Transforming Healthcare 3: The Human Machine

This post is inspired by #FutureMed.

The human body is a machine. A complex machine made of thousands upon thousands of tiny machines, each containing their own.  Somehow, amazingly, against logic and odds, this machine functions seamlessly, constantly, and for years on end. Sometimes, this system breaks down and it is up to science and self to bring it back to set point.

The machine that is the human functions on code we call DNA. Instead of ones and zeros, humans are build on As, Ts, Gs and Cs that bundle into triplets that make messages, that bind activation and repression modules, that build proteins that build you. From one incredibly long code comes meaning. Just as the ones and zeros in a computer mean little on their own, so too does DNA. It is the systems that sit on top, somehow created by the original code, that create information from pure data. It is from here that we create.

The body being a machine should not be cause for fear. Instead, rejoice. Understanding the power that comes with understanding that physical illnesses can be mapped and more easily treated by understanding your machine, that keeping you well-oiled, well-treated and in healthy environments will bode well for longevity. It will help you understand that things sometimes go wrong - that bugs get into the system, that drugs sometimes can't fix that.

The body may be a machine but it is one of the most complex we know. Thousands of years of study have yet to yield all of the answers. Which is why we must continue to delve deeper. To see how environmental changes alter expression of DNA. How we are reprogrammed under stress, infection and changing climates. How our internal environment adapts.

The beauty of this incredible machine astounds me.

It fascinates me that the mobility and innovation that comes with our increased cerebral and cerebellar mass has lead to the growth of the human cyborg. Over centuries, we have become Human+. While many of these advances have not been physically embedded in our form, they have become such a part of our daily life that they are essential for continued existence. We began using tools, increasing our ability to find and consume food. We developed farming techniques to create stable food supplies. We created electricity networks to provide light, then powered-machines and now Internet and cellular phones. We are building tattoo-sensors for blood-pressure and glucose monitors, incoming call alerts and interactive experiences. Technology enabled by our machine's ability to think outside the given square has created seemingly boundless opportunities to become even greater at a pace faster than our DNA can adapt.

With all of these tools quite literally at our fingertips, it begs the question as to why our health seems to again be going downhill after many years of improvement. In one sense, it seems that we have off-loaded responsibility to our tools. In another, it seems too overwhelming. Just today, I spoke to a client  who asked me about nutrition. "There's too much noise out there," she said, an overwhelmed expression flitting across her face. Her data processor was saturated. There is too much out there an much of it is unstructured (I posted about data-driven health yesterday).  We've yet to adapt this fully to fit best with our bodies. We've yet to use our cerebrums to take control of what is available to us.

Treat your body well. Remember to feed it well, house it safely, keep it clean and out of the wet as much as you can. Science will catch up with the machine but you need to maintain your own health until then.  Treat your body with as much respect as you would a fine car, your home or a brand-new computer. You deserve it.


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