Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Remakes and Artificial Knees

Gwydion asks,

In the film industry, very few stories are remade. Most of the movies that come out from year to year tell, at least on the surface, new stories. (Not all, but most.) Most novels are new. Most poems as well. Why is the same not true for theater and for music and for dance and for opera?
The difference is in the film, novel, and poetry community as opposed to that of theater, orchestral music, and opera.  For the latter, there is a sense that there was a golden era and it is past.  Quality is achieved by understanding and partaking in the greatness of the masters.  For the former group of artists, the artistry is found in progressing beyond the latest stage, in breaking new ground.  The past is not to be worshiped, but transcended.  It's a hard question as to why certain art forms tend to have communities that look back and others forward.  The obvious line might be art forms that stress performance versus those that stress creation -- but that's just a first order approximation.

Philo asks,
There is technology on the horizon (e.g. nanotechnology) for slowing aging and extending the maximum human lifespan. Let's say it could be extended to 120 years, or 150 years. Is there a maximum to the maximum that should be set? Is there a point at which raising the maximum beyond that causes a problem?
Of course, any number will fail since there will always be degenerate cases -- I know a number of elderly degenerates -- but certainly extending life arbitrarily far is problematic.  Our pieces were not made for the long haul.  Evolution is generally unable to select for anything beyond the age of fertility and so we have eyes, ears, backs, knees, short term memories,... that fail.  Even if we can develop new replacement parts, for example, artificial knees, it is the system as a whole that fades and so I do believe that you will hit an upper limit -- perhaps not of our ability to stave off death, but of the ability to live a full and rewarding life.