I have made some crazy predictions in my time. For years I was convinced the Republicans would elect the first minority president. Go figure. It was the Reagan years. They seemed to be getting all the candidates right. I apologize.
Regardless, you can see my willingness to put my neck out there and for some time I’ve been doing neck stretches. I am going to predict the Smart Toilet. I know it sounds funny but hear me out on this one.
Our expulsions (piss, shit, and even vomit) carry a huge amount of information about our states of health. You cannot even imagine. Consider that our bodies consist of 10 foreign cells for every one of our cells and you begin to see just how vast the playing fields are in areas like nutrition and health.
Being healthy isn’t merely about keeping microbes out of our bodies. It can’t be. Our bodies are 10/11ths not ours. Being healthy is about keeping that other 10/11ths content. Well, at least as much as it is about keeping our 1/11th thriving. (See this excellent TED talk for a discussion of bacterial presence in us and inter-bacterial communications.)
Our gut bacteria are particularly famous. We believe (rightly or wrongly) that eating live-culture yogurt is good for that gut flora. It has been tentatively demonstrated that introducing particular gut bacteria into peanut allergic individuals can cure that peanut allergy (see here as an example).
But what is in our piss and shit?
Sure. Food. Or rather ex-food. Hopefully lots of fiber and probably some other indigestibles (I’m looking at you, corn). But there is a whole lot more. Our dead (human) cells; our dead bacterial cells (whether our symbiotes or our parasites); and a boatload of intercelluar communications chemicals (seriously, go watch that TED talk above).
In short, your piss and shit are really a cornucopia of data points concerning they who, what, and why of your current state of health. As we get better at detecting the tell-tale signs of diseases (from AIDS to zinc deficiency) through their chemical traces, the toilet becomes an obvious informational trajectory.
We visit the toilet a good dozen times a day (or more) and if it were capable of analyzing what passes through it and then pass that information to the ‘net, the skies the limit. You want a database of human excrement? It’s coming.
A quick scan of your shit might reveal that you need more fiber or you are deficient in potassium or that you have breast cancer. Early detection, I am told, is key to most if not all ailments. You use your toilet every day.
Warning: bladder infection eminent
After a night of heavy drinking it might advise you to drink water (because it should see the water imbalance) and maybe make nutritional recommendations (because it should see vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well).
For crying out loud, we are using smart phones to detect parasitic worms (and HIV and heart attacks and monitor Parkinson’s).
Smartphone Microscope Diagnoses Parasitic Worm Infection
So, yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but the Smart Toilet is the shit!