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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

My Body is a Temple

I’m quite squeamish. Have been ever since a nurse removed a drip from my arm and…urgh. I’m squirming at even the memory.

Whether it’s squeamishness or just a desire to protect the perfection of my Adonis-like form (maintained through a strict ‘Francophile’ diet, i.e. lots of butter in everything), I have never been partial to any form of body alteration. Piercings and tattoos have never appealed, much to the disappointment of my mother. She is unique amongst the parents I have come across, having suggested that as a teenager I might want to grow my hair and get my ears pierced, while I was quite content to remain looking clean-cut.

But in the none too distant future, I fear I may have to overcome my squeamishness, and consider some form of body alteration. Not cosmetic, but medical, or even recreational.

Don’t get any funny ideas. I’m not talking about any form of sexual enhancement. Perhaps something like an in-built blood monitor that constantly tests for anomalies and updates you or even your doctor. No more screening programmes for any known disease. We would all have our own personal screening programmes built in.

Now deciding how the data from that device was collected, and who it went to, would be key in overcoming any ‘big brother’ objections. Take the ‘pay as you drive’ road tax being considered. There is every chance the devices to track your journeys could be fitted, and monitored, by private organisations. And they don’t have a great track record on protecting personal data. Imagine if you’re in-body sensor was fitted, and monitored by GlaxoSmithKline or one of the other ‘big pharma’ companies. Would you be happy to trade that level of personal information for your health?

But that’s a side issue. What I and others will need to overcome is the thought of having something implanted in my body that’s not supposed to be there. That isn’t made from the same DNA as the rest of me.

For most people there will probably be a sliding scale of the value of the implant against whether or not they will allow it. The magic medical screening box? I’d probably go for that. A Head-Up Display implanted in my eyeball? Maybe. Especially if it gave me X-ray vision or something cool like that. A mobile phone in my skull? Maybe not.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

The Big Bridge

I’d like to stake a claim for the A75 in France as the greatest road in Europe. Admittedly the first time I drove down it I had been on the road for nearly 24 hours and was possibly slightly delirious. But I did then travel back up it at a more leisurely pace and was similarly impressed. The southbound journey will forever be burned in my memory though.

The conditions were perfect — bright, clear sky and high sun in the early afternoon. And there was almost no traffic. I went nearly 100k without seeing another car at one point. The road winds its way through the foothills of the Pyrenees, up and down valleys. Until it gets to one valley in particular, where the road builders decided just to go point to point, rather than up and down. Here is the Viaduc de Millau, the single most amazing bridge ever built. I am a big fan of Brunel and all his work, but this is something else.

Fans of Top Gear will be familiar with the Viaduc de Millau. It was used by the team as the location for a side-by-side comparison of supercars in the last season. But however fantastic the camera work of the Top Gear team, to drive over it is something else.

About 20k before I reached the bridge I began to realise that I might be heading in its direction. My total absence of any sense of direction, and my resulting total reliance on SatNav meant I really had no idea that it was on my itinerary. Coming over the crest of a hill and seeing confirmation that I was to cross it was a very pleasant surprise.

The relevance to the future of all this? Ambition. There was no need for the builders of the Viaduc to recruit Richard Rogers to create a piece of artwork, rather than throwing up a functional concrete span. But they did, and in doing so created something that enhances an already beautiful valley and has become a tourist attraction in its own right. This is the future of responsible construction.

Tom Cheesewright