Beggars in Spain and Fullmetal Alchemist

The short story Beggars in Spain brought up the rather interesting idea of genetically engineering someone to not have to sleep. Or, more correctly said, to not be able to sleep naturally.

One of the things I found most interesting about Nancy Kress’ short story was her choice to make the Sleepless not only not require sleep, but actually be physically unable lose consciousness without drugs (or perhaps the loss of consciousness resulting from an injury). Although I find the idea of never having to sleep rather intriguing, and would probably be one of the first in line to have my genes modified to get rid of my nasty sleep addiction if such a procedure were ever to become available, I was put off a bit by the idea of never being able to sleep naturally. To this extent it reminded me of the character Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist. I’ll try to spare as many of the details for non-anime fans; The character of Alphonse, through a horrible accident has his soul bound to a suit of armor. Therefore, he doesn’t have a physical human body, but is simply an empty suit of armor, and retains all of his abilities, with the exception that he no longer needs to do any of the basic physiological needs of a human (he can’t eat, drink, sleep, or age).

Although to some extent Alphonse’s situation may seem to be physically advantageous, the mental aspect of not being able to do these basic human activities has a significant impact on him. In one particular episode, he talks about the loneliness of never being able to sleep – the seemingly endless hours when everyone else is resting.

Although Fullmetal Alchemist may be a different type of fiction, the idea of eliminating some basic human needs parallels the ideas in Beggars in Spain. In both cases, they have represented, to some extent, a rather negative aspect of not physically being able to sleep. So, my question to you is:

If you had the option of altering your genes such that you never physically needed, or were able to sleep, would you accept it?

And if so, what would you do with all your extra time?

I’m still rather unsure as to whether or not I would want accept such a procedure. However, if I never needed to get any sleep, I would probably spend some of the time catching up on some schoolwork and pick up a few hobbies as well. And, if it got lonely, I’d try to find people in other parts of the world to talk to.

Of course, I would still much rather prefer not physically having to sleep, but still being able to sleep if I ever felt inclined to.


~ by xanthochroi on April 1, 2010.

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