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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Medical Wrist Band: A Science Fiction Story

Billionaire David Crasson was not one for graceful natural aging. He was trying to use all available medical treatments to slow or stop the aging process, and grant himself a very long life. Twice a week he got blood transfusions from 20-year-old persons who he paid lots of money.  Once a month he got cell implants from other people between the ages of 20 and 25. Crasson took a daily cocktail of biologically engineered drugs which he thought could slow the aging process.  He was also experimenting with nanobot injections designed to keep his arteries as unclogged as they were when he was in his twenties, thirty years ago. 

All of this seemed to be working rather well. Crasson felt more vigorous and healthy than he had felt in years. But he wanted to get some exact way of keeping track of how well his anti-aging efforts were working. So Crasson summoned a group of software developers and medical technologists to one of his seven homes. 

"I want you guys to develop a new hi-tech gadget, one that I can wear like a wrist watch," said Crasson. "I want to be able to glance at my wrist, and know how well I'm doing in my efforts to slow down the aging process."

During the next week the software developers and medical technologists came up with a plan for how to develop the gadget. The device would use sophisticated sensors to track vital signs such as heart rate, breathing and temperature. Instead of merely getting a single number for each of these things, real-time data on these factors would be subjected to continuous analysis searching for minute fluctuations and patterns that could signal signs of declining vitality.  The most sophisticated aspect of the device would be subcutaneous nano-probes that would perform telomere length readings and state-of-the-art analysis of tiny blood particles.  That would occur while the wearer of the device was sleeping, and the wearer would not even notice any pain or itching from his wrist. 

At a meeting with Crasson a week later, the team quoted a price for developing such a gadget, which Crasson thought was too high. Even though the price was trivial for a man of Crasson's wealth, he had a long-held habit of spending money in a miserly manner. Eventually a deal was made for a lower development fee, in exchange for giving the developers the rights to market the device to the public. 

After a few weeks of effort, the team leader Rod Scott returned to Crasson to show him a prototype of the wrist device. He demonstrated how you could use buttons on the device to navigate through different charts and tables that would be displayed on the screen of the little device. 

"That interface is terrible!" said Crasson. "Didn't you ever hear of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid? I don't want to bother with charts and tables, because I'm not a doctor or a scientist."

"Okay, so we can take a totally different route," said Scott. "We'll make it so the little gadget will just display a single number that may change as your health situation changes."

"I like that idea," said Crasson. "Get cracking on it."

A few weeks later Scott returned with the completed device. He told Crasson that all he had to do was strap on the device, and occasionally peek at the number the device would display.

Crasson was pleased. He strapped on the gadget. At first the screen was blank. 

"Give it a few days," said Scott. "Then it will give you a number."

But after five days the wrist gadget displayed only a question mark. Crasson called Scott to complain. 

"Give it a few more days," said Scott. 

After three days, there was a change. Now the device displayed two question marks. 

"You guys blew it!" screamed Crasson after summoning Scott. "This gadget is junk, so I'm not paying you anything."

"We'll see you in court," said Scott, storming off.  He jumped in his self-driving car, and told it to take him home.

Crasson was just about to throw the wrist gadget in a garbage can when he noticed that it suddenly was giving a reading. The gadget now displayed the number 130. 

Crasson showed the wrist device to his wife. 

"The hi-tech medical wrist gadget says 130," said Crasson. "You know what that means, don't you?"

"No," said his wife. "What does it mean?"

"It means that my anti-aging program is working perfectly," said Crasson. "I'm going to live to be 130 years old!"

"Oh, that's wonderful," said his wife, faking a happy response.  Walking into another room, she began to cry. Thirty years younger than Crasson, she had married the unlikable billionaire mainly because she wanted to inherit half of his vast fortune.

For the next two weeks Crasson bragged to everyone in his main mansion that he was going to be the first man to live to be 130. He told people that he was starting to develop a written plan for the next seventy years of his life.  One of his plans was to make movies looking just as if they had been filmed by Hollywood in the late 1940's or 1950's, using its greatest stars of that age, even though all of the actors were really computer generated.  Then there was his plan to create a zero-gravity zoo in outer space, consisting of never-before-seen creatures genetically engineered to be ideal for floating in the weightlessness of space. Then there was his plan to create a rough terrain vehicle that would kind of throw little roads ahead of itself whenever necessary. 

But then one day his wife found him motionless and lifeless in bed. He had died during the night, at the age of only 57.  His aggressive use of experimental medical nanobots had helped bring about his sudden death by cardiac failure. 

His wife was very delighted to discover the dead body of Crasson, for she knew that she would inherit half of his billions. But she did her best to sound like she was sad. "All I can say is that I feel a genuine, authentic and not-at-all-artificial sense of feeling really, truly sad," she said. "In all true sincerity I feel that this outcome is completely and totally...tragic." 

"That stupid medical wrist band of his was such a failure," said Crasson's wife to his son. "It was so wrong, telling him he would live to be 130."

"No, I think that wrist device was precisely accurate," said the son. 

"How do you figure that?" asked the wife.

"They never told him what that number 130 meant," said the son. "He thought it meant the age he would live to. But maybe the number was something totally different. Maybe the number was a prediction of the day of the year he would die."

"So today is January 30," said the wife. "How would you express that as a number?"

"As the number 130," said the son, "with the 1 standing for the month, and the 30 standing for the day of the month."

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