Introducing MDR Splicing™ (Minor Discomfort Removal)

Evolution has prepared us for the worst. We are equipped to tell if we're in danger and deal with it - nature has perfectly tailored us to survive. But what about small inconveniences? There are some things we're built to hate that just don't make sense.

  • Slight cold and slight heat won't hurt you, but they're just not pleasing.
  • That maddening sense of itch that sometimes appears for no reason is not a life-or-death situation - you could live without it.
  • Humid and dry air are not a problem for your body if you're just passing through, yet you feel inconvenienced by it. There's no need!
  • Feelings of fatigue when you know you can't go to sleep right now are not necessary in modern times. You may plan to go to bed earlier tonight, but you just can't help that your body is impatient.
  • Frustration and stress impede your ability to function when you need to function the most. Why is this a necessary part of the human physique? Well, turns out it isn't.

After years of development, MDR Splicing™ is proud to announce the release of its viral gene modifiers, coming out in Spring 2087 that can remove these problems from your genome!

Disclaimer: Pain is important in keeping humans aware and alive, so it is not completely removed by our techniques.

Let's assume this venture is really possible. A distant descendant of CRISPR is being loaded onto viruses with custom modifications, and people are modified in this way day-to-day - although embryonic modifications are most common. It is safe, affordable, scientifically supported - it's possible.

Is MDR Splicing™ right?
Are these conditions really just artifacts of evolution that have no use today? Or will there be noticeable, non-genetic (ex. behavioral, indirect physical, chemical, hormonal, etc) consequences of removing minor discomfort?

What will happen to the people on whom this technique is employed?

  • $\begingroup$ Such technique usually helps to improve patient recovering from stroke or genetic defect etc, there's a saying don't fix it if it ain't broke this is the path to escape the sea of regret... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Nov 29 '16 at 6:28

So, what would probably happen is that people would die, and the MDR project would be abandoned shortly thereafter. Minor discomforts may not be necessary information, per se, but the loss of such information can probably lead to more dangerous scenarios - where people weren't attending to situations when they were still minor. Where every edge case where that information does matter, would have made a difference, will be given media attention. People already push past their limits and into dangerous waters because they think they should, or they must - making it easier to ignore minor discomforts means more people will keep pushing their limits until it's actively dangerous.

So, to your examples

Slight cold and heat are unpleasant, and not really dangerous. Deadening the senses to detecting heat or cold can be a lot more troublesome. If someone can tell big changes in temperature, but not little ones, you can get a frog-in-boiling-water effect, where cumulative small changes can add up to big ones. So, how about winter - someone just stepping out into snowy weather can tell it's way too cold, even after MDR. Someone wrapped up and layered won't feel the cold acutely, and can still function in the chill. Someone wrapped up and layered with the MDR can't tell when they get too cold, because they're missing the minor discomforts around the edges that says its a little bit too cold, and a little bit colder, and a bit more... and maybe they'll suddenly pick it up when it's cold enough to get dangerous (which is pretty late, they should not let it go that long), or else maybe they'll never pick it up at all, because the heat loss is gradual through they layers and it doesn't hurt, the cold makes them numb at the same time. The same is true for heat - people will have no trouble in slightly warm environments, but outside on a hot day, they won't be getting the constant feedback that will tell them they are uncomfortable... and they may not get out of the heat before it becomes dangerous to them since the build up is gradual. Heat stroke or heat exhaustion are already a possibility, cutting down on warning signs until they're already in the dangerous zone won't help.

Noticing humid or dry air, again, is not a problem when it's just passing through. There is no real way for the body to know it's just passing through that environment, though, at the moment when it's sending the signal, and no way to know whether the brain is going to insist on staying a while. Not realizing how humid or dry the air is could interfere with the biofeedback around hydration (or temperature control), since that is one of the signals used to tell the body to drink more when the air is dry, or that sweat won't cool the body efficiently when the air is already moist.

Itching, now, that's a different sort of problem. First, to lose random itches or tickling you're outright losing tactile sensitivity and deadening your skin a fair bit - your nerves won't overreact to tactile stimulation if you feel everything less, including pleasant tactile sensations... or maybe I mean if you can feel acutely in good circumstances, you can also feel acutely in bad ones, and this is not a tradeoff most will make. Or alternatively you can turn down the ability to feel itching altogether, in which case you are losing medical symptoms - where an itch might be the first sign of a rash, an allergy, a parasite (fleas), or over-sensitivity due to other other medical conditions (nerves or skin conditions). If you allow more severe sensations through, the problem may be found eventually - but perhaps later, wen it's more serious and/or more damage has been done.

