KankerCel: The Hallmarks

The Incredible Shrinking Man has taken a keen interest in cancer, perhaps the most damaging of all unwanted-growth related diseases. Studying and abstracting the mechanisms behind cancer hopefully allows us to formulate new ideas on how to deal with undesired, unnecessary and malignant growth as it has manifested itself in unnecessary tall people over the last two centuries.

Point of departure is the paper The hallmarks of cancer, originally published in the journal Cell in January 2000 by Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg. The cancer researchers believe that the complexity of cancer can be reduced to a small number of underlying principles that govern the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells. The traits that the authors highlight in the paper are (1) Cancer cells stimulate their own growth; (2) They resist inhibitory signals that might otherwise stop their growth; (3) They resist their programmed cell death; (4) They can multiply indefinitely; (5)  They stimulate the growth of blood vessels to supply nutrients to tumors; (6) They invade local tissue and spread to distant sites; (7) They use abnormal metabolic pathways to generate energy; (8) They evade the immune system; (9) They generally have severe chromosomal abnormalities which worsen as the disease progresses, and (10) Cancer cells are often induced by local chronic Inflammation.

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Unsinkable Jesus Gecko

Changing perspective and seeing reality through the eyes of the very small has the potential to unlock previously unimagined, unseen worlds. The Coleodactylus amazonicus, or Brazilian Pygmy Gecko, could sit comfortably on a finger tip. It is so small that no other reptiles in South America compete with it for food, for territory, for anything. By shrinking to just a little over of 2cm they created there own ‘reptileless’ reality where their speed and agility allows them to compete successfully with insects. Rain however, poses a special challenge. If it wasn’t for their hydrophobic skin they could drown in a waterdrop, much like Alice fears drowning in her own tears in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Falling into a puddle causes no harm as the gecko, because of its small size and hydrophobic qualities, is unsinkable. It’s also called the Jesus Gecko because it can walk on water.

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Neglecting Gravity

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As Stephen Jay Gould writes in “Size and Shape” we are prisoners of the perceptions of our size, and rarely recognize how different the world must appear to the very small. Since our relative surface area is so small at our large size, we are ruled by gravitational forces acting upon our weight. But gravity is negligible to very small animals with high surface to volume ratios; they live in a world dominated by surface forces and judge the pleasures and dangers of their surroundings in ways foreign to our experience. An insect performs no miracle in walking up a wall or upon the surface of a pond; the small gravitational force pulling it down or under is easily counteracted by surface adhesion. Throw an insect off the roof and it floats gently down as frictional forces acting upon its surface overcome the weak influence of gravity.

Falling is not a verb in the insect world. It simply doesn’t exist.

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Abun’dance is a short ceremonial dance conveying the desire to shrink towards a situation of abundance through shrinking the human body. It was originally performed by Arne Hendriks at the beginning of the lectures on the topic of shrinking the human species. The dance consist of two simultaneous movements. Its primary movement is a gradual increased crouching while at the same time swaying the left and right arm back to front. The Abun’dance starts while standing up and culminates in a crouching position. While diminishing his or her height the dancer keeps eye contact with the audience and upon completion remains in a crouched position while looking up at the audience. The dance is performed by a tall person to symbolise how the contemporary desire for tallness should be replaced by the desire for smallness and can be quite painful if the tall person has knee and/or back problems. While not pleasant for the performer these ailments add to the power of the narrative since they illustrate some of the disadvantages of being tall. Abun’dance is meant to be performed in a simple uncomplicated manner.

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Abundance Fantasies: Mukbang

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In our series of abundance fantasies we investigate if and how the human desire for abundance can become a positive force for change. Most abundance fantasies revolve around an illustration of the central promise that if we act in a certain way we will be rewarded. The fantasy provides indirect moral guidance in order to change behaviour, like is described in so many of our religious texts. The Incredible Shrinking Man’s central promise is that we can shrink towards abundance in almost every material aspect of life, including food, space and energy.  However, we have not yet dealt much with how to come to terms with that abundance when it arrives.

The Korean culture of Mukbang shows videos and livestreams of protagonists eating enormous amounts of food while chatting with hundreds of live viewers. Many of the viewers are paying to indulge in this binge-viewing, binge-eating privilege. Often while eating, but also often without eating. Broadcast Jockey Fitness Fairy, who has uploaded more than 100 mukbang clips to her Youtube account, said she believes her fans are merely participating in a fantasy, living ‘vicariously’ through her. This paradoxical redirection of the viewer’s desire for abundance, both indulging in and practically denouncing the physical act of over-consuming, may help in reconstructing metaphysical values allowing our species to find a balance between the desire for abundance and how it manifests itself. Watching a gluttonic stage act may keep the demons away. BJ Francesca Tteokbokki, BJ Diva, and Banzz risk their health and the health of our planet so that most of us don’t.

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“An attitude to life which seeks fulfillment in the single-minded pursuit of height – in short, materialism – does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.” – Fritz Schumacher.

