From the New York Times, on the end of Karen Berger’s 30-year run at Vertigo Comics.
Mr. DiDio [co-publisher of DC Comics, which owns Vertigo] said it would be “myopic” to believe “that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.”
“That’s not what we’re in the…
It turns out that we are only 10 percent human: for every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes — including commensals (generally harmless freeloaders) and mutualists (favor traders) and, in only a tiny number of cases, pathogens. To the extent that we are bearers of genetic information, more than 99 percent of it is microbial. And it appears increasingly likely that this “second genome,” as it is sometimes called, exerts an influence on our health as great and possibly even greater than the genes we inherit from our parents. But while your inherited genes are more or less fixed, it may be possible to reshape, even cultivate, your second genome.
Such a paradigm shift comes not a moment too soon, because as a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota with a multifronted war on bacteria and a diet notably detrimental to its well-being. Researchers now speak of an impoverished “Westernized microbiome” and ask whether the time has come to embark on a project of “restoration ecology” — not in the rain forest or on the prairie but right here at home, in the human gut.
Bruce Sterling call the human gut the great unexplored rain forest of the 21C.
This would definitely caution against subsisting purely on Soylent… at least until you can start synth-bio’ing up hacks to your microbiota.
Some neuroscientists now suggest that two methods of brain stimulation might enhance sporting performance, too. The non-invasive techniques are already widely used to modulate brain activity: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), in which a doctor uses a figure-eight-shaped coil near the scalp to apply magnetic pulses to a specific region of the brain, and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), in which small electrical currents are applied to the brain via electrodes placed on the scalp. [See: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: From Tool to Treatment]
TMS and tDCS are now used by both basic researchers and clinicians. Both techniques can either enhance or inhibit the activity of specific brain regions, depending on the intensity and frequency of stimulation; they have become a valuable tool for researchers investigating how different parts of the brain contribute to behaviors and thought processes. In the clinic, they are used to help doctors diagnose neurological disorders, and monitor and facilitate a person’s rehabilitation following stroke.
“There are two ways that brain stimulation could possibly improve sporting performance,” says neuroscientist Nick Davis of Bangor University in Wales, author of a recent opinion piece on the subject. “One is during or just before the performance. If you’re nervous, a little brain stimulation could damp down your muscle responses, a bit like beta-blockers. Another is during training, when it could help you to focus.”
Even so, technological advances will inevitably result, at some point in the not-too-distant future, in wireless and wearable devices that enable brain stimulation to be applied in such situations.
This raises concerns over safety. The popularity of ‘do-it-yourself brain-hacking’ has also increased dramatically in recent years—brain stimulation kits made from cheap, off-the-shelf components are now commercially available, and hobbyists are even building their own kits and zapping themselves in an effort to enhance their mental abilities. It’s therefore possible that they will do the same to attempt to enhance their sporting performance, and that over-zealous parents could try using such kits on their children.
Davis acknowledges that his article and others like it will bring this potential use of brain stimulation technology to a wider audience, but urges caution. “Brain stimulation shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he says. “As a medical procedure it’s fine, but it’s not safe to do ‘in the wild,’ and there might be long-term effects that we still don’t know about.”
While steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs can be detected with blood tests, it is not possible to determine whether someone used brain stimulation during their sports training. Consequently, it would be extremely difficult to regulate the use of brain stimulation in sports.