Many human characteristics are normally distributed including height, weight, intelligence, nose size, irritability, friendliness, compassion and hormone levels.
If people could choose…
If individuals were given the ability to choose the settings of their personal characteristics and analytes by using an analog of the Edit Preferences menu slider, either on a one-time or ongoing basis, what would they be likely to do? Would most people opt to stay the same, move closer to the median or experiment by selecting an outlier position?
The drive to normalize, people choose brown…
1. Hormone replacement therapy
Prescriptions continue to increase for both estrogen replacement therapy and testosterone replacement therapy despite medical studies indicating increased heart disease and other risks for women and no realized physical benefit of testosterone therapies for men. As they have for eons, people will pay for and take health risks to “enhance” their physical state to some perceived ideal, even when contradictory medical evidence exists.
It seems likely that more hormone management therapies with improved risk and efficacy profiles will be offered over time. One example is those of Dr. Louann Brizendine’s Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic at UCSF which are focused on ongoing state management for all ages. Hormone management such as continually suppressed menstruation can be useful in normalizing personal levels during the course of the day, week or month, diminishing rather than enhancing the effects of hormones.
Distinctly different flavors of anti-aging can be envisioned: the disastrous scenario of senescent male heads of state running around with the testosterone levels of 20 year olds hastening existential risk for all of humanity contrasted against the beneficent scenario of Aubrey de Grey’s mitochondrial DNA mutation restoration, Alzheimer’s plaque remediation biotechnology and other SENS approaches.
2. Virtual Worlds
Another example of what people actually do when given the opportunity to modify physical characteristics is visible in the thousands of avatars residing in the virtual world Second Life. All aspects of avatar representation can be modified, however, a huge cluster of brown (e.g.; average) can be seen in the age, height and muscle tone of avatars, with a much smaller cluster for furries and a few longtail outliers for unique appearance.
Should people be allowed to choose…
As long as personal characteristic modification is not injurious of the self or others, it would be difficult to conclude other than that it is an acceptable personal freedom. The only tempering aspect seems to be the usual income dispersion argument as only higher income tiers can initially afford these therapies as they are not covered by insurance. The world of the future will probably be like virtual worlds, with setting modification built into or adjunct to physical corporeality.
Is there any role for regulation?
What if someone wanted to play with a very high aggression setting? People can actually do this now except that cultural and societal norms prevent more divergent behavior. In fact, the ability to manage chemical and personality settings would vastly improve communicating with others and being productive in a group setting for some people. What about experimenting with and getting stuck in a lethal cocktail of depression, low esteem and remorse? Default resets would probably kick in before real harm could occur and these types of experiments could be interesting virtual reality experiences for individuals and a useful neurological tool for researchers.
Cure vs. enhancement and the evolving health system
A fundamental change is occurring as the role of the medical industry and medical professional is shifting from curing health impairments to providing enhancements. As enhancement therapies proliferate, there is a clear opportunity for new fields of enhancement counseling, customizing and habituation training to develop.