The Future Of (2022) s01e11 Episode Script


['80s-style pop music plays]
[Jurnee Smollett] It's Friday,
about a hundred years from now.
You're running late for a party
when you get a new notification.
That buffalo shrimp you had for lunch
is triggering your shellfish allergy.
It's flu season again,
and you've got a monster zit
about to erupt on your chin.
Don't worry.
Instead of canceling your plans,
your body goes into autocorrect mode.
Your super organ unleashes antihistamines,
antivirals, and antibiotics.
So you'll almost be on time
for your buddy's 121st birthday party.
A lot of us think about our health,
but we don't often think about what's
actually going on inside our bodies.
Humans have learned a lot
about fighting diseases
and healing from injuries,
but our species
is about to step into uncharted territory.
Today, scientists are working on tech
that will redefine healthcare.
We realized, "Wow, we can 3D print organs
or structures directly in the body."
And that's exciting.
That's exciting stuff.
[Smollett] In the future,
our bodies could be a step ahead.
We're gonna get so advanced
that you can have an implant.
You can upgrade your senses,
have more strength, more stamina.
[Smollett] Medical breakthroughs will make
once serious illness and injuries
become routine fixes.
You could have this new super organ
to synthesize new medicines for you.
You don't even have to think about it.
[Smollett] But like anything else,
when will we know when to stop
or if we've gone too far?
Do we want to live forever?
That's one of the big questions.
[theme music plays]
[Smollett] Biohackers, transhumanists,
human cyborgs.
[man 1] We have the capability
to make the world's first bionic man.
[Smollett] Body augmentation
is often portrayed
as a dystopian cyberpunk trope.
We already modify our bodies
for health in a huge variety of ways,
with things like pacemakers, IUDs,
artificial joint replacements,
and insulin pumps.
The far future might even include
upgrading the human body to repair itself.
But before figuring out
how to make a super organ
to fight a cold, prevent a zit,
and counteract buffalo shrimp,
scientists need to work
on the most important stuff first.
Saving lives.
[Echo beeps] Wake up
and take your medications or you will die.
- [beeping]
- [chuckles]
My name is Damian Ramdath.
I'm 20 years old,
and I live in Astoria, Queens.
I just consider myself
the most unluckiest-luckiest person ever.
Like, my heart failed.
Like, I was this close to dying,
and I just got lucky
and somehow I made it,
but the experience does show
that a person's life is very fragile.
[Smollett] Maybe you don't notice
your lungs when you work out
or your stomach when you eat,
but not everyone's so lucky.
The diagnosis was dilated cardiomyopathy,
which is heart failure.
That was caused due to
a condition called muscular dystrophy.
[Smollett] Over 95% of people worldwide
live with some kind of health problem,
whether it's acne, PMS,
diabetes or kidney disease,
treating these conditions weighs heavily
on our bodies,
and on our healthcare system.
My reaction when they said
I needed a heart transplant,
I pretty much felt like
my world was, like, falling apart.
Today's organ-transplant process sucks.
Globally more than half a million people
are on the transplant waiting list,
but many won't live long enough
to receive the life-saving surgery.
If your heart goes out,
it's not like you can order up
a new one online.
At least not yet.
[man 2] There's a major shortage
of organs right now.
There's a public health crisis.
So we need better solutions.
[Smollett] In 2021,
doctors found some early success
in transplanting genetically
modified pig organs into humans.
And other scientists are experimenting
with even more radical solutions.
As a surgeon, you're implanting things
in patients that don't belong there.
[Smollett] And as a result,
about half of all transplanted organs
are rejected within a decade.
And the solution was, "Well, why don't
we make tissues that belong there?"
"From the same patient?"
[electronic music plays]
[Smollett] In the near future,
scientists hope we will widely
be able to 3D print
new organs in the lab
using a patient's own cells.
[Atala] We take a very small tissue biopsy
from the patient,
less than half the size of a stamp.
We then expand the cells outside the body.
We then create three-dimensional scaffolds
that look like the organ
and we then are able to mature
that structure in an oven-like device,
using the cells,
then you are able
to take the structure out,
and put it back into the patient.
It's very much
like baking a layer cake, if you will.
[Smollett] There have been
some big milestones in this field.
In 2019, scientists in Tel Aviv
managed to 3D print an anatomically
perfect copy of a human heart.
There was just one catch.
It was tiny,
about the size of a rabbit's heart.
Some body parts
are harder to print than others.
Flat structures like skin,
they're by far the least complex
'cause they're flat.
And solid organs, like the kidney,
the heart, they're the most complex.
[Smollett] If we do get really good
at printing organs,
it'll be a game-changer,
and not just for transplant patients,
because once we can design
and print replacement body parts,
what's to stop us
from upgrading healthy organs too?
