Sometimes I think that I was born in the wrong century. Granted, I believe that almost everyone has felt like this at one time or another; I don’t think I am special in any sense of the word.
That being said, I wouldn’t change anything about my life, as I love the people that fate, the universe of (gasp!) God, gifted me with (And I mean my family, good friends and the bunch of mean-spirited people that I have encountered over the years; most of them have taught me something…).
In this sense, I am happy that I do not have access to a time travel machine or that I do not have the means to send a message to my past self, I do not want to risk anything about my life story. Well, truth be told, there is just a couple of exceptions to this statement.
Anyway, the people of my generation (which I arbitrarily define as those born in the 1960s) are living in a “transitional era” if you will. This is incredibly frustrating to me. I certainly doubt that I am the first to think things like this, but here are my thoughts.
Take for example the ability to explore unknown lands (really unknown lands, not just metaphorical ones).
A mere 500 years ago you could jump on a big (~ish) boat and in a few months you will find yourself in a totally new place. You could be free to explore, find out things for yourself. Dangerous, you bet, but the romantic in me would have loved to do something like that. If I could have my pick, I would love to have lived in the “Age of Wonder” that took place between the 1700s and the 1800s (Yep, Darwin’s time… (:-)…).
I was off for a short 150 years or so.
… Almost, but not quite…
I would have loved to be a naturalist then with the means to indulge in my passion. Not for grants, not for promotion or tenure, but to simply have a direct dialogue with nature. Biology is the true queen of the sciences and (very unrealisticaly, I realize) I want to know everything about it.
Alas, nowadays, there are no true unknown lands. I have to settle with reading about it, and as much as I love reading, it is, of course, not exactly the same as living it.
Which brings me to space. I was born too late for exploring the “unknown” Earth, and oh so very early to even to see the mere beginnings of the manned exploration of our own solar system, let alone the rest of space! This one is even more poignant to me because the reality could have been really different. A mere 46 years ago we went to the Moon, the freaking Moon! We humans could be all over the solar system by now. The frustrating reality is that this did not happen because of a complex mix of political, sociological, and economic reasons. This annoys me to no end. Dare I say that my generation deserved better? In these days, there’s talk of exploring the solar system ourselves, but I am not optimistic that I will live to see it.
This time, I am off by close to fifty years on either side. Dang it!
… Almost, but not quite…
Another area that frustrates me to no end is the failed promises of molecular medicine. Now for this one, I was expecting the lack of concrete results. You see, for close to 20 years I have had conversations with hard-core molecular biologists in which I essentially stated that to sequence a gene is not enough, to even know what a sequenced gene is suppose to do is not enough. No gene works in isolation. And I have met more than one researcher that sadly limit their own science by “ending the quest” with the finding of a gene sequence.
Do not get me wrong. The medical sciences are in a state of constant progress, but in the area of clinical pharmacology, just to give you an example, things could go a little faster. To a great extent, the current state of the art in the pharmacological sciences is the “one size fits most” approach. What I mean by this is that physicians work with prescriptions in a trial and error basis, which entails periods of taking a particular medicine at a specific dosage, punctuated by periods where the result of bloodwork and further medical examinations result on changes to the medication and/or the dosage. If the second time around the meds do not work, the process is repeated. Since the dawn of molecular biology, there has been talk of modifying genes to get rid of diseases, but in more than one case, the reality is that as above, mere sequencing is not enough, compounded by the reality that a sizable chunk of diseases are influenced by more than one gene, as well as the everpresent environmental influences.
And what about the plethora of medical conditions that we have no idea of their genetic correlates? if someone could cure anxiety and panic attacks I would be immensely grateful to say the least.
There is a clear promise for actual gene editing, currently in progress, and some people predict that we should start reaping the benefits of such research in the next 20-30 years or so. I am very happy for my children and future grandchildren, but for those of my generation…
… Almost, but not quite…
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