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Quick background:

I have a number of "alien" species that each excel in some small way (increased strength, eyesight, etc) so I wanted the humans in this universe to have faster than average healing.

Proposition:

I'm thinking my humans could heal 33% faster than what we experience in real life. So a broken bone that would normally take 6 weeks to heal takes 4. A common cold that might take 14 days to clear instead takes ~9. That being said, these humans aren't all-around healthier; they're simply reaching the same result in 66% of the usual time. So diseases like chronic illnesses that don't resolve naturally would remain the same.

Question:

Would a 33% faster healing rate drastically change our society? Would we see longer life spans? Or would there be detrimental long term effects?

(I'm hoping to keep the societal effects to a minimum for the sake of the story so I'm willing to play around with that proposition if I have to.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Societal impacts would be interesting though. At a 6 week heal time, many of us will hesitate to take part in an activity that has a good chance of breaking an arm. At a 4 week heal time, though many will still shy away, a slightly greater percent of us will participate. Sports could be slightly more violent as injuries are a lesser impact. War efforts see greater push towards healing wounded. However there can easily be darker impacts...if bruising heals quicker, you might see an increase of domestic abuse as the signs of it disappear quicker. Really wide scope, relatively small impact. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Sep 26 '17 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ no, @Twelfth, only healing rate is effected. If you break an arm you still break an arm. I don't know anyone who likes breaking an arm and hates it simply because you have to wear a cast for 6 weeks instead of 4. Also, it doesn't fix permanent damage. You lose an eye you still lose an eye 33% of infinity is still infinity. Also, plenty signs of abuse last longer than 3 days, especially the kind people notice and feel strongly against. $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 26 '17 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ @anon - Good reductio ad absurdum argument, nobody is going to go break their arm because the heal faster and ya need to give a facepalm if you seriously thought that's what I meant. Risk to reward evaluation that every brain goes through...reduced heal time = reduced risk impact = evaluate to less of a risk = more willing to do this activity. Each of us will evaluate this differently. Take a sample of 1000 of us and determine that 200 would consider it an OK risk now, doing the same in this quicker to heal society might see 250 of us take the risk. minor impact, still an impact. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Sep 26 '17 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ @birdy You may want to be careful with your wording in asking for "change our society". That's pretty broad. Enumerating the long list of effects could take a while and easily fall outside the scope of a good WB question. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 26 '17 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ If you can reduce the scope of the question to something like "what's the effect on raising an army", that's much more in-scope than what it is now. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 26 '17 at 21:36
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A subtle change has far reaching changes

This is a rather subtle change that will likely have far-reaching and unexpected consequences across all of society.

Medical Care

In-patient care can get very expensive very quickly (at least in the US, in 2017) so a reduction the length of a hospital stay would make medical care cheaper.

Middle-age Athletes

As humans get older they tend to slow down because of the increased time required to recover from exercise or injury. As a result, humans get an automatic 33% bonus to the period of their active lives.

Training Recovery

Beginning powerlifting training programs usually recommend between 48 and 72 hours recovery time between workouts. (Younger, better rested, better fed trainees will obviously have shorter recovery periods.) While a 33% reduction in recovery times pushes the lower bounds to about 32 hours, not quite to the absurd 24 hours required for an intense daily training schedule (for beginners. Intermediate and advanced trainees is a whole different story).

In general, this means that humans will have the capacity to train on faster schedules and reach their max genetic capacity in less time. Athletes don't take many years to reach peak. Now, it's just a few years.

Soldier Training

Because of faster training times, soldiers can reach minimal physical standards faster. This may have a knock-on effect of shorter Basic Training periods. Raising an army will take years (like it always has) but it will take less time than with classical humans.

The list of effects on society could fill a book. This is a good start.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. I'd imagine the 'red cross' on the battlefield would be a bit more prevalent too. In most conflicts, heal time is greater than the conflict time and pulling wounded off the field does little to help the immediate need...if troops heal faster, it'd be more worthwhile investing the time needed to get them back to the battle than it is now. Medieval sieges might be even more drawn out as an injured defender can get back to the walls @ 66% the time. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Sep 26 '17 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Twelfth I can see what you mean for wars that are decided in an afternoon but for any modern conflict where the combatants have really deep resource reserves, the recovery time of a soldier is usually shorter than the conflict. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 26 '17 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ Ya, my comment is more around pre-industrialized conflicts. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Sep 26 '17 at 22:04
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Unless you were writing, say, a detailed actuarial simulation game, I don't think 33% faster healing changes anything so fundamental that you'd have to address it.

You've stipulated that this doesn't have knock-on effects on the illnesses people have, but if you were really going to get into the weeds medically I think it would have consequences, depending on precisely what you mean by "healing". A lot of medical conditions can be thought of as an equilibrium between something that's damaging your body (infection, age, heavy drinking), and your body's efforts to repair the damage. If the repair goes 33% faster, the equilibrium will shift in your favor – you will get less sick, or not get sick, from the same things.

But there are still diseases (arterial plaque buildup, brain degeneration) which just happen over time and the body has no means to heal from them. And then there's cancer – if your cells "heal" 33% faster, does that mean tumors grow more aggressively, and are more resistant to chemotherapy etc.? You'd probably want to just fudge that question.

Overall, you would expect people to die from disease less often, and live longer on average. But it wouldn't be a radical change (70-year-olds wouldn't look 30), because there are plenty of things we just don't heal from.

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Faster healing could be a sign of increased cell division which could mean premature aging. Could also mean increased chance of faster growing cancers.

The brightest candle burns out the fastest.

Other than that not really. We need to be able to heal more rather than heal faster to affect society.

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Not really

As you said this doesn't prevent us from getting anything we wouldn't normally get. What this would change is it would make us more productive as a race. If we healed faster we would spend less time being sick or injured and more time doing things.

But this doesn't really change our society. Perhaps employers would be more demanding and offer less sick leave but again that's a questionable impact on overall society.

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