Readyquotes are slightly altered quotes by known thinkers and makers. The spirit of the original quote often is already a reflection of the interests expressed within the research of The Incredible Shrinking Man but may have one or two words changed to allow us to connect its essence to our  vocabulary. We can therefor not really assign these quotes to the authors nor are we its authors. In the spirit of the artist Marcel Duchamp they are assisted readymades, or rather assisted readyquotes that by their re-contextualisation within the desire for a smaller human species may open up new thoughts and insights.

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Haplogroup Hot Switch

Haplogroup I-M170 is a common Y chromosome DNA haplogroup among unnecessary tall males mostly situated in North and South East Europe. The descendants sharing this specific group of identical genetic traits all come from a unique male ancestor, living approximately 22.000 years ago during the Last Glacial Maximum when Europe was a bitterly cold place. Under such circumstances a large-bodied individual may have had a better chance at survival because of his ability to retain more heat than other male competitors, allowing him a better chance at gene proliferation. In warmer climates people tend to be smaller because of faster metabolism and the need to dissipate heat efficiently. Today’s rising temperatures turn greater heat retention from an advantage into a disadvantage, making the large body frame of the I-M170 redundant. Is airconditioning keeping us tall?

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Shrink Exercise: Giant Vegetable Hugging

Hugging a giant vegetable initiates a light-hearted feeling of pleasure and relaxation, as well as the experience of being in the presence of a messenger from the future when the human species has become a lot smaller and the world is again a place of unprecedented abundance. The challenge is making the mental switch where we do not understand the giant vegetable as large but ourselves as small. This can be achieved by repeating a certain sentence such as: This is not a large vegetable, I am a small person. This not a large vegetable. I am a small person. This is not a large vegetable. I am a small person. Suspend disbelief until reality has started to change.

The Incredible Shrinking Man wants to ignite an imagination that will ultimately physically shrink the human species. There are already a number of things people could do to become smaller. If we were to eat differently, feel attracted to smaller partners, or would embrace a number of endocrinological or genetic possibilities the human species would start to shrink. Unfortunately, at the moment, we are not so inclined as a species. In fact we celebrate that we continue to grow taller. Although tallness may in many cases be the result of affluence, being tall itself is not only not great for health but has numerous other undesirable consequences. In a world with dwindling resources, mass species extinctions and increased population, shrink exercises are both symbolic as well as real acts to inspire an alternative desire.

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HPS Axis Pirouette

To soften the pressure of the increasingly dominant genetic profiles for greater human height, humanity at some point may opt to interfere in the cell signaling pathways that induce growth. One such pathway, the hypothalamic–pituitary axis, includes the secretion of growth hormone (GH) into the circulation and the subsequent stimulation of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) production by GH in tissues such as the liver. The HPS Axis also controls the secretion of other hypothalamic–pituitary hormones involved in the control of GH secretion from the pituitary gland such as somatocrinin (GHRH), somatostatin (GHIH), and ghrelin (GHS). Individuals with growth hormone deficiency or GHR insensitivity have short stature and in some cases, such as in the case of the Laron People, are protected from cancer. Conversely, acromegaly and gigantism are conditions of GH and IGF-1 excess and are characterized by overgrowth and tall stature. The physiological mechanisms responsible for the periodicity in the secretion of growth hormone  are believed to involve a dual system of stimulatory or inhibitory inputs of hypothamalic origin. Tweaking the choreography between these two may ultimately lead to an understanding of healthy growth, and where growth moves beyond the desired.

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Degrowth:Buddhist Economics

Buddhist economics, a term coined by Fritz Schumacher, is the systematic study of how to gain given ends with minimum means, or as we at The Incredible Shrinking Man like to ask; How can we shrink towards abundance? In the view of its proponents, buddhist economics aims to clear the confusion about what is harmful and what is beneficial in the range of human activities involving the production and consumption of goods and services, ultimately trying to make human beings ethically mature. It represents a commitment to building an economy that would serve a nation’s culture based on spiritual values instead of being gauged by only GDP. To the buddhist economist there is nothing elegant about complex ways to deal with demand. If it’s not simple it’s probably not worth considering.

In the buddhist economic model of Claire Brown valuation of economic performance is based on how well the economy delivers a high quality of life to everyone while it protects the environment. In addition to consumption, measuring economic performance includes equity, sustainability, and activities that create a meaningful life. A person’s well-being depends on cultivation of spiritual wealth even more than material wealth. Free market economics assumes that the markets produce optimal outcomes and that people have the resources to create satisfying lives. It focusses mainly on income and consumption to see if its presumptions are on track. Buddhist economics asks how we want our economy to work for us and how to maximise social welfare. It’s not about external growth, it’s not about material expansion, but about inner satisfaction and attention to practical basic human needs. Do you live a meaningful life with your relationships, in your community? Do you have health care, education? How well are you able to develop your potential? Buddhist economics is what economics should be about.

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