Sunday, May 27, 2012

Risks. Chapter 5

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 5

Working in Yu’s laboratory had opened many doors for Karen. Yu’s prestige attracted some of the top biomedical scientists to the Enzyme Interaction Institute and they all came occasionally to Yu for advice. Karen was able to tag along as Dr. Yu toured the various labs, and she learned much about the experiments taking place at Enzyme.

In one lab they were trying to transplant dog kidneys into baboons, and in another, they were trying to transplant baboon kidneys into dogs. Years ago, Karen knew, massive investigation had gone into trying to transplant pig organs into monkeys and that those experiments had always been disastrous failures. She had always imagined that the Diggins Adjustment had ended xeno-transplantation experiments.

In another lab, scientists were using cats to study the way heroin slowed a cat's iris' reaction to sudden bright light. In anther lab, mice were being bred with novel genetic deformities and their abilities to navigate mazes to find food and avoid electro-shock documented and analyzed.

Once, while assisting Dr. Yu kill guinea pigs, Karen had unthinkingly asked, “Dr. Yu? Why are we studying dog and baboon kidney transplants now? My uncle injured a kidney in a football accident when he was in high school, and they just cloned a new one for him from his own kidney.”

Karen was startled by Yu’s abrupt response. “Science does not have to have a reason! We study! We Learn! We are scientists!”

Karen had never seen the usually quiet researcher react so spontaneously. She recognized that she had struck a sensitive nerve and was thankful she had not asked why his lab was comparing the ratios of neurons to muscle fibers in hamster and guinea pig thigh muscles. Karen thought Yu was even quieter and more distant during the following few days.

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She was falling at about 120 mph at almost two miles above the earth. The wind against her felt like water and she could move through it like she was body surfing in Hawaiian waves. It was as if she could see forever -- even the curvature of the earth was discernable. At twelve hundred feet she pulled the ripcord and the red and blue paraglider inflated behind her slowing her descent as she soared silently over the Grand Canyon peering down at the rapids and an occasional group of deer.

She glided gracefully in and landed with barely a stumble.

The man in the dark sweater appeared again and said, “If you would like to paraglide over the Grand Canyon again, press replay.”


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It was the sweetheart deal of all time. Richard Selling had pocketed a cool $100 billion and had acquired the contract for broadcasting the TEs. He had immediately sent people all over the world with the experience recorders and was producing ten to twenty new experiences a month for broadcast. His deal with the government gave him a commission for each new experience Selling Inc. made available. They didn’t seem to care what it was. Because it was virtual, once recorded, no one felt much moral compunction about the experiences they were having. There seemed though, to be high demand for them all, whether sexual, athletic, or even culinary. There was even a demand for entirely cerebral experiences. One of Selling’s agents had gotten the idea to have a mathematician record the experience of solving an especially complex equation. The thrill and understanding of the beauty of the math had never been accessible to the general public. But now, people, albeit a relatively small portion of the entire experiencing public, were actually able to understand and feel what a deep insight into mathematics was actually like. Selling himself found these inner mental and emotional experiences to be quite moving.

An especially popular series was “Falling in Love”. Young adults had been asked to wear the recorders for a period of months. The payoff had come when a few had become infatuated with someone else. The experience of falling in love seemed to be as popular as any that Selling was offering and they continually got requests for more of the series.

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