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    Is the cure worse than the disease?

    Six-year-old Emma is not sleeping when she should. Her whole body-clock is way out of kilter, and nothing her parents can do will alter it. My initial impression was – spoilt brat! Her parents become increasingly worried, but hoping that “All they had to do was gently pull her back in synch with the rest of the world” Soon they discover, it is not just Emma, but hundreds of thousands of people – of all ages and all backgrounds, world-wide – are suffering from the same disorder. There is no identifiable cause, and no way of stopping it. The ‘free-runners’, as they become known, have their own body-clocks, and cannot readjust to normality. As Emma’s father, Sam, explains: “The whole problem for free-runners is that none of those cues affect them! It’s no different from being blind to sunlight – except you’re also blind to temperature, food, exercise, social interaction, and every jet-lag pill ever invented.” Society adjusts temporarily to the free-runners, but then a group called ‘The Time Thieves’ claims responsibility for the plague – and demands one trillion dollars for the cure. A ‘cure’ is eventually designed – but will it really help? Emma (now nine-years-old) is unconvinced: “I already have the sun inside me. The one you see up in the sky doesn’t count” This story is quite far-fetched, but it does bring up the question of how far you should push people to confirm to normal conventions? Is it always really in their interests? Or yours?

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