Monday, July 30, 2012

The Future of Medicine, and Space Travel

I am writing a book of short stories to be shared on this blog in rough form and gathered under the title Dysautonomy. In a dysautonomic world, automatic systems needed to sustain life are compromised through limited design, malfunction, sabotage, and Acts of God. The harsh physical environment on Mars becomes a metaphor for the daily struggle to survive with limited capability. These demands cause a series of breakdowns across the spectrum of automatic systems necessary for human life, including nervous, psychologic, atmospheric, hydration, nutrition, power, and communication systems. 

By sharing these stories and related information among neuroatypicals as well as normal functioning people I hope to open a constructive dialogue regarding our collective future health.

After all, when systems break down, the entire population is affected. The cost of such breakdowns are reflected in our sky-rocketing healthcare costs as we live longer and as neurologic affliction becomes more predominant. Over time our DNA changes based on our shifting social and environmental priorities, thus simultaneously shutting down and opening up future genetic possibilities. A decrease in physical health and increasing complications with neurologic and mental health are trends recognized throughout the world today. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to this decline. In a near-future scenario, how will the diagnosis, treatment and care of afflicted individuals be apportioned?

Today in the U.S. we have a lottery system in which those born without affliction can gain access to excellent healthcare, while often those most in need of support are relegated to long-term poverty and sub-optimal care. Is there a more humane way to allocate access to healthcare? If afflicted individuals were supported instead of penalized, will our contribution to society outweigh the cost of maintaining our health? In a future universal healthcare scenario, will afflicted individuals be required to accept corrective procedures – even when someone prefers not to exchange their atypicality for “normalcy”? New diagnostic and treatment techniques are now emerging rapidly in the fields of both Neurology and Psychology. But who has access to these technologies? Will those genetically predisposed to affliction be removed from the gene pool through early recognition and intervention, or will such afflictions be corrected through genetic manipulation?

These are the issues essential to Dysautonomy. In this series of stories, the afflicted discover their strengths in surprising ways. A Bipolar visionary launches his team to Mars, but breaks down when his mania-fueled ego is unable to switch gears to more practical concerns. An autistic tween becomes a superhero, saving his group from demise while relying on the particular and peculiar abilities associated with autism. A young rape victim finds the will to survive and to love despite her entanglement in an interspace legal case. A drug-addict who becomes an unwitting subject in a disconcerting experiment in procreation finds the will to escape both his addiction and her captors.

This is not the clean, controlled image of a Mars colony promoted by NASA. Instead we discover a world much like our own, where disruptions internal and external determine our fate. The black market exchanges among the various Mars stations eclipse any effort to establish an earth-based control. Fudged health records, bribery, drone-hacking, human-hacking, stowaways, sex slaves, cannibalism, systems sabotage, environmental devastation, and substance abuse become fixtures in this scenario. But so does human ingenuity, generosity, sacrifice, and love.

Through stories, experiences, and public discussion, Dysautonomy will travel through space, time, and DNA in order to consider the human organism and psyche from a behavioral and neurologic standpoint.

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves.” –Pico Iyer

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