For example,
if your heart has a faulty valve,
your future doctor may be able
to remake your own heart,
reprinting it without any of the defects.
It will be made with your own cells,
so there's no need to wait for a donor,
and little to no risk of rejection.
While they're going through the effort
to 3D print
and surgically replace your heart,
maybe they could find a way
to make it work even better.
[man 3] In the future,
we're gonna get so advanced that
you can have an implant,
you can upgrade your senses,
have more strength, stamina.
[Smollett] Maybe you'd like to order up
a Michael Phelps-level heart.
Every part of your body
could be genetically manipulated,
and maybe not
for the most productive reasons.
For example, well, you drink a lot
and you want to upgrade your liver
so that actually,
you can drink as much as you want
without getting a hangover the next day.
Or it could be that you spend
a lot of time outside at night,
and you want to actually upgrade your eyes
so you have better vision at night.
[Smollett] A better liver, night vision.
We're in.
But how far do we really want to go
with elective body upgrades?
The US military is already exploring
this possibility.
A 2019 Department of Defense
report called "Cyborg Soldier 2050"
talked about four possible
body enhancements
that could happen over the next 30 years.
One of which is a brain implant
that would allow soldiers to communicate
telepathically across the battlefield.
And the US isn't alone.
Militaries all over the world,
including in China and France,
are researching tech
to upgrade their soldiers.
[man 4] The implants help enhance
their capacities in war,
but they also raise
a number of ethical issues.
Imagine that soldiers return from war.
Do we take those implants out?
[Smollett] To what extent and how often
can we change our hardware
and software before we lose grasp
of who we are?
And how do we manage access
to these kinds of upgrades?
One of the biggest worries with being able
to create organs on the demand
is that the poor might not have access.
New technologies are really,
really expensive.
That's gonna be true for organs as well.
There are all these other people
who need organs so that they can live,
yet we're developing these technologies
for rich billionaires of Silicon Valley.
[Smollett] Richest man
in the world Jeff Bezos,
billionaire co-founder of PayPal,
Peter Thiel, and Oracle's Larry Ellison
have invested millions in anti-aging.
And coffee mogul David Asprey
has undergone medical treatment
to extend his life.
What does this mean for our lifestyles?
Does it mean people who have access
to this can live an unhealthy lifestyle
and have the ability to fix their body?
So now the rich will get to live much,
much longer,
while the poor will be dying.
[Smollett] Inequality in healthcare access
isn't a new problem.
[Maughan] Even in the most progressive
countries that have universal healthcare
there's always someone that can pay more
and get better quality of service.
And I say a better quality of service,
but often it is the difference
between life and death in some cases.
[Smollett] So, while rich folks
might be upgrading their bodies
a la carte,
poor folks will be left wondering
if they can afford
the price tag for survival.
The bill alone for the heart transplant
was a million dollars.
You just declare bankruptcy
and get over it.
You just There's no other way to do it.
[Smollett] In the long run,
printing organs will hopefully drive
the overall cost of transplants down,
changing the game
for life-and-death patients.
But when it comes
to electively printing new body parts,
well, that's a whole other ball game.
Is this gonna be
a wild wild west where literally
you get all sorts of medical procedures?
It could even be
when it comes to healthier aging
that you have upgrades that allow you
even when you're 60, 70, 80, 90,
to still basically be active just like
you were when you were 16 years old.
[Smollett] This extra stamina could affect
all different aspects of your life.
[Juneja] Somebody may be early sixties
approaching retirement,
maybe don't want to retire.
If they're rich enough
to afford it in the future
and they can upgrade their body
to rewind them back
to when they were 25, for example,
they can now work longer hours
than somebody that
had just graduated from college.
[Smollett] And what if your employer
foots the bill to upgrade you?
[Liao] So, you can imagine a world
where because certain tasks require
more demanding work,
companies will require you
to get these transplants.
Your livelihood might depend on it.
[Smollett] Surgeons and pilots,
for example,
could be biologically manipulated
to stay awake longer.
And if an employer pays
to enhance your body,
who owns that piece of you?
So imagine now the company says,
you know, "Lease is up."
"We're gonna take the organs away."
[Smollett] Clearly,
that's not the future we want,
but there's an alternative.
What If instead of swapping out organs
like they're broken car parts,
our bodies could heal
and enhance themselves?
[electronic music plays]
[Smollett] In the far future,
what if you could swallow a pill that
allows you to grow a brand-new organ?
One that can fix you from the inside out.
Picture this,
you head to the doctor's office
where you and your doctor
go over your medical history.
Your conditions,
risk factors, and lifestyle.
But instead of scheduling surgeries
for four different organ upgrades,
she prescribes something else.
