Friday, March 14, 2008

My Legacy

Lately, I’ve been thinking about leaving behind some kind of pointless legacy. For example, I’m always curious when I go to some public place, such as a hospital, and discover a building bearing a label identifying the benefactors who donated it. “The Frederick and Marion Liebowitz Oncology Building” It will say. Then, I notice the cornerstone that indicates it was built in 1963. Frederick and Marion were probably older people when they donated the money, so they’ve likely passed away, possibly in the building they donated.

What value do Frederick and Marion realize from having a building named after themselves? Is it pure vanity? Does their son Freddy Junior drive by with friends and point out the family name with vicarious pride? Or is it purely about legacy? Perhaps Freddy Junior is a spoiled rich kid, spending his inheritance on fancy cars and fast women, contributing nothing to society. His father, recognizing that Freddy Junior is a waste of oxygen, chose to divert some of that inheritance to something worthy of the family name.

Well, I’m not rich, and my daughter isn’t a waste of oxygen, but I can still get something named after me if I try. Two likely candidates are mental conditions and scientific theories.

Timothy Syndrome:

These days, it seems as though every kind of chronic improper behavior is labeled as a syndrome, which is often used as an excuse for the behavior. So I’ve created my own name for one, which I’m calling Timothy Syndrome. This label applies to people who seem to exist in two universes: the one we all inhabit, and a personal universe, in which they are the only inhabitant. They phase between these two universes, sometimes existing in one, sometimes in the other. They are easily identified. For example, the person who stops their shopping cart in the middle of the aisle in a crowded supermarket to read the ingredients on a package, completely oblivious to the other shoppers who are unable to pass.

I’m naming that chronic inconsiderate behavior for posterity. It’s OK with me if you refer to such people as a “Timothy.”

The Timothy Point:

Science progresses at an accelerating pace, with new advances occurring within predictable periods. Because of this constant acceleration, it is possible to predict an advance that will occur so soon after a prior advance that development of the prior advance becomes irrelevant. For example, suppose a company is considering a large investment to produce some new commercial technology. However, another technology is predicted to arrive before the first investment is paid off. So the company never makes the first investment. Here’s another example: Suppose a spaceship was created that could reach the nearest planetary system within 50 years. Scientists predict that within 20 years after the launch, another spaceship will be developed that could reach the same destination in half the time. Thus, the crew of the first spaceship would arrive at their destination to find the crew of the second spaceship already planting the flag.

I’m putting my name on that point where technology stops advancing in anticipation of further advances. Textbooks will be written about it, unless the authors presume that better textbooks will be written later, so they don’t bother to write them.

1 comment:

michael said...

Interesting...I wrote something similar recently:

and this one too:

But I didn't name any of the disorders after myself...perhaps I should...