How to Play Devil's Advocate

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Reader Comments (34)

Zing! Score another one for Rick.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike N

Two things:
1. You are very evil. You now have many itchy fans.
2. Producing more food is also not the most pressing scientific problem. For one thing, the limiting factor with food is not production. For another, stopping aging is far more important; it would allow a theoretically unlimited lifespan, and many other diseases are at least partially age related.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Houck

Mr Houck, stopping aging would be the worst idea any scientist could have. You either had to limit reproduction of each and every human being or you ould have to select, which happy (or unhappy) few are gifted with immortality. Either way, there will be a selection on who can have children or on who can be immortal. Both choices will lead to an upper caste and a lower caste, placing a value on human beings. The last society who tried this was Nazi Germany, ad we all know, how it worked out.

And Scott: Good job. While reading, I felt more and more itchy ;)

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNachti

Yeah, unlimited lifespan would be great given how people love to scratch the particular itch that makes more people.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFranL

I'm sure we can have enough wars to keep the population in check even if no one ages physically.

Or we could invest in hydroponic farm towers and vat meat to feed our ever-growing numbers, mine the asteroids for enough material to begin transforming the larger planets wasted in the outer solar system into a dyson sphere, and have resources enough to raise our numbers to the trillions needed to make a good shot at colonizing the galaxy.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOptimist

I like evil Rick.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlphonse

I'd like to take this opportunity to volunteer to be a childless immortal.

The problem with being immortal would be that corporations aren't going to be humanitarian if they don't have to; if you never grow old you never get to stop working. Imagine retirement age pushed back from 65 to Eternity.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLythande

Man, Rick is on a roll lately! Oh god, are we being rickrolled? :-P

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCrystalis

From a simple itch, the people posting here have moved onto living forever and laying waste to the galaxies . Human ingenuity is truly an amazing thing.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaddy

A longer lifespan might make people concentrate more on long-term problems. We don't have any that we couldn't fix if we were just motivated to put the effort in.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

If we entirely did away with itching, then an important idiom in our language would entirely lose its frame of reference. "Itch to scratch" would go the same way as other once-popular english expressions such as "dial my number", "bought the farm", and "There is no cow on the ice as long as the back legs are on land". If all our expressions lose their context, then what are we left with? Grunting and twitter? If that is the case, then England might as well have won the American Revolution!

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Weis

Obviously, this brings to mind many subjects. Insecticides, fungicides, anti-monkeybutt powder, cortizone creams, Lady Gaga (she makes me itch and I don't mean in a good way).

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Obvious

Itchboarding? Actually, that sounds as if it would be pretty effective. Torturers all over the world are probably taking note.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarco

Scott, this is hilarious! (As usual.)

Jerry Weis: "There is no cow on the ice as long as the back legs are on land." How could I have lived this long without ever coming across this amazing saying?

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMDF-NYC

" England might as well have won the American Revolution!"

We did ....

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave

All the commenters waxing poetic about increased lifespan and colonized galaxies need to absorb Rick's parting words regarding "naive optimism."

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermstrange

Rick is one evil son-of-an-itch.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

Eliminating itchiness... we could try eliminating pain, too. Ask folks with leprosy how that works out.

Want a worthwhile science project? Find a way to rehabilitate the image of socialism so that we can build that technological utopia sci-fi has been looking forward to since forever, but which we'll never have as long as some right winger is jealous that someone somewhere might get something good that they don't "deserve."

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkhereva

I certainly wouldn't mind working forever (whether it involves laying waste to the galaxy or even spending eternity reinstalling Windows 2150 for incompetent cyber-users) as an alternative to dying and rotting in the ground.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterResuna

Rubber gloves? Talk about a laugh killer. Next thing you know, you'll be telling some fat woman in a scooter to fetch her keys.

Most people with chronic itching problems are not contagious, and already get enough undue shit from people. You can piss RIGHT off with this one, Scott.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterUgh

Re: Dave
' " England might as well have won the American Revolution!"

We did ....'

That was my response, too. It's like a divorcing couple fighting over who gets the kids.

