• Tue, Aug 14 2012

Bullish Life: The Glass Will at Some Point Be Half-Full. Of Cancer or Tiger Attacks.

Contingency plans for awful events (that can be helped quite a bit by the god that is technology!)

Having a lot of money (and possibly, insurance) certainly does make planning for the worst a lot easier. So, plan to make a lot of money.

But I’m young and sprightly and a lot of my self-worth depends on contributing to the world in ways that help others. So my contingency planning is all about using technology to become a brain in a jar, so to speak, like the woman Steve Martin falls in love with in the 1983 classic, The Man With Two Brains.

In such a situation as I cannot leave my house, the hospital, or some other Internet-enabled building, I’ll keep doing most of the things I now do. Easy. In the case that I’m stuck in bed: pretty much the same deal. If I can’t type, I will hire a precocious pre-teen to do this for me, and she will probably learn something while transcribing all the test prep (and Bullish) books I’ll be dictating. (“No, darlin’, CUBE ROOT. Put a tiny 3 before that thing!”)

Did you know that Steven Hawking now operates his speech synthesizing computer with a muscle in his cheek? He lost his speech after a tracheotomy in 1985, and could use his hand to type four words per minute for some time after that, and now he’s down to a cheek muscle. (Article here.) But it turns out that Hawking isn’t actually using the most advanced technology — he just doesn’t like to change his setup too often, so he’s sticking with an older system that he likes. However, should he lose control of his cheek muscle, there are options that rely on EEG readings, eye tracking, or even electrodes embedded in the brain.

Should I end up in a locked-in state —and, I tell you, I think about this basically every day — well, I had the idea at least ten years ago that I would wait to get put into an MRI or other brain-imaging machine, and then I would THINK S.O.S. in Morse code REALLY, REALLY HARD. It goes like this: (· · · — — — · · ·). You want to make sure you don’t accidentally do (— — — · · · — — — ), which would be OSO, which is Spanish for “bear.” I mean, someone might figure it out, but at the point you’re trying to convince someone that you’re not brain-dead, shouting “Bear! Bear!” when there’s no bear is not, maybe, the best move.

Since I developed my “S.O.S.” plan, researchers have had the brilliant idea to put people who appear to be in a Persistent Vegetative State into brain-imaging machines and then ask them to imagine playing tennis — in at least one patient, “the neurologists were shocked to see her brain ‘light up’ exactly like an uninjured person’s would. It happened again and again. The doctors got the same result when they repeatedly cued her to picture herself wandering, room to room, through her own home.” (Article here).

I hereby state my wish should I end up vegetable-like in any way: I WANT TO GO IN THE MACHINE. In fact, I want AT LEAST SIX DOZEN ATTEMPTS AT MASTERING IMAGINING PLAYING TENNIS CORRECTLY. Just to make sure we’re understanding each other here. Should it turn out that I’m in there, someone should really check basically every day to see if I’ve progressed to toe-wiggling or eyelash-fluttering, because I CAN WRITE A BOOK IN EYELASH FLUTTERS. I have that kind of patience. And if I don’t develop the ability to wiggle something, at least leave NPR on or something. Geez. In fact, I’d like someone to curate an Internet radio station for my benefit. It can play on a laptop next to my bed. LOVE IS A DJ.

Oh, and here is a computer system that “uses an EEG cap to measure brain activity in order to let you type with your thoughts.” This is the answer to at least half of my fears in life. It costs $12,250. I have that! And, furthermore, assuming I could think-type at 1/20th the rate I can normal-type, I could make back the $12,250 in a reasonable interval.

This is why I’ve written so many articles about how to make more money and why we should talk more openly about it. You can really never anticipate when you or your loved ones are going to require a $12,250 machine allowing you/them to type with your/their thoughts. It would also be good to put a decade-plus into becoming an expert at something first (Hawking!), so you have something to type about besides trying to recreate The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, because the world can only absorb so many paralysis memoirs.

Of course, there are many terrible illnesses and circumstances that would keep you from typing with your mind, or even thinking clearly. I think the best plan, there, is to be nice to people now so they’ll be nice to you then (“nice” doesn’t mean weak and passive – sometimes “nice” means strenuously helping someone else get a leg up), and also medicinal marijuana.

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  • Kailey

    http://what-if.xkcd.com/6/

    I feel like you would be prepared for this contingency, and I admire you for that.

  • HaydenT

    I sat my husband down, before we got married, and went over Florida divorce law with him and how it could impact him if we got a divorce. We have been married for 8 years.

    As we were discussing whether we wanted to replicate, I told him that there was a strong possibility that I might abuse our child. I come from a single-parent home where that single parent was alcoholic, and emotionally and physically abusive – the statistics are not in my favor.

    We have now had a child and part of my parenting involves implementing strategies that minimize my stress and maximize my support system.

    My point is, in preparing for the worst, I have been been creating the best.