WASHINGTON – Wellness gurus teach people good habits in terms of healthy nutrition, good exercise regimes, and stress management techniques that will help keep the body in good shape and therefore prolong the length of our lives, while making life less disease prone and therefore much more enjoyable, even when you get to old age.
Wellness practices prolong lives, up to a point
If we would all follow this sound guidance, we would do so much better. There would be no obesity epidemic, nor obesity related ailments. No more type two diabetes. No more high incidence of cardiovascular diseases. There will be a dramatic reduction of certain types of cancers, and so on.
Still, even the best wellness practices will get you only so far. You may stay healthy and you will live longer. But, in the end, the human body is “programmed” to age and eventually fail. If you take good care of it, your body will fail much later and gently. Still, even if much later, it is bound to fail. This is what we are told by the scientists.
Man made body parts
Well, may be it is not so anymore.
This is the startling new horizon opened up by science and technology. While most of this new research is still hazy and highly speculative, dramatic progress in electronics and nanotechnology allows scientists to predict that soon enough we shall have “failure proof” replacements for human organs.
We already make some artificial stuff. But what we shall have in the (not so distant?) future is much more sophisticated. TIME magazine provides a small but revealing illustration of the new frontiers, (He Robot, The High-tech future of the human body, February 25, 2013). Scientists are working on artificial eyes, full functioning hearts, plastic made blood, totally functional artificial hands, and artificial kidneys.
Sounds like science fiction? May be so. But people working in this field are not laughed at. Intuitively we can argue that our much more refined knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, combined with rapid advancement in miniaturized, sophisticated electronics may indeed yield viable man-made replicas of human parts. In fact, the manufactured replacements may even be better than the original parts, because they will not wear out.
Devices that will improve brain functions?
But wait. It gets better. A scientist interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) went much further.
He indicated that soon enough there will be artificial devices that, when implanted in humans, will actually improve brain functions. In other words, we shall soon be able to perfect and refine “personality”, the complex construct of rational and emotional qualities that defines a person’s identity. This includes intellect, taste, artistic proclivities, feelings of love and anger, fantasies, and a lot more.
New, man-made personalities?
And here we enter a really complex, slippery new terrain. One thing is to give a human being a new hand. This is about restoring a function lost due to injury. However, a new artificial hand does not alter the individual’s personality.
But imagine instead a re-engineered human being with enhanced cognitive abilities, an improved memory, new skills, and different feelings. If this were indeed possible, then we would essentially have transformed the human being produced by the natural process of sexual union into “man-modified humans”.
Transcending our limitations?
The scientist interviewed on NPR did not seem to be at all disturbed by this revolutionary scenario. (I paraphrase the exchange that went more or less like this). “But our individual minds, our characters and our predilections and feelings are what define us as humans” –pointed out the interviewer– “If we mess with all this, where are we headed? ”
“What defines us as humans, is our ability to transcend the limitations of our conditions. –replied the expert. “Men were not designed to fly or swim underwater. And yet we devised ways to do all that. Re-engineered bodies and improved minds will be just another milestone along this path”.
Think of that.