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Ask Dr. Data

Welcome to the millennium: endless clones, swarming nanobots and black-mail for beginners.

What if somebody clones me and the clone steals my job?

— Send Back the Clones

Dear SBTC:

The India Times recently ran an article that quoted a poster at Slashdot.org: "I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He's happy to have the work. I'm happy I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing."

So don't worry. Your fear is groundless. Simply pay your clone to do your job, then get another job, and another clone. Repeat this process until you have all the jobs. Then take over the world, you and your clone army. That's my advice.

My job is rewarding, but stressful. Tips?

— Stressed, Yet Rewarded

Dear SYR:

Yes. Coffee — lots of it. It won't reduce stress, but will take it to a new level. Whatever you do, don't play solitaire. In North Carolina, according to the Christian Science Monitor, officials want to erase the free game modules from all state computers. Employees waste too much time on them, apparently. Now The Man is going after the games workers play. Is Doom doomed?

I hate getting older. Can something be done?

— Young Coot

Dear YC:

According to Ray Kurzweil (the principal developer of the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition program), you may not have to die after all. Now in his 50s, Kurzweil has written a book, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough To Live Forever. The Associated Press reports "the book is partly a health guide so people can live to benefit from a coming explosion in technology he predicts will make infinite life spans possible."

This coming technology includes nanobots that will keep us "forever young by swarming through the body, repairing bones, muscles, arteries and brain cells. Improvements to our genetic coding will be downloaded via the Internet. We won't even need a heart."

So watch the trans fats, wait for the swarming nanobots and you should be all right. Your clones too, if you have them.

Can you stop the spam I spend all day deleting?

— Unspam Now

Dear UN:

No. And spam is mutating. An American teenager was recently arrested for sending "spim," or unsolicited instant messages. He sent 1.5 million messages advertising pornography and mortgages to members of the MySpace.com online networking service. He was arrested when he showed up for what he thought would be a meeting with its president to sign an exclusive marketing deal that would have legitimized the messages he was sending.

So blackmail is mutating, too. It used to be that if a victim gave money to an extortionist, the blackmail would stop. But this inventive teen wanted money in exchange for his personal guarantee that the blackmail would continue. That's entrepreneurial thinking!

There are always innovators out there, thinking up new ways to part us from our money. Now credit cards are mutating as well. Several sources report that Visa is simplifying the process of paying with plastic with a new contactless system. To complete purchases, users need only wave their credit cards within a few inches of a reader.

I'm not sure I want to flap my card in the air like some bird trapped in the mall. Not that I'll have a choice. Some day, I'll merely imagine a purchase, and money will be telepathically deducted from my account by helpful nanobots. Or their clones.

Ian Shoales lives in San Francisco, where he blackmails himself on a daily basis.

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