The closest medical researchers come to examining a body and its functions is when there is a cadaver at hand, or when someone comes down with an yet unstudied disease. While the former may not be as useful as a live test subject, in the latter case, much rests on patients and their families giving informed consent—this also must happen under the supervision of bodies like hospitals’ or medical institutes’ ethics boards and a host of regulatory agencies whose permission is required. Although this has not hampered growth of research in medicine and physiology, the many limitations have prevented scientists from making bolder efforts. However, technology may provide a solution. A paper published in Science shows that use of humanoids replicating human functions can become a good substitute for a live body understand its mysteries better. The article highlights that not only would this feature of bodily functions, but such humanoids may also provide an answer to how the human mind works. Mortal, mimetic humanoids, Kenshiro and Kengoro, would help us in understanding the principles of muscle control, learning and sensory nervous system.
However, it may still be decades before we fully understand the human body. More important, as great a help humanoids promise to be, there is very little way of knowing if they would perfectly replicate the myriad conditions of human physiology and anatomy. Like economists, scientists may also discover that there is no average as far as humans are concerned. But, even if humanoid experiments provide insights into just specific functions of the body, that would still be counted as success. Sacrificing a few humanoids on the altar of science would still be better than sacrificing more rats—that is, until some country declares humanoids as living.