Ghosts and Zombies and Other Things


The photo for this post is from last weekend, moving day for Dan, into his new apartment.  Pictured with Dan are two friends, Annie and Cat.  They and Anne helped Dan move.  They may not be the biggest movers, but they both have big trucks.  Not that they have anything to do with this post’s title.  Well, except maybe Dan.

A recent solicitation, from the Defense Department’s Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, requests “a highly interactive PC or web-based application to allow family members to verbally interact with virtual renditions of deployed Service Members.”  I remember way back in high school a text based program called doctor that would try to mimic a questioning doctor or psychiatrist.  Basically, you would type in a question like, “Why is the sky blue?”  The program would then parrot back in text, “How does the sky being blue make you feel?”  It seemed novel at first, but quickly became repetitive and boring.

I assume the Defense Department is looking for something more sophisticated and also more individualized.  They are looking for something that would be used by the service member’s parents, spouse and most of all children.  But in this day of real-time satellite phone connected video why would any child want or need just a computerized representation of their parent, when they could speak live with their father of mother?  I think the answer lies within the sponsoring organization’s name.  Maybe Mommy or Daddy isn’t coming back or at least not fully?  Maybe a computerized ghost is all a young child will have to remember their fallen parent’s voice with?  Maybe the intent of this program is a 21st century replacement of that last letter?  A letter that a small child would have had to wait twenty years to fully understand.  A letter that really just said “I Loved You.”

Last year, the Department of Defense unveiled the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.  This is a project “to reconstruct new skin, muscles and tendons, even ears, noses and fingers.”  With this announcement, generations of parental wisdom have gone out the window.  Just last week my dentist told me to take care of my adult teeth because they were the last real teeth I’d ever have.  But is that true anymore?  Maybe our children and certainly our grandchildren will be able to get new teeth, fingers, and toes.

The next step after regenerating flesh and bone is logically reanimating it.  Dan has long expressed an interest in all things zombies.  When queried tonight about zombies Dan seemed somewhat morally ambivalent about the subject.  To paraphrase what he said, “They should be put into buildings that are then made to collapse about them, but on the other hand maybe they are just yearning to be understood.”  Dan’s brother Dave is majoring in biomedical engineering.  I just learned this week that his area of focus is cellular and tissue engineering.  Sniff, sniff, I smell someone burning zombies on the stove.  😉

The idea for this post and some of the material came from the article, Night of the Living Dad, by William Saletan.

In more mundane news, this morning’s commute was not affected so much by the New I-64 construction, as much as last night’s ice storm.  We didn’t get much in the way of ice, but it was enough to really screw up traffic.  I saw about a dozen wrecks on the highway, on the way into work.  One multi-vehicle accident involved four Bi-State buses.  I suspect that not all of them were actually involved in the accident, but that some of them had shown up after the fact in order to off load passengers.  Anyway, I made it to work without incident.  My commute home was fine too, better even then before they closed the highway.  Go figure??

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