"You have them."
"No, you have them"
"They like you best"
"Take that back you foul-mouthed b!tch. And YOU'RE having the kids!"
"Oh yeah? Just try and make me."


We in England won because we didn't get left with America, but did get the joys of American Scott's cartoon. It's like being showered with diamonds without have=ing to go down the mine.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaddy

I disagree with Rick that an itch cure would lead to torturing people specifically. That'll be an unfortunate side-effect of producers trying to inflate the cure's cost by making all clothing more itchy, thereby meaning you NEVER have to wonder about the sweater you're wearing.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRatrace

"There is no cow on the ice as long as the back legs are on land."

What does that mean, and under what circumstances did people say it (other than incredibly specific ones involving actual cows on actual ice, of course)? And since neither cows nor ice have yet been rendered obsolete by technology, why don't they say it any more?

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMad Dan Eccles

Curse you, fellow commenters! Save for a healthy laugh or four, I was unaffected by this comic, however, you just had to come along and spread word of your itch plague! CURSE YOOOoouuuu.....!!!!

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoris

As a person with acute psoriasis, I am interested in temporary itch relief. Discovering this molecule will certainly bring us closer to more effective treatments. But as Rick pointed out, this would have drastic side effects if left unchecked.

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheMortallyWounded

Trust me. They are excellent reasons.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGanon

The thing about the cow and the ice means "There's nothing to worry about... yet." I have this mental image that once a cow walks all the way out onto an icy lake and puts all four legs down on the ice, it will start sliding helplessly across the lake, and then crash into the freezing water as the surface gives way beneath its massive weight.

Anyway, it appears to be a translation of a Swedish saying, which is cheating. A better example would be "keep your powder dry".

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLockeZ

I saw those a while ago. I don't trust your assessment: 1 only partially applies if it's a public scientific advancement, and such advancements outpace evolution so it's arguable that it doesn't apply at all. 2 also doesn't apply if it's public. 3 and 4 are based on controversial psychological theories which, even assuming they hold for 80-year-olds probably have an upper limit (which admittedly you may not want to reach), and 4 again isn't a problem if there are many unaging people. 3 and 4, are also potentially mitigated by future advances. And as a bullet or a heavy object aren't aging, the problem with 5 is that it'll still kill you. In summary, of your five good reasons, only two actually have a chance of applying and, as science can advance quite a bit in a few hundred years, none of them would stay issues by the time they mattered.

Your article works entirely because of cognitive dissonance and the unrealistic assumptions that you're the only immortal and that it comes with physical invulnerability.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Houck

Another point to consider is that stopping the aging process does not necessarily mean an increased lifespan. Consider how much better life would be if, instead of gradually getting older and more decrepit until you reach the end of your life as a wrinkled, toothless, incontinent lump of misery, you stayed youthful, vigorous and active until you just drop dead one day. Even if you didn't live ANY longer, that would still be a great improvement.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy

All the cautionary tales about immortality are sour grapes. Larry Niven wrote one of the more memorable ones, and admitted as such in the commentary.

Seriously. To an actual immortal, it'd look exactly like Stockholm Syndrome.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterResuna

Lythande: Corporations have disproportionate power over people because they have all the legal rights of people but certain unnatural advantages, among which is that they don't die. Making people also immortal may be one way to address this imbalance, even if not the most easily effective way.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCerulean

@khereva, clearly you are not a true fan of science fiction. Sci-fi is things like Star Wars nad Star Trek. SF, or science fiction, is the harder core stuff like Asimov. Also, socialism is too vulnerable to fraud

July 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe One

Obviously the answers to the caste system immortal vs. mortal lies in the comic; those who get to be immortal are forced to suffer unending itching, while those who are mortal are allowed the itch-numbing gene, but suffer children.

(...having children of my own I would be more interested in a scientific breakthrough on 'itchy children'. Personal choice.)

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVferrar

@ The One

Don't play the "True Fan" card. You don't win. It's a fallacy.

November 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTurnabout Akamia
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