Remember jet packs? Everyone was supposed to have one by now. As an adolescent I was hopeful that Holodeck technology would be available to consumers by the time I graduated from high school.
As technologies evolve, they often become more accessible. Consider how expensive and impractical cell phones were back in the Motorola Brick days.
Fifteen years ago when I worked in a bike shop, quality aluminum-frame mountain bikes cost around a thousand dollars. Today you can get a nice comparable bike for around four-hundred dollars.
My children have never seen a rotary dial telephone. Or played board games bouncing around the back of a speeding station wagon. I love watching 1950s and 60s-era movies to witness not only a surprisingly different social culture, but also a completely foreign technological reality. Scenes from many WWII movies or even M*A*S*H are fascinating. Most technological and medical advances we take for granted today are the result of incremental developments and discoveries throughout our history.
Some breakthroughs are immediately and obviously compelling, and I have a sense that we have arrived at an important moment in history. Like the first time I wore a car seatbelt as a child, or used email or Google. A few days ago I heard this story on NPR. I’m not sure how to mark this moment, but it’s certainly worthy of reflection and celebration.
“A study that included nearly 2,500 HIV-negative men and transgender women who have sex with men has shown that a daily dose of Truvada, a pill containing the AIDS drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir, "can reduce risk of contracting [HIV] by an average of 44% - and by more than 70% if the subjects" follow the regimen closely,Los Angeles Times reports (Maugh, 11/23).”
You read that right. Healthy men-who-have-sex-with-men and take this pill as directed reduce their risk of contracting HIV by over 70%.
“The researchers observed 36 HIV infections in the group taking Truvada, compared to 64 in the control group taking placebo, a reduction of 43.8%. The reduction in risk, however, was very sensitive to how regularly the subjects took the medication. For those who took it on more than 50% of the days, as determined by pill counts and other measures, the risk fell by 50.2%. For those who took it 90% or more of the days, the risk fell by 72.8%.”
This is a watershed event. I can immediately imagine that this might translate across a variety of demographics comprised of people-who-have-sex-with-other-people. A similar treatment protocol might be useful for other viral diseases like malaria.
Well done scientists! All of you throughout the ages.