There’s been a lot of talk recently about the way we may be able to transform ourselves as humans in the not-too-distant future.
The trans-humanism movement is gaining momentum, with some people writing about a future where people will be able to take a pill to make themselves vastly more intelligent, or unlock the possibility of unlimited memory. Others are talking about never again growing old and using robotics and prosthetics to vastly enhance our physical capabilities.
In the latter case proponents ask why should we restrict ourselves to adaptive devices only when we become ill? And then why should those adaptive devices only seek to mimic so called ’normal’ activity? What if, for example, we all decided to replace our existing legs with stumps that were fashioned to accept a range of prosthetics – one of which could allow you to run faster than a gazelle (another might give you a height extension, or be an adaptive device to help develop better balance).
This got me thinking about physiotherapy and how it would adapt to this new world. Putting all ethical questions to one side for now, I’m interested in the idea that there might be a pill available in the future that could simulate illness. You could take a pill, for example, that would give you the experience of having a stroke for a day, or Parkinson’s Disease, or chronic breathlessness. You could take a pill that simulated chronic fatigue or period pain. Would this not be a really valuable way to develop people’s sense of empathy for others and give our student health professionals a much better sense of the lived experience of illness? Or would they be too scared to treat people if they knew what they were going through?