run install wizard for soul

6/18/07

Alas, I must keep this truncated, as I had severe oral surgery today that replaced two entire teeth, and left my jaw in a state of day-long woe. It got me thinking, however, that the entire modern era is basically defined by firmware updates.

My surgery, which replaced teeth that had become insufficient for the task, is nothing more than a firmware update. I have decided to bring my mouth up to Teeth 3.0, as Teeth 2.7 was subject to painful rebooting. Tessa has had only one cavity in her life, and is still on Teeth 2.0, and the Lulubeans, of course, is beta-testing Teeth 0.9 – (she still has two left to go).

My mom’s hip replacement in 1993 was a firmware update on her body, as was the replacement in 2005. In 1993, the hip was guaranteed for twelve years and lasted that long; however, the new one is good for fifty due to upgrades in the hardware.

Any time you learn a new language, master a sport, learn to quiet your anger, work a miter saw or surf a wave, you are upgrading your firmware, and curiously, making it easier to upgrade more and more things. However, one rule remains steadfast: firmware upgrades are never painless for the thing being upgraded.

You must endure the misery of shame, and the almost-unbearable sublimation of your ego, when upgrading your firmware on racism, just as I had to bear pain to get my teeth revised. These things were never meant to be easy, but they are meant to be.

Geneticists used to think that 50% of your DNA was useless junk, but a groundbreaking study has rewritten the rule books. In those vast stretches of the genetic code, we possess tons of traits that don’t seem to have any use now, but they could be called upon if the going gets tough, or if our environment changes radically. In other words, built into our genetic code is an infinity of firmware updates.

Like fire extinguishers and iodine radiation tablets, you hope you never have to use those traits, but it’s sure comforting to know they’re there. There are some chaotic shifts in our operating system I could do without, but I’m glad to know we were all born with the flexibility of endless upgrading.

0 thoughts on “run install wizard for soul

  1. LFMD

    Really enjoyed your post today. Sorry to hear about the oral surgery. Remember when I tore my crown out with some Halloween candy last fall? And had my tooth extracted and a dental implant put in? Well today, I am having the crown built — lots of work, time, and money for one molar, but must be done.
    P.S.: These days, the dentists can put a protective clear coating on kids’ molars when the permanent teeth grow in. They virtually prevent cavities on those teeth. Can you imagine? All of my fillings are in my molars! Talk about an upgrade!

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  2. jje

    Re the article you linked:
    Francis Collins is a Carolina guy by way of grad school. He was the commencement speaker (after Ted Turner, arguably the worst graduation speaker in the history of graduation speakers) at Carolina in 1994. I think most of us went in to the ceremony completely underwhelmed by his selection, but left that day thinking we more than got our money’s worth that miserably hot day in Kenan Stadium.
    Hope you’re feeling better.

    Reply
  3. kent

    I am sorry about your mouf. I know how exquisite dental pain can be.
    I’m a little shaky on the firmware metaphor, for two reasons:
    1. In computer lingo ‘hardware’ is the physical objects you plug together to make the computer. ‘software’ is the programs you run to do stuff. ‘firmware’ is software that lives in PROMs — programmable read-only memory. Software is infinitely mutable — load a new program and the computer ‘changes its mind.’ Firmware is write-once, read-many memory, and generally is just there to ‘bootstrap’ the computer — do the initial hardware configuration, and look around for an operating system on a hard disk to load.
    2. You use ‘firmware’ upgrade in two ways — for getting new teeth, and for learning a new skill.
    The former is a hardware upgrade, the latter is a software upgrade.
    Actually learning a new skill is precisely analogous to training a software neural network. In that case, instead of writing a program to solve a problem, you use a simulation in software of biological neurons, and train them to find a solution.

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  4. Anne D.

    Yeah, I have to agree with Kent about the hardware vs firmware confusion.
    New hardware I would like to have for my aging bod: A peppy thyroid gland. (Right now, I use Synthroid as an enhancement.) New hips free of bursitis. Better vision = Lasik surgery or new lenses or whatever it takes.
    I guess this would be software: please lord, give me the metabolism I had at age 17.
    Hardware I’ve already upgraded: Hernia repair. ACL repair. Breast reduction. Multiple crowns. (Like LFMD, my molars were basically all fillings by my late 20s.)

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  5. scruggs

    JJE
    I’m with you on your speaker assessment. Don graduated in ’93 with Turner; his speech was a disaster! I remember the backlash the next year, our year, with Collins as the selection. “Who’s this guy? Can’t we land someone we’ve heard of” Felt bad that his daughter was in med school in Chapel Hill at the time and actually had to write in to the DTH to defend him. Not too many years later, he was on the cover of Time. Great speech, good for him. Sat across from him in summer 2001 on the Metro in DC. Couldn’t hold back saying hi and telling him he was my graduation speaker. So friendly and laid back. Glad he won that race to map the genetic code vs. a for-profit “nemesis,” though they collaborated by the end.

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  6. ken

    Am I the only one who keeps waiting for Caveman to drop a comment with cracks about hardware and software?
    That said, I’m contemplating getting Front Tooth Vers 4.0. Front Tooth 1.0 was lost as a baby tooth, 2.0 got knocked out in a wrestling incident, 3.0 is in place, a crown that’s nearly fifteen years old, so it’s time for a new one. I’m also considering whitening but I can’t quite put my finger on what that would be called in your body-as-computer metaphor.
    As most do, I also need to undergo some serious file deletion (aka weight loss).

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