
But at least four justices issued warnings about the dangers of
straying too far in the direction of trials by judges only.
Under Supreme Court precedent, a jury is not required in general when
a single crime is punishable by less than six months in prison.
In a New York case, however, a former mail carrier faced multiple
charges, each punishable by less than six months in prison.
The Supreme Court said Monday that is constitutional.

>> July 5, 2005 - Over half the world's population, and nearly 98% of
>> American households, are now hooked to the Internet.
>That's going to have to be a lot of wiring in China over the next 7.5
>years for this one to come true. There's a big fraction of the world's
>population who don't even have electricity now, let alone telephones.

Wiring isn't the only way to get there - direct satellite communications
are possible. Although his numbers sound high even after accounting for that.

>He also has over 30,000 people being cryonically suspended during the
>year 2005, while we know there will probably be no more than a dozen
>or so in 1998. Granted, in the story, there is a famous artist whose
>father and niece both get cryonically suspended, leading to a lot of
>publicity about it, so maybe in that fictional world it makes sense.
>But it seems like a real long shot in our world.

I think that a discovery in the next few years of a cryoprotectant good
enough to revive mammals might attract that many people, but publicity
alone clearly won't. (Hal Finney) writes:
>Science fiction authors often succumb to the temptation to have their
>future characters talk about the mistakes of the 20th century - if
>only they'd taken care of the environment, or if only they'd been more
>socialist, no, if only they'd been more capitalist, etc. I never find
>this realistic (how much time do we spend talking about the mistakes of
>the 1890's?), and even when it does fit, I don't necessarily think the
>future characters are right (people today disagree over the morality
>of the "robber barons" of the 19th century, even with 100 years of

I'd suggest the question "why were people so complacent about the Nazi's
in the 1930's?" as a good example. Or why weren't blacks treated like
human beings in the south.
Or things like opposition to anesthesia research. See a long list in:
<a href="">Erroneous Predictions</a>.
Of course it takes an unusually good SF writer to get this right.

Peter McCluskey  |  | Has anyone used           | to comment on your web pages?