To Combat Radical Violence in America, We Need Radical Medicine
"If you make the human body virtually indestructible, being wounded loses some of its relevance."
Image: Norman Saunders, restored by Adam Cuerdon/Wikipedia
America is reeling in shock from multiple shooting tragedies. The national feeling is that the violence is increasing in frequency and there's no end to the angst.
In the last few weeks, we've experienced tragic episodes in Dallas, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, and Orlando. Politicians have decried the events, calling on Congress to do more about gun control, police responsibility, and racism.
While I passionately support policies that would make Americans safer and diffuse racism, I don't think people are going to change anytime soon. However, there is something that could significantly change our national security regardless of what tragedy strikes: far better trauma medicine.
Bolstering medical treatment of extreme injuries would lessen the impact of extreme violence and shootings while the slow work of fixing the underlying systemic issues is happening.
Already today, we have the blueprints and basic know-how to create radical medicine to keep people alive under extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, as a nation, we simply are not spending the money to create it—we choose to accept a Band-Aid healthcare system that rewards medical company shareholders the more people are sick and ailing.
We need less spending on weapons, and more spending on next-generation medical technology
As my colleague at the Transhumanist Party Chris T. Armstrong said, "If you make the human body virtually indestructible, being wounded loses some of its relevance. Look at how much of the developed world now deals with AIDS. It used to be a death sentence and everyone was utterly worried about it. People are, of course, still worried about it and don't want to get it, but in America, science has mostly made it something one could live with until a cure is found."
America spends approximately 20 percent of its federal budget on military and making bullets. Yet it spends only 2 percent on science and medical research. If over 10 years time, America was to divert half of those trillions of dollars for military spending into medical research, we might easily overcome death from bullet wounds, bomb shrapnel, and extreme trauma.
Already incredibly promising technology is being developed to stop death from bullet wounds. At the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a saline procedure where a gunshot victim's body's temperatures are severely lowered is giving doctors time to fix injuries that otherwise would prove fatal. Science has progressed so much that people who are are clinically dead can be reanimated. After their injuries are repaired, patients are slowly brought back to life.
So far, the saline technique seems to show highly positive results in pigs—90 percent of 200 pigs were able to be revived in tests. The same outcome is hoped-for with humans, but the trial is ongoing and no known cases from surgeons have have been publicly reported upon. However, with luck, this potentially life-saving procedure could be rolled out across the approximately 5,000 emergency departments in America over the next decade.
Another bold new technique to help overcome extreme injury is a syringe created by RevMedx that injects tiny blood-absorbing sponges into bullet wounds. Called XSTAT 30, the syringe releases its sponge contents and can stop a gunshot wound from bleeding. This is critical, since bleeding, both internally and externally, is one of the main reasons people die from bullet wounds.
Unfortunately, gunshot victims often can't get to medical help fast enough to get some of these lifesaving technologies. In the case of the bullet wounds, drones could be used to quickly and effectively get to patients, even indoors. It's possible that flying drones could in many circumstances administer the XSTAT 30 syringe to patients too. Imagine if a hospital or police stations kept dozens of these drones on standby, ready at a moment's notice to send them out to victims. If you consider the traffic in places like downtown Dallas or New York City, drones with medicine could be the difference between life and death.
I've advocated for implants or tattoo chips on people so we could effectively know their whereabouts. It's possible to design tiny technology that resides in us that detects our pulse, so that when our pulse weakens from severe injury, it could send out signals that we are in dire trouble and need immediate assistance. The same could be done with brain implants that register extreme trauma via EEG brainwave signals.
While I'd love to stop violent terror in its tracks with better education and policing policies that make everyone get along, that is unlikely to work beyond a certain point. There will likely always be murderers, terrorists, and bad apples in society who try to ruin it for the rest of us, but we can reduce the effect of attempted killings in America with the use of transhumanist technology and radical trauma medicine by creating the medical technology that makes bullet wounds and extreme bodily injury a nonfatal issue. Unfortunately, going through any extreme physical trauma is still horrible and incredibly disruptive to life, but at least our loved ones won't be dead.
Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, author of The Transhumanist Wager, and a 2016 US Presidential candidateof the Transhumanist Party. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard in which he ruminates on the future beyond human ability.