Feelings of fatigue... again, you do actually need to know. Because maybe it isn't "useful" if you're not in a position to rest now but you're planning to go to bed early anyway, but actually why on earth would you go to bed early if your body isn't telling you you're tired? Again, it's really easy to miss how tired you are if the body isn't sending signals until it's dangerous. Maybe it won't matter if you doze off at your desk because you didn't realize how tired you were until too late, but if you were driving because you didn't get the signals that "yes, you were tired", until it was dangerous, and also halfway through the drive, instead of in time to maybe make a different choice or hand off the driving while you were still able to concentrate? Its easier to push through fatigue you can't feel, which is fine and easy until it's dangerous and too late because you didn't rest, you didn't feel the warning signs.

Frustration and stress, okay. Again, it's not really helpful in the moment, it makes you less able to act and react when you really need to. Of course, like fatigue, it can have the secondary purpose of reminding the person that they have limits, and to slow down or get out of the situation before it gets bad. Too much stress and frustration means people walk away from the source of their stress when they can... and if it is less than useful when they can't, well, the body doesn't know which you can or cannot walk away from until the pain doesn't stop you! If it doesn't hurt, people won't walk away until they hit overload, and melt down, and possibly have much worse consequences (mental breakdown, chronic health problems, all kinds of fun).

SO in the end a lot of the minor discomforts aren't about minor discomforts, they're about preventing minor things from becoming major. And people can and do push past all kinds of minor discomforts and well into warnings and often enough, into outright danger - moving the bar for what's uncomfortable doesn't change what's dangerous, and it will make those limits easier to push (even when one shouldn't), and harder to tell the difference between when something is minor, or unpleasant, or heading towards dangerous.

Lots of times, with modern conveniences, we don't need to know minor things, and also lots of times we do need to know - and the MDR leaves us no way to know which is which. The body can't know if you're feeling a little bit cold because the building's thermostat is a few degrees off, or because you've been outside long enough your layers aren't enough. The body can't know if you're itching because your skin is twitchy or something dusted across your skin, or because you're having an allergic reaction in a few minutes. The body can't know if you can get out of a stressful situation until it tells you and you don't... or if you will get out before it's dangerous to your wellbeing if you aren't actually aware when you are pushing to the edges of your physical or mental capabilities.

And, a lot of minor discomforts are strongly, strongly related to minor sensations, the ability to feel things at all - getting rid of the minor pains means losing the capacity for minor pleasures. The MDR means loss of physical sensation in general, and few people will trade the ability to feel (even minor) pleasures for the inability to feel (even minor) pains. How much will you sacrifice of the warmth of a gentle touch, or the softness of a fluffy blanket, to avoid an itch or tickle? Or the pleasure of just hot enough tea or coffee warming you when it's cold out? The fine edge of discomfort vs pleasure of spicy foods or strong alcohol, where it is part of the pleasure? How nice it feels to curl up under warm blankets when you're tired? People must lose parts of those pleasures to lose parts of those pains, because feeling the difference is feeling the difference, for good or bad.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ IMO, yes. We need to have discomfort to tell us to look out for things. A feeling that it is getting too warm, could mean there's fire behind the door. The little cut on your foot that becomes infected because it started as minor discomfort. And what about pleasure? You can't turn off one sensation and leave another realistically. Sci-fi only works when you conform to the rules of the universe you created . $\endgroup$
    – WRX
    Nov 29 '16 at 14:35

This would make people more dependent on consciously thinking about how their environment is affecting them. Conscious thought is very slow compared to the automatic adaptations that we are used to, so we'd be utterly swamped in trying to deal with these things.

Of course, how bad is it to ignore a minor discomfort? Consider the issues when a muscle or tendon starts suggesting that it needs to be relieved. With our current body, we do so almost automatically. With this system, we'd have to consciously shift our gait to protect our knees. Interestingly, we have real life examples of this. For a period of time, knee replacement patients were told to use this artificial knee for as long as possible, pushing through pain. The idea was that you don't want to have to do that invasive surgery too often. However, they no longer recommend this. They found that the body's solution to the pain of the artificial knee put so much stress on the other leg's hip that people were blowing out their hips and needing an extra hip transplant!

