Saturday, October 21, 2006

Automatically Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed

Guess what? I have all four of my wisdom teeth. Yeah that's right dentists. All there. All healthy. All helping me chew those spicy tuna rolls. What are you going to do about it?

See I know when I go to the dentist and they see those wisdom teeth back there the cash register noises start going off in their heads. They start thinking about that new backyard pool they're going to put it. That new corian kitchen counter. How crestfallen they always are when I tell them no sale.

Dentist: "You know Zap," (spoken in a fatherly, caring medical voice) "You really should get those wisdom teeth out."

Me: "Really?" (pause) "Why?"

Many people don't even make it to the why. They just give in right there and schedule the first of the appointments. Ask ten different dentists why, you get ten different answers. This is common:

Dentist: "Well, later on... they can become quite problematic."

Me: "Oh no.... what kinds of problems?"

Dentist: "Wisdom teeth grow for a long time. And when there's crowding in the mouth and the tooth runs out of jawbone space...."

Me: "Yeah...."

Dentist: "They can become *impacted*"

Me: "Oh God, no. What does that mean?"

Dentist: "It means it'll grow in at a funny angle."

Me: "And..... and what are the consequences of that?"

Dentist: "Um.... well they can become more prone to infection."

Me: "Infection? That's awful!"

Dentist: "Not to mention mild gum pain."

Me: "Oh Jesus. Not mild gum pain!"

Dentist: "And, possibly.... .... .... swelling."


So yeah. This is not a convincing case to have four teeth removed. Let me ask a reasonable question. Where else in the entirety of medicine do we have body parts removed because of the hypothetical possibility that they may one day cause one of a few minor, perfectly treatable problems? If a buddy showed up with an eye patch and said "Yep, I had the eyeball removed. Can't be too careful about pink-eye." wouldn't that just be a wee bit stupid.

Ah, but the eyeball is useful. Not wisdom teeth. Okay, so what about the appendix? The appendix has no use. Do we get our appendix removed in anticipation of appendicitis? No.

The only things I can think of that we get preemptively removed before they cause trouble are moles and other skin blemishes. But a) those are unsightly, and b) the risk is cancer. If you bring cancer into the picture, then yeah, now I'll play ball.

If the wisdom tooth does cause trouble later on, then sure! Remove it! Oh what, they get more difficult to remove as they grow? I don't care. Still the same copay for me. Still the same anaesthetic. It's your problem, dentist.

And why do we play down the actual usefulness of a wisdom tooth? If you lose a tooth in early adulthood, any teeth that are still growing can move into the gap. Then you're going to be happy you had a few spares in the back.

I guess I just can't understand how people can be so acquiescent about forfeiting body parts just because one day they might get infected. "Might want to remove that middle toe... what if it steps on a rusty nail?" No thank you Dr. Hackemoff!

Finally, circumcision. Hmm. I guess logically I have to be against it. Yeah sure, what the hell, I'm against it. Not much I can do about it now though.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Music. Porn. Entering Nightclubs - Things I Refuse to Pay For

Let me focus on the music aspect of this, since I think refusing to pay for porn and clubbing is pretty straightforward.

Is it wrong to steal music? See, my position is, it's an irrelevant question. Technology has brought us to the cusp of the point where the protection of music is utterly unenforceable. If a law cannot be enforced, it simply ceases to be a law. If the government really made some sort of concerted effort to punish music file-sharers, in the style of Singapore littering punishments, then maybe I'd have to revise that opinion. But that's not going to happen.

I know that the opposing argument is "wrong is wrong, and getting away with it doesn't make it right." But there's a limit to that logic. If I patented the formula for coke, or I got a nickel for every coke sold, and then for some strange reason the sky started to regularly rain coke, then that's it. The ballgame is over. And that's what digitized music is. If your "product" is something that can easily be converted into ones and zeros and copied infinitely by anyone, then we are approaching the point where that product simply cannot be protected.

And if everybody wants something, and that something is free and easily accessible, and there's no way to curb the accessibility, and no way to enforce a law prohibiting it, then like I said, the ballgame is over. It's time to move on.

I do have a conscience that tells me that if something is simply "wrong" I shouldn't do it, but stealing music has not, so far, triggered that mechanism in me. I acknowledge that there is a long chain of hardworking people that brought the music from conception all the way to MP3 format, and that I am screwing them out of well-earned profit, but again, I turn to the fact that the sky is raining coke. It is not reasonable to expect that people will voluntarily refrain from listening to free music. Instead, it is the hardworking chain of people who will have to adapt to the new reality.

I anticipate something like the following happening in the near-to-mid future: music recording outfits will all teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, because everyone will be stealing their product. The government will have to intervene. Music making will have to be supported by tax dollars, with the expectation that the end product will be free for everyone.

In a way, this would restore a nice supply and demand balance. Music artists would have to settle for very normal wages (unless they make a fortune by touring, which they could always do) and the public, in the end, would resume paying for the music.

What's the alternative? "Enforcement"? Enforcement costs money. Someone has to pay for enforcement. It's our tax dollars that pay for it. Why not spend the enforcement dollars on subsidizing the musicians? What are the artists going to do? Boycott? They can't - they have no other skills. How would we decide who gets paid? Well, musicians would have to make music on their own coin; then they'd be paid on the basis of downloads or listens. The bigger the piece of the download pie you have, the more the govt. forks out to you. It's all nice and Darwinian.

Again, I don't really see much alternative to this future. You can't enforce a ban on file-sharing, and Kid Rock holding out his begging tin doesn't earn anyone's sympathy. Whether or not sharing files is still somehow "wrong" is going to have to become a question for armchair philosophers, since it's clearly not "wrong enough" to make people care at a sufficient level to actually enforce a ban. Technology has changed the rules of the game. Our old conceptions of how to protect intellectual property are going to have to adjust.

And yes. After music, movies are next.