Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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2023…
“The world is too much with us. Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” Beloved poet William Wordsworth wrote these words around 1802. He was expressing his disillusionment with the materialism associated with the first Industrial Revolution which had totally transformed the culture of his world. Acutely sensitive to the human condition, Wordsworth lamented the loss of spirituality and closeness to nature that he saw waning in the face of ‘progress.’ I think the chaotic Age of Disruption in 2023 may have sent him over the edge. A Few 2023 Happenings 2023 has been a year of explosive developments in medicine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it has approved Casgevy, the first CRISPR gene-editing therapy for sickle cell disease, paving the way for thousands of patients in the U.S. to a treatment that has been described as a “functional cure” for eligible patients. Gene editing is a kind of cut-and-paste manipulation of DNA, enabling researchers to “fix” or manipulate genes. CRISPR technology is being developed to treat cancer, Parkinson’s and a myriad of other conditions. It is even being developed to make cells younger! Does this mean we will live forever? Down On the Farm Beyond medicine, CRISPER techniques can be used to modify the nutritional content of crops or to modify them to be more drought resistant. And, as of 2023, farmers can access a small chip that can be implanted on a plant to give growers all the information they need to monitor if their crops are healthy, have enough water and good soil conditions and even how they are responding to weather. Do It Yourself Screenplay/Movie-Making Text-to-image technology, where you can type in a short description of something and the computer spits out an image for you, found its feet in 2021 with Open AI’s program Dall-e. In 2023, the MIT Technology Review reports, “the biggest game-changer is Stable Diffusion, an open-source text-to-image model released for free by UK-based startup Stability AI in August. Not only can Stable Diffusion produce some of the most stunning images yet, but it is designed to run on a (good) home computer.” (give it a try) We are on the way to ordinary people writing stories, and AI making movies out of them, complete with avatar actors. (This is why I so strongly suggested during the Writer’s Strike of 2023 that negotiators include training on AI for their membership as part of their deal.) Worlds Beyond Worlds Virtual and augmented reality technology that immerse users in a digital or digitally enhanced world hit it out of the park with the new Apple Vision Pro headset. According to the Harvard Business Review, “The Vision Pro is a computer that is worn on your face, but…rather than view the computer’s output through a physical screen, that output is projected directly into your eyes with two very small but high-resolution displays a very small distance in front of you. Rather than control the computer through a keyboard, mouse, or touch screen, the primary user interface is through eye tracking and gestures.” It’s amazing! Disorder of World Order One of the biggest stories of 2023 is the emergence of India as a world leader. India is exploding. From its vibrant economy to infrastructure advances to landing a rocket on the moon, India is emerging as a powerhouse among the world’s economies as the United States loses influence in the world. Incidentally, I have a lot of confidence in the ability of the Indian people to endure chaos… just take a ride in their traffic and you will understand. “Between inflation, sanctions, banking crises and a strengthening BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and S. Africa), there are storm clouds on the horizon for the dollar’s hegemony,” according to US News and World Report, adding to the uncertainty of economic security in the United States. We have reports of a strong stock m arket, but it sure is tough at the grocery store; credit cards are maxed and not much is going on in the way of savings. Migrations and War Aside from economic chaos, 2023 brought the border crisis to a head as hundreds of thousands of migrants from all over the world flooded into the United States, putting tremendous pressure on infrastructure. It has become especially worrisome following the vicious October 7 attack in Israel by Hamas terrorists. Government officials are now warning of probable terror attacks in the United States… more anxiety. Hope Is the Thing with Feathers Amidst the swirling, uncertain, highly accelerated pace of change in our part of the world, Christmas still comes, as it has for the past 2023 years. Hanukah lights are still kindled as they have been since about 164 years before the birth of Christ. I treasure the constancy. It seems December brings a yearning and longing for peace and brotherhood more than any other month on the calendar. Especially so, in 2023. So, on Christmas morning, my favorite time of any year, I will get up at dawn and go outside on my deck. I will enjoy seeing color coming back into the world as the sun rises. I will listen to the quiet… all commerce stopped. The sounds and scents of the chaparral will fill my soul. Beautiful Topanga. I will feel, like Wordsworth, like people since the beginning of time, “All that we behold is full of blessings.” I will pray for peace and enjoy the quiet. Merry Christmas~Happy Hanukah~ Peace be with you! Vamos a ver! 2024!
Paula Labrot

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