Information explosion and advances in the knowledge about drugs and the practice of medicine is s mixed blessing both for the individual and the medical profession. We today are living in a Digital Age. It is predictable that two great revolutions will dominate the first two decades of the third millennium, namely the digital and the genetic. Both will profoundly affect almost every aspect of human life, including the practice of medicine. These revolutions point towards a sea change in the lifestyle of man. But the question remains, will they bring happiness into the lives of individuals.
The Digital Revolution
The computers have ushered in an extraordinary improvement in diagnostic aids and imaging. They have provided for global consultations with other specialists in the field. Medical knowledge today is too vast for the human brain to comprehend. Perhaps the days when doctors were making decisions without consulting robots are nearing an end.
In future any doctor failing to consult the "digital expert" (robot) will risk being sued for negligence. The robot will be having total knowledge of every research paper, every drug trial, and information about the outcome of previous treatment(s) under similar circumstances. Moreover the digital expert would improve on the previous treatment schedules.
By the year 2020 only a 'brave' doctor (physician) would insist on going against the cumulative wisdom of the profession recorded in the machine. Then perhaps well trained nurses would be able to do the job as well. But the surgeon as a highly trained technician would survive. Some brain implants would be digital including the 'chips', allowing 'brain to digital' and 'digital to brain' transfer of commands. (Ref: Triple Helix, Millennium Edition, CMF, London, UK, 2000).
As a sequel to the digital revolution a new vocabulary and terminology, and some illnesses in man have appeared on the scene, e.g., textationship, benching, draking, tuning, layby, on/off-ers, megadating, ghosting, zombeing, fizzling/slow fade, cuffing season, cupbaking etc. used on social sites. Terms like financee, wooing, going steady are now out of vogue (TOI, Nov. 6, 2016). Earlier illnesses like digital stress, nomophobia, cyberchondria, and phantom vibration syndrome were detailed in TOI, Aug, 14,2016. Net addiction can weaken immunity, and the digital smart gadgets can lead to various illnesses and sleep disorders.
The Genetic Revolution
The code of life is universal. This allows a range of gene transfers between plants and animals including the human being. This gene technology would allow doctors to target the fetuses which fall short of intelligence, height, athletic capabilities and other factors as desired by parents. Viruses would be used to reprogram human tissues and organs as desired. Possibly this feature would not only cure disease, but also affect the lifestyle of the individual.
Replacement of tissues and brain repair would become routine, not only after localized damage, but also to strengthen mental capabilities in old age. Head transplant would become routinely possible in quadriplegic patients to regain motor and sensory function. Many new generations of medicines would be available as "smart drugs" designed as life enhancers and become a sub-specialty in life sciences.
Gene therapy or therapeutic gene transfer is a novel concept in the treatment of immunologic and other disease. Advances in DNA technology provide easy access to control these events. The concept of recombinant DNA therapy is being now extended to somatic gene therapy. Currently majority of gene therapy trials are underway for disease like AIDS, cancer, Parkinsonism, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).
As a result of combining the digital and genetic revolutions aiming at producing "designer people', it is a matter of concern that would this modified human being be happy and lead a normal life. Happiness does not depend alone on longevity or physical health. But primarily on the quality of life available to the individual. Human nature would essentially remain unchanged having its personal needs for love and understanding. Relationships and spirituality would continue to be the key to well-being and personal fulfillment.