April scanned down the list of shows and articles her bots retrieved from Earth sources. She hadn’t checked them in a couple days. Over time she’d edited the bots until they did a pretty good job of discarding things like documentaries that mentioned specific dates. Fiction was also a waste of her time usually, although a lot of anti-spacer propaganda was presented as fiction. Still, it didn’t often tell her anything new.
She almost didn’t examine one story, until she saw the key word count was just off scale. Looking at the title was usually sufficient to delete a good two thirds of the bot’s other catches. On rare occasion she read the first paragraph or watched the first couple minutes of a video on fast forward before deleting it.
This wasn’t fiction, it was a public channel on health issues. British supposedly, but sent to a lot of English speaking markets including India and North America. The ‘expert’ being interviewed was dressed in a white lab coat, and a very expensive tie, which would establish his credentials with most of his viewers. They refrained from overdoing his image with an obsolete stethoscope. For the deeper thinkers they went to the trouble of saying he was a molecular biologist, but said nothing about his career history except that he was a researcher associated with a Scottish hospital.
He was seated behind an improbably neat desk, which was another authority conferring image, and the man interviewing him was seated in a shell chair that pivoted. April found it distracting that he did move it back and forth. He had on a proper suit and tie, and had his legs crossed at the knee displaying a shiny hard leather lace up shoe only an Earthie would wear. They were both turned to the camera a little so they had to turn their heads toward each other.
April glanced at the text generated from voice recognition. It had quite a few more error marks than she was used to seeing. She went back to the video at the beginning and found out why the program struggled so, the man had a strong local accent. In fact it was so thick she went back to the text, even with the odd error it was necessary to ignore. She scrolled past the first few minutes of pleasantries until they started saying something of substance as far as her interest.
“So, Dr. Carson, you were called as an expert witness for the crown because you understand the underlying basis of these so called life extension therapies?” the interviewer asked.
“Yes, I’m not a therapist, John. I deal with the numbers on a much more abstract level. I can look at a lab report and tell you much more about a fellow than staring at him all day sitting in his skivvies on an examination table. Appearances deceive and doctors sometimes fall into false conclusions just like lay people. Last century we had a hard time knocking the silly idea from doctor’s heads that a ‘glowing’ tan was a sign of health. It’s really a warning marker for skin cancer and when you see one it’s time to ask where they got it, to see if they’ve been exposed to tropical disease and all sorts of nasty things associated with impoverished third worlders like TB and parasites.”
“Mine was picked up golfing in Spain,” John said, “looking at the back of his hand a little embarrassed like he’d never seen it before.
“And I assume you have the good sense to keep up the prophylactics that suppress Melanoma,” Dr. Carson said. “The thing is, if I were looking for markers for that, or any number of problems it wouldn’t be apparent to me if you’d had life extension therapy or not. A person so modified doesn’t suddenly display an amazing spectrum of vibrant health. They are still subject to infection, injury and if they lose a finger or a hand to amputation they still have to have the same treatments to stimulate growth.”
“But they do look younger don’t they?” the newsman asked.
“Yes, which is all that matters to some vain people,” Carson said disapprovingly. “I have no idea if the treatments do damage to your mental health when applied to older persons. They may escape the sort of catastrophic side effects that the Germans saddled some of their young folks with trying to create prodigies. Many of those youngsters are now in mental hospitals as adults.”
“Yes, the ‘Wiz Kids’. John agreed. “That was pretty well documented at the time.”
“I’m not a psychologist,” Dr. Carson disclaimed, “but it must be hard to assess if an adult has an alteration in his personality from LET, since they have to be well outside the norm and a risk taker of questionable judgment, to seek this therapy as an adult.”
“Kiss my butt, Doctor,” April muttered at the screen.
“Indeed, that was the whole question of the case at law in which I consulted. If it was within the reasonable freedom of choice for our subjects to seek such therapy. Not that we’d offer it here,” he said a bit indignantly. “But people travel to Italy and the Balkans, Laos and Japan. They have different standards for medical procedures, or China even, where I’m not sure they believe in any standards except that they’ll take your money. Should we admit such people back into our county, and resume responsibility for their health in our care system, in their now altered state?”
“Well, we know the court decided no,” the newsman said. “I wonder though, doesn’t the fact they look younger reflect that they are healthier in some way?”
“Bah! It’s a scam,” Dr. Carson said. “Those terrible gene modified pets they made, the PermaPups, and the others, the kittens that never matured. Does anybody think they were healthier for looking young? They looked young right up until a couple days before they died, then…” he made a graphic flopping motion with his hand.
“The truth is we have no evidence that these so called life extensions actually extends life,” Carson insisted. “It’s all theory and supposition and you are betting your health now against a possible longer life. Nobody is going to know if there is any increased life span until we see these people reach their eighties, nineties and see how many survive, and what the tradeoffs will be. Will they have more or less dementia? Will they still look pretty good and just suddenly die one day? We don’t know. The biggest thing that people falsely think is that it’s rejuvenation. Even the advocates of it don’t say that, but if people have this false expectation we don’t see it corrected either. I think the court came to entirely the correct decision to protect the public and our limited care capacity.”
The rest of it was pretty much repetition. She cut the critical block out of the video to share with a few close friends. It was good to see how the Earth governments were suppressing the treatments. It amazed April that it worked. Nobody ever mentioned that when all the data on how her generation benefited or not from LET was gathered, one thing was certain. None of the people who didn’t try it would be alive.
The other very amusing thing was that April had seen lots people with and without Life Extension Therapy, and witnessed them making the transition. She could tell from a glance at someone’s face if they’d had the full range of genetic modifications or not. The newsman John was heavily gene mod and a flaming hypocrite.