I know – who really wants to talk about nutrition and fitness? It tends to be a topic that many avoid. We all know that certain things are bad for us and we do it anyway. There is something interesting to how science fiction deals with nutrition and fitness. We track so many things manually already, but what happens when more and more of our lives can be tracked? People are already worried about others, particularly the government, getting ahold of their information, what happens when even more is tracked?
In many science fiction stories where there is a controlled society, one of the big things that is usually covered is nutrition and fitness. In the controlled societies they usually make sure that people only eat certain foods, drink certain things, and are forced in to some form of fitness regime. A lot of times these circumstances arise from a society that pays fully for its citizens, which also means that they control those citizens. What we eat and our fitness can have a lot to do with how long we live, when we work, and how much money we spend to keep ourselves healthy in the long run.
I caught The Island on TV recently, and it got me thinking about these questions, in a society where the health of all of the people – well, of the clones – was essential. They tracked what they ate and the exercise they did to have them in the best shape. On the one hand, they were healthy. On the other, did they have any control over their lives? These are the questions I’m considering.
Currently we can manually track when we work out or what we eat. We can keep track of salts, vitamins, sugars, steps we take, calories consumed, calories burned, etc. Now what if all that could happen automatically? A smart house that keeps track of your food used, possibly even monitors your heart rate and other bodily functions. Would it be able to tell if you are eating too much salt, too much sugar, and could it then change the menu on you? If it noticed you did not exercise would it give you smaller portions?
I think there are people who would allow their house or another machine to do that for them. Maybe even schedule their exercise time, create a menu for them. When you think about it, the process does not sound too bad. I have a machine telling me what is healthy for me. At the same time what does that mean for that stored information because as we see over and over again no information is truly secure.
Shared Medical Information
Now the plus side of keeping track of all of your health information is that it could be shared with medical professionals. People could no longer lie about going on a diet or claiming how much they exercise. Medical professionals could have an exact idea of what the patient’s life really looks like. This could lead to better medical diagnosis and potentially better care. It also could mean that your insurance might change based on keeping track of your medical information or your doctor might treat you differently depending on what information is provided.
The insurance part would be really troubling because if it is believed that people who don’t walk every day are at a higher risk then insurance companies raise your rates. There are some definite pros and cons to sharing the medical information
Right now nutrition and fitness is a voluntary state of being. We try and incentivize people to live healthy lives through nutrition and health. Now what happens when the government decides that they need to force people to live healthier lives? Do they eventually get to the point where they decide that they need to control the citizens’ health and fitness? If it can easily be tracked then they could create personalized plans that the citizens are supposed to follow to get healthy. Potentially go so far as create mandatory diets and exercise. If the thought is that unhealthy people cost society more money and that following a healthy diet and exercise regime keeps someone healthy, then wouldn’t it make sense to get people to eat right and exercise.
The other side would be to make sure people aren’t doing drugs, or drinking too much. The government would know automatically if people were about to drive under the influence. Your car could be made to not start if it senses any alcohol having been consumed in a certain period of time. It would be an alternative way to keep anyone from drinking and driving. No more hit and runs, but it means that other people are tracking you at all times before you are even given the chance to mess up.
Now and Future
We are not there yet, but health is an issue that is dealt with in science fiction. We understand that health is important and that a healthy society is a good thing. At the same time the choices we make are not always the healthiest for us. If we could have a way for something else to tell us the choices we should make would we?
At the same time it takes away our ability to make our own choices in some ways and would it be overly regulated. The more information we track, the more information that others can potentially get ahold of. We want exercise to be easily accessible and available and being able to track ourselves is one way to make it more accessible. At the same time the tracking of how we live our lives open up some interesting possibilities for the future, good and bad.