Caretaking of the elderly has always fallen on two different group: the family or an outside source like a nurse or living facility. As scores of people reach their golden years the question about who will care for them as life start to get a bit more difficult for them to live independently comes to the minds of those around them and of course themselves. Living without the aid of others is often seen as a key level of independence and many senior citizens fear losing that independence. So, what if robots hold the key to not only keeping a level of care, but also this much desired sense of autonomy? This may very well be the case in the future.
We already have robots doing lots of tasks: building machines, vacuuming our floors, and creating all sorts of forms of entertainment for us. So in the future we can expect them to surely be good caretakers. Able to open fridges, give medicine, and open doors they will be nurses and friends who do not need to go home or sleep. They will always be there for those who need them.
But will we accept them? A EU survey published last year said 51 percent would feel “uncomfortable” about “a robot provide services and companionship to elderly or infirm people.” The public overall still seems cold to the idea of robots taking care of us or being in our lives to a bigger degree. Only time will tell if we will warm up and take advantage of the benefits robot caretakers could give.
As the waiting lists for organ replacements grows by the day scientists have long been trying to find ways for patients to get the organs they need to save their lives. There simply is no other way for someone who needs a new heart or lung to go without, they will die without the life-saving donation. This has always meant taking organs from living relatives if the needed replacement is not vital to survival (like a kidney or even a lung), or from the recently deceased in the case of something that is needed to live (like a heart). Of course that makes these all the more difficult to procure.
Here we step from reality though into science fiction. Biologists have reported that they can now replace a patient’s failing organs with ones taken from the person’s own cells and grown within an animal. This could possibly improve the chances of not having the organ be rejected by the body after transplant because it is developed from the person’s own stem cells.
The organs would be grown in large animals like pigs that are chimeras, animals composed of two different genomes. This is made by implanting human stem cells into the pig embryo early, meanings the animal would be made of a mixture of human and pig cells.
The question then becomes the ethics of all this. What does it mean when an animal also contains human cells? Is it entitled to human rights? How will these animals be kept? What is their future after they’ve made the organ needed for the transplant? It is unclear what the future of this project will bring, but surely something we should keep an eye on.
Often it seems we see huge headlines that scream out to us about the plight of our environment. These headlines are often grim, and before going forward it is important to note that we should always heed these warnings. Our planet is in danger, our oceans and forests are under attack by multiple forces from climate change to pollution and everything in between. However, we also need to take the time to observe and learn from every small success we have in regaining a healthy world. Recently news has broken that the Atlantic Ocean might well be healing itself.
Tuna officially contains less mercury. It is believed that reduced coal emissions have started to make this fish a bit safer to eat (though it is good to note that women of child-bearing age should always avoid Bluefin Tuna in case of a pregnancy, as well as children themselves—as any level of mercury is so harmful for their development). A new study finds that mercury levels have declined by about 19 percent between 2004 and 2012 in Tuna.
Coal has been on the decline for a while, which not only means less emissions from the fuel source but also less and less plants being created in the first place. This is small, but evidence that our actions make a difference. Imagine what could happen if we could find ways to offset carbon emissions even more. Our fish could be free of many of these toxic chemicals that not only hurt them, but ourselves as we consume them. We must see this good news and continue to work to free the world from the forces that hurt it.