Bug list for Human Body 1.1

[Detail of human bones, by Leonardo Da Vinci]I work with engineers, and most of them are driven to improve things. When they spot something that’s inefficient, most of them don’t hold back in offering suggestions, whether it’s about HR, facilities, lunch plans, the design of everyday objects, you name it.

As I was working on bugs today, I got to thinking about these meat shells we wear. If you had the ability to make minor improvements to the design of the human body, what would you change? Body hacking has been around since ancient times (ear piercings have been found in Egyptian mummies, for instance), and we’re entering a world where people can change their appearance profoundly. As genetic engineering advances, ever more startling possibilities are emerging.

So suppose you could tinker with the design of your body. We’re not talking about Human Body 2.0 — no mutant superpowers, not adding two more arms, no Gattaca here. Instead, here are some tweaks that would improve things — point changes and bug fixes, in other words, moving us from the Human Body 1.0 we use today, to the next minor release.

Some of my top priorities:

  1. Bug #551: Single breathing tube is critical bottleneck. It’s just poor design to have no redundancy for breathing pathways, given how critical oxygen flow is. Choking is a very frequent hazard of eating, because food has to go down the same narrow tube that air has to go down. Having two separate tubes (one for food, another always-on for air) is the solution.
  2. Bug #3103: Excessive sleep downtime. Our brains seem to absolutely need at least a few hours for mental health, but if we could compress those REM cycles down and cut out some of the lighter sleep cycles that seem to be useless, we’d increase our overall productivity. I know many who agree that any time spent sleeping is wasted time. We’re not going to get complete sleep removal in 1.1, but if we could improve from 5-8 hours down to 1-2 hours, that would be a critical advance.
  3. Bug #1199: Knees have low MTBF. The knee is an impressively engineered joint, but it too easily wears out under even moderate usage, requiring expensive and invasive surgeries. We seem to have mastered artificial hip replacement, but we’re a long way away from knee replacement. So we’ll have to improve at the source; knees will need some reinforcing and strengthening so that they last longer.
  4. RFE # 60: Bounds checking: Need smart and safe calorie consumption limiter. We’ve all been there: You eat an excellent holiday meal, but afterwards feel like you ate too much and wish you could go back in time and be more restrained. Bulimia is a tragic condition, and could be avoided if there were a safe way to undo eating too much. But instead of something messy, I’m picturing a new system whereby the body calculates how many calories it has taken in for the day, compares that to the desired number, and then for all excess calories, the body would no longer store the excess. Instead, strip out the nutrients normally but then dispose of the rest without storing any excess.
  5. Bug # 1114: Intermittent freezes during flight or flight processing. The other night, as I was putting my nearly-two-year-old daughter Sophie to bed in her crib, my wife and son came in to her room and I turned my back on Sophie. In that time, Sophie started climbing up over the rails of the crib. My wife made an inarticulate shriek, and I turned and froze in horror as Sophie continued to climb over the edge and tumbled head-first to the floor. Fortunately she landed safely on carpet, and was not injured. But my fight-or-flight routine totally failed me. I was paralyzed. This is a sub-optimal response. Fix please.

And one more thing:

  1. RFE # 714: Variable pigment widget. User control for skin color — darker for protection on sunny days, lighter for blending into snow, and any shade desired for fashion and style. Body paint is so messy. Think what a world we’d live in if every single person could set the exact color (purple!) of their skin, anytime they wished.

4 Responses to “Bug list for Human Body 1.1”

  1. Rich Says:

    death is not a bug, but a feature.

    Remember survival of the fittest only means the survival of the most fit to pass on genes, that is all.

  2. Stephen Says:

    Rich: Sentence #1 contradicts sentence #2.

  3. slacy Says:

    I think “RFE # 714: Variable pigment widget” should read “Bug #12498: Variable pigment system needs better range checking, nominal sunlight exposure latitude too small, and faster response times. Variable pigment system works great, but it’s exposure latitude is far too small. Less than an hour in full sun will result in a bounds error in the pigment system, which results in a painful burn. Please expand the range of allowable exposure, and increase the speed at which the system reacts to ultraviolet exposures.”

  4. mysocialbrain: 04-09-2009 : protagonist Says:

    […] bug list for the human body engineers and skeletal structures […]

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