What you could be looking
at ultimately with this technology is
not just upgrading all your organs,
but maybe even creating
a kind of like "super organ."
And it'd provide all kinds of other
things our organs don't provide.
[Smollett] One idea
is that this new super organ
would be a bioelectrical device
in your gut.
And it wouldn't even require surgery.
It might be that there's organs
that we have that we don't use,
like the appendix, for example.
We can take a pill that
makes it change its genetic makeup
and its function so it develops
and evolves and grows into this new organ.
Scientists are already working on it.
Molecular engineers
are creating materials that will
be able to grow
and morph inside your body.
Dr. Angela Belcher is
onto something pretty radical.
We realized, "Wow, we can make these
beautiful three-dimensional hydrogels,"
and these hydrogels could eventually
be used to 3D print organs
or structures directly in the body.
[Smollett] To put it plainly,
they're figuring out a way for organs
to build themselves inside your body
using programmable goo.
We work a lot with ovarian cancer,
so it could monitor on-demand
or release therapies on-demand
to increase the immune response
against cancer cells.
[Smollett] These substances could be like
a doctor and a pharmacy in your gut,
releasing meds to treat everything
from indigestion to cancer.
We should be able to incorporate those in
during the three-dimensional
printing process.
[Smollett] And eventually,
similar tech could be used
to grow an entire organ inside your body,
one that's infinitely customizable.
[Maughan] You could have an organ
in your body that was just there
to synthesize new medicines for you.
Don't even have to think.
It's just done automatically.
It's like a software upgrade
on your phone.
Or it could be monitoring your whole body
and seeing what your body is lacking in.
Maybe you're lacking
in vitamin C or vitamin D
and you might decide
you wanna get into bodybuilding.
It can produce the hormones and chemicals
that you need to do that.
The way I look at this,
in the best-case scenario,
it's like the ultimate
in preventive medicine.
[Juneja] Today, a lot of us wait
until we have symptoms
before we actually make
an appointment to see the doctor.
But what if your body is being repaired
and issues are fixed
inside their body without
having to visit the doctor,
without having to travel to a hospital,
preventing expensive procedures,
expensive doctor visits.
Win-win for everyone, right?
[Smollett] This super organ could mean
that cancers and diseases
are identified and treated
at the earliest signs of trouble.
What's even cooler,
we'll be able to watch it happen.
[Juneja] We already have a connected world
in many respects,
but what if with 3D-printed human organs,
that they're connected
to the Internet too,
and we can actually see in real time,
"Oh, wow, I've had a drink and I can see
how my liver is responding in real time
because everything's connected
because I've upgraded it."
[Smollett] But the solution to one problem
creates many more problems.
[Juneja] With this connected technology,
if your teenage son or daughter comes home
and says, "Yeah, I just had,
like, you know, one beer."
Like, wait a minute,
but your liver told me
you had six bottles of beer.
What's going on?
So there's all these social dynamics
that come into play when you have
the implications of this new technology.
[Smollett] And then there are all the
existential questions we'd have to unpack.
If people are able to keep renewing,
then replacing their organs
and prevent disease,
you have the possibility
of humans living 150, 200 years.
Do we want to live forever?
That's one of the big questions, right?
I'm immortal!
I like being the eternal stud.
[Smollett] Humans have explored
the dilemma of immortality
through literature and movies
for centuries.
I've put up with your
for 3,000 years,
- I'm done.
- I don't know
[Smollett] With mixed results.
If it sounds really exciting,
it should be.
We all wanna see the future.
We all wanna live to see,
you know, our families grow up,
and all the things
that are really exciting,
but the worst-case dystopian scenario
is that we're creating a separate species
of very rich elite people who have access
to the revolutionary medical technology
to the extent that they can change
their bodies to practically be immortal.
But if you live to 120,
200, if you never die,
are you gonna be working all your life?
Do you want to be working all your life?
[Smollett] But that's a question
for a whole other episode.
And it's not the concern of millions
of people with chronic illnesses
and those in need of life-saving surgery.
It's important that,
as we roll out new technologies,
we make sure
that basic human rights are met.
We need to make sure that people
who need organs now,
like who need kidneys now,
can also get kidneys.
[Smollett] If we can agree on that much,
we can help a lot of people.
[Ramdath] After surgery,
I'd feel very tired
'cause that was a major surgery,
but now I'm the healthiest I've ever been.
[woman] Welcome home, boy!
[Ramdath] I focus a lot on eating,
working out.
I just improve my mental health,
physical health,
because I feel like
somebody had to die for you to live.
I think that makes you more appreciative.
And whatever I do here,
as long as this heart beats,
I just want to honor my donor. That's it.
[theme music plays]
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