Sunday, September 27, 2015

Living in the Future

Callum and I were talking about the Singularity a couple of weeks ago - the idea that the world a few years from now may be virtually unrecognizable to us, that there is a future we literally can't imagine coming our way quite soon. I love talking about this kind of stuff with him, because he's always up for the discussion. I think that conversation grew from talking about the new "magic" growing rods that were implanted in his spine in June. We had been prepared for Cal to go through serious spinal surgery every June for the rest of his youth, since his severe scoliosis required these titanium rods be attached to his spine, and then lengthened every year as he grew. But sometime in the past year, a new technology went from being experimental to commonplace: growing rods that could be adjusted magnetically from outside the body, in an outpatient procedure rather than an insanely expensive and risky full surgery. And so this Summer's spinal surgery was not a lengthening (or "distraction" as they call it), but an actual replacement. Callum now has the Magic Rods, and he won't need another surgery for at least three years. His first outpatient extension procedure will happen in mid-October. This experience - seeing a new approach become the standard within months of our even hearing of its existence - is something that's going to stay with us. Because it's a concrete example of how things can actually change for the better in an arena where so recently there was so little hope for things to even be just okay. Our times may often seem like the most insane, fraught, uncertain times in the history of the world, but the pace of change and innovation is also cause for hope. There are plenty of reasons to ask yourself why you'd bring a child into a world as crazy as this, but there are also a lot of reasons I can say I'm glad these are the times Callum was born into. 2015 has had plenty more little every day stories, more commonplace changes. Cal is too big to fit into the bath now, so he has to have showers in his bath chair ... he started the Youth Digital "Minecraft Mod" class this Summer (but seems to have lost patience with it - I haven't seen him on there in a while) ... 4th Grade has begun, with all the little challenges of adjusting to a new school year ... we redecorated his room in many shades of green (his choice) ... he's started referring to himself as "a Gamer," part of "the Gaming Community" ... he has friends on Steam who live in Bulgaria and South Korea. Unfortunately, Five Nights at Freddie's has supplanted Minecraft as his main gaming obsession, but these things do come and go, so we have to just roll with it. Callum is such a great storyteller at the moment. Many mornings he'll say "I had the craziest dream!" and then out comes an endlessly developing narrative that couldn't possibly be contained in a week of constant dreaming, often with invitations to participate ("do you want to do a little voice-acting in this story?"). Unfortunately it has so far proven impossible to convince him to write any of this down. Same goes for his inventions: robotic valets, leg-massagers, and power-chair maintenance robots among many others. Plans he will never ever commit to paper or computer file, mostly I think because Dragon Dictation still doesn't understand how to accurately translate his speech into text, and Sketchbook Express just doesn't seem to appeal. We went to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's John Williams Tribute concert this Summer - JW is always a big favorite for Cal musically, he was pretty psyched to see the music happening in real time in front of him on that giant scale ... disappointed that the Star Wars Imperial March wasn't in the program though. But he got fist bumps from the Storm Trooper and other Star Wars characters they had milling around the symphony hall, so that sort of balanced it out. Pilot to Gunner is his favorite band, any band of mine has to settle for second place, always under threat from Killing Joke in close third (as long as we're talking about the more evil or high-energy side of KJ - no time for dubs or major-key anthems). Sure a lot of this is environmental, but we'll embrace it against a horrible but no less possible future filled with gangsta rap. He is getting so big - last time he was weighed, before his surgery, he was 51 pounds. I'm sure he's gained some since then. I don't like to think about lifting 100-pound Callum ... but that's for the future - hopefully that falls under the Singularity as well (hoverchairs anyone?). Sincerely grateful as always to anyone who tunes in to this blog, and with apologies as always for not making it a more regular thing.