Archive for March, 2011
Human beings still have wisdom teeth. Our spines aren’t very good at standing us up straight. Our recurrent laryngeal nerves make a biologically unnecessary trip down into the thorax before making their way back up our necks. And we’re woefully inefficient food processors, producing far more waste than would be biologically necessary if someone decided to make a human from the ground up.
But… We’re also very, very smart.
Human biological engineering is becoming more and more a science fact, rather than science fiction, and that got me to thinking: What if we could engineer away our own inefficiencies?
Take food, for instance. Imagine you could rework your stomach and intestines to extract far more from what you eat than you currently do, turning your body into a super-efficient calorie-extracting machine. Imagine one meal keeping you sated for a week, after which you would… ahem… excrete whatever tiny amount of matter could not be used as fuel in any way, in the form of one small, hard pellet.
From an environmental and humanitarian standpoint, such a biological change would be of extraordinary benefit. No more starvation, no more squabbling over land resources for growing food… It’s hard to imagine a down side. Overnight, overpopulation concerns are gone, or at least staved off for a day far in the future.
And what about water? Why do we need to urinate at all? If we were more efficient, everything that currently comes out as urine could be included in your weekly excretion. We could stay hydrated on maybe one cup of water every two days. The drain on the world’s waterways could disappear practically over night.
And sleep? What if you could improve your sleep efficiency such that one hour a night was enough? Or even take a pill that negates the need for sleep entirely? Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend an extra eight hours a day with their family and friends? Or earn a little extra income with an additional part-time job? Or, to make it more personal, have the time to work on that novel?
I know some people would be horrified at the concept of a human being as thoroughly bioengineered as I’m describing, but why? Is there a downside? If so, what? Sure, I’d miss eating lots, but that’s because I’m biologically wired to crave food. What if I wasn’t?
And how would society change to accommodate a human race that eats once a week, drinks very little water, and hardly ever sleeps? What other changes can you imagine that would make us more efficient?