Our little discomforts exist because evolution has found that it is beneficial to the average person to have them. If society has changed to protect us from this, then your little gene trick could be very valuable. Alternatively, if you were to improve yourself to where such annoyances were no longer beneficial, you may lose sensitivity to them. This appears to happen in some monks who practice martial arts who have learned ways to keep their body healthy that do not depend on listening to all those little annoyances. An example of this that I've seen came in the form of an individual who was looking at brain wave patterns in response to extreme stimuli. In this particular case, he was using a loud noise and seeing how people responded. Cops and soldiers, who had experience with gunfire, were startled by this. This startle was measured in terms of brain waves (you know, for science). In his travels, he came across a Yogi who, when given this loud stimulus, did not flinch at all. His brainwaves showed no signs of a startle. He had reached a point where it was no longer valuable for the brain to have a startle response, so it simply stopped having one.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you link to some description of this brainwave pattern examination? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 29 '16 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot It'll take me a bit to find it. I looked for the link when I was writing this, but didn't find it fast enough. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 29 '16 at 14:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Mołot As I expected, finding the story with the really exciting results is never as easy as I'd like. However, I did find a paper which, while its results are far less exciting, does demonstrate the effect in a controlled environment. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 30 '16 at 2:44

Items 1, 2 and 5 would be beneficial, especially item 5, which would result in a decreased serum cortisol level associated with stress, improving your immunological (and a lot of other bodily functional) health.

Items 3 and 4 are, I believe, misguided, and would be actively harmful.

Not being affected by ambient humidity would interfere with body cues regulating fluid intake and body temperature.

Fatigue is not merely inconvenient, but is a symptom. Symptoms are a sign of dis-ease and should not be toyed with. When one is fatigued, one slows down appropriately whether voluntarily or, ultimately, involuntarily, because the body must. When one has a persistent productive cough (a symptom), one sees a physician.

The Pathogenetic Role of Cortisol in the Metabolic Syndrome: A Hypothesis


Many will die of gangrene becasue they can't feel when blood flow has been cut off to tissue. restricted blood flow isn't painful it is a minor discomfort until the cells involved start to die, then it becomes painful, at which point it is too late and you have actually done damage, if your cold on top of it, you might not notice at all

Many will die in accidents or from poorly made decisions, (fatigue is caused by parts of your brain being low on neurotransmitters it needs to function) fatigue isn't your body telling you to go to sleep it's your brain function slowing down becasue key areas don't have enough neurotransmitters to function at full capacity. whether or not you feel fatigued you are just as impaired. it's like not feeling drunk even though you are drunk.

Homicide and assault will rise as will unrest becasue whole sections of their social controls and influences have been removed with stress and frustration. As will jobsite accidents as people stop being stressed by dangerous things. People will stop learning and advancing technologically or at least slow greatly as they lose a lot of motivation. Frustration is a major motivation to do things, to change a negative situation. Showing signs of frustration is also how we communicate to others that we are not in a receptive state of mind, or that maybe we are overloaded communicating this reduces conflict. we really only get frustrated with things with minds (or things complex enough we mistakenly treat them as having minds)

People will get sick a lot becasue their body now can't detect the ambient temperature and regulate their body temperature.

Skin disease will skyrocket since you have removed the itch sensation and skin moisture detection. which helps prevent serious skin irritation and infection.

in short you have just made life far worse and likely far shorter for those people.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer, although there are a few things I'd like to clarify - (1) Could you elaborate on why people would "lose motivation"? (2) To clarify, things such as loss of blood flow would fall under "painful" and would not be affected by the changes. Otherwise thoughtful, and intuitive and helpful to me $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Nov 29 '16 at 3:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ restricted blood flow isn't painful it is a minor discomfort until the cells involved start to die, then it becomes painful, at which point it is too late and you have actually done damage, if your cold on top of it, you might not notice at all. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 29 '16 at 23:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Frustration is a major motivation to do things, to change a negative situation. Showing signs of frustration is also how we communicate to others that we are not in a receptive state of mind, or that maybe we are overloaded communicating this reduces conflict. we really only get frustrated with things with minds (or things complex enough we mistakenly treat them as having minds) $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 29 '16 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ That seems like relevant info; perhaps it would be better edited into the answer itself. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Nov 30 '16 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ Sure thing, there is always a balance between answering the question and providing additional information. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 30 '16 at 0:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .