The saying “You’ll catch your death of cold” is something we utter these days because, well, nobody likes to catch colds. But in ye olden days, to catch a cold often led to death. This is just one ailment that modern medicine has all-but-conquered (or at least rendered into something inconvenient). Thanks to humanity’s advancements, we no longer have to worry that typhoid fever is going to wipe out the entire countryside.
Along with access to clean water, technology has benefited humanity by going toe-to-toe with the ailments that once killed us pretty quickly – so it looks like our bodies are going to do just fine in the future. But what about our minds? Will there be a point when tech-bio integration goes too far with our anatomy – to the detriment of the human condition?
With that in mind, here are a few high-tech medical conditions that our children’s children might have to face on a regular basis. It might sound like science fiction, but the emphasis here should be on the word science.
#1: Superintelligence-Induced Psychological Disorders
These days, our iPhones do our thinking for us. You want to know the capital of Madagascar? Google it. (I just did, and it’s Antananarivo.) Want to know the quickest way to Grandma’s house? There’s an app for that.
I’ve often said that the web is the ‘palantíri of our generation’ – and for all of you Lord of the Rings nerds out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The palantíri is one of the ‘seeing stones’ in the LOTR series, which could show you basically whatever you wanted to see – and it drove some of Middle Earth’s most powerful leaders totally insane.
The human mind generally does not do well on an information overload, but since our culture is obsessed with superintelligence, we seem to be venturing down a path that will integrate all-knowing technology with human minds that can’t process it all. Essentially, we’re going to have to cope with anxiety attacks, alienation, egomania, existential crises, and the seizures that come with it.
#2: Cybernetic Septicemia
Speaking of biomechanical integration: Are robotic prosthetics always going to work smashingly well for everybody? Given how unpredictable the human anatomy already is, I’d say probably not. Some people can’t even wear certain kinds of jewelry because it turns their fingers green.
As robotics and nano-tech become even more advanced, we’re going to see high-tech prosthetics, exoskeletons, implants, and more – and while these will enhance human abilities and improve our quality of life (at least in theory) it’s still not completely clear how our bodies will react to the integration over the long haul.
The human body is made of 65% water, and because water is the ‘universal solvent,’ it’s only a matter of time before these implants break down on a molecular level. This could cause serious immune/allergic reactions, swelling, and lots of pain from the resulting level of toxicity.
#3: Dissociative Reality Disorder
What is reality?
Back in the day, it wasn’t too difficult to tell that Mom’s apple pie was nearby, because you could catch a whiff of the freshly baked thing on the kitchen windowsill whilst playing hide-‘n’-seek outside. But nowadays?
In a virtual world that can encompass all five of your senses and effectively reproduce a ‘form’ of reality, reality might not be as easily determined in our fast-approaching future.
The mind’s grasp on reality isn’t always the sturdiest – even for those of us that consider ourselves to be rather sane and reasonable individuals. As virtual reality becomes more and more commonly used, we may soon have to carry around Inception-style totems as the lines between the virtual and the real begin to lose clarity.
#4: Post-Cryonic Disorders
Once cryogenic technologies begin to seep deeper into the mainstream consumer market, there may soon come a day when we’ll be able to freeze the natural aging process of our living bodies – and instead of a dead guy in a coffin, you’ll see an almost-dead guy in an icebox.
The hope is that this almost-dead guy will wake up one day, and on that day, there will be technology available that could essentially give him a new meat-robot to walk around in. But let’s say that this truly is going to become commonplace in our future. The coming cryo-generation will be taking a bit of a gamble.
Do you have an elderly person in your life that could barely operate the car CD player, much less a smartphone with Bluetooth-audio connectivity? This really is a human issue, because humans can only endure so much change over the course of a lifetime. Even now, I’m astounded at how technology and society have changed since I was in high school.
But in light of the fact that your mother-in-law has a tendency to yell in adorable confusion, while holding the cell phone upside down, imagine if, say, a person who was born in 1859 (before the Civil War) was terminally ill at the age of 55, went into cryo-sleep in 1914, then woke up in 2014 feeling all chipper again.
Would this person even be able to function in their new world? Exactly how much is this person going to have in common with the rest of us?
Basically, you’d have an entire group of folks dealing with chronic and severe depression, anxiety, and even possible social marginalization, depending on how the newer humans feel about their super-elders.
#5: Immortality-Induced Ennui
I’ve often found that it’s rarely our elders that seem to fantasize about immortality. It’s always the younger adults (or those who think they’re still 21, but their bodies aren’t anymore) that dream of immortality.
The point is, the older you get, there’s a chance that you’ll soon believe that there’s just nothing new under the sun. That’s why so many of our elderly often pine for the feelings of excitement of past days, because when you’ve been there and done that, you begin to lose the ‘newness’ sensation of ‘new’ experiences.
This might be especially true if you’re one of the few left from your younger glory years; boredom, extreme alienation, and depression would set in quick – and though it won’t be nearly as severe, you’ll also have to deal with the technological learning curve just like those just coming out of cryo sleep.
Who knows? Perhaps life-extending technologies might not really improve the human existence at all, but merely make humans even more bored of watching 2 pm infomercials for hair replacement therapy. Even Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard shows us that men will continue battling baldness into the 24th century.