The Lives of A Cell

The Lives of A Cell

By Susan E. Williams

Lewis Thomas slices the cell’s membrane open to reveal a vast ecosystem of interconnectedness, where mitochondria and other organelles that are descendent from other organisms co-exist and are co-dependent on our body’s native parts (see The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher.) He uses the cell as a metaphor for the earth and the interdependent connections that exist within.


With that same microscopic technique of looking at a cell to help describe our social and political landscape, new health and fitness technologies are enabling us to get a closer look at our bodies, our emotions, and our behaviors within the context of our daily living. No longer will you sit in a chair at your doctor’s office trying to recall what you ate, how many glasses of water you drank, which medicines you took. You won’t need to try to recall how you felt or what it looked like or where you were.

Now all you’ll have to do is whip out your smart phone, touch one of the many apps available these days for health and fitness tracking, and show her the record of YOU. Tap on the app and behold! This is what’s happening with me!  BAM! A holistic narrative, trapped in a time and in some instances, a place, will emerge in colorful grafts and images for you to share. There will be no more exaggerations, no more memory lapses, moments forgotten, squiggly memories turned alternative truths. It’s all there, recorded, charted, and set in digital stone.

Sensory apparatus like the popular Nike FuelBand or new mobile apps like Totem or GeoPalz (both of which were in the Nike Startup Accelerator ) monitor and encourage new awareness of one’s activities (and memories or stories told about those activities). Other health care tracking devices like Mango or WellKit help monitor chronic illness’ effects or the effect of the often times multiple pills and treatments one undergoes to fight X symptom from Y disease. What’s all this doing? It’s altering the way we pay attention and the way we modify our behavior. It’s showing us how, just like the inner-workings of cells, there is a suite of interconnected influences affecting our health and fitness, and more importantly, our daily choices about those things.

With this new microscopic lens on our daily activities, will people be more inclined to make better choices about healthy living? Will we just become immune to everything? Or will we all obsess (even more) over ourselves? Will OCD become standardized? And how will Western medicine treatment methodologies change? So many changes to behold!

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