Delusions of Grandeur?
In my book, Destiny, I pointed out human propensity to repeat the worst parts of our past, endlessly. Ignorance supported endless wars from ancient times to our recent Iraq incursion. Low aptitudes and death guaranteed that most humans never would "get it" and that the few intelligent among us would perish in each generation, thus assuring that much learned about life would regularly be lost. The only useful legacy of knowledge or wisdom gained from earlier times is to be found in writings of the few enlightened people, or as copied to other media since the development of computers.
The contributions of those few people in ideologies and science and some other endeavors have supported our evolution, but we continually dilute ideals with programmed ignorance to keep the population masses from significantly influencing anything of note, even in democracies. We use science to enhance military power so that the will of the few in power can readily overcome any populist or external aggressive movement. And in each country in each generation we cloak our poor behaviors under a mantle of historical idealism, thus promoting the foolish notion that we are respectable. We are, in fact, slave owners and killers. All you have to do to understand that truth is to look at how many poor support the absurdly wealthy, and die at their direction in military conflicts.
Some of us use religion as the great balancing force that promises eventual fairness to all. Others of us believe that life is an endgame in which the only issue is personal success. Finally, there are a few of us who perceive that humans have the ability to ascend beyond our ugly past by harnessing the fruits of science to make us both immortal and of very high aptitude in all endeavors. It is only in very recent times that the third group has developed, and then only because discoveries in genetic areas made obvious the idea that we will soon be able to engineer humans.
It is to be expected that both religionists and endgame people will fight against physical evolution of Humanity. Both groups are completely undermined by any progression that permanently removes their power base, as both derive their power over common people by taking advantage of human ignorance. Yet it seems to me that both groups are inevitably going to lose. And the always-present group of "scientific" pessimists, who never understand the inevitability of progress beyond present knowledge, will be right up front with their denial of practicality in genetic endeavors.
As I look into our entire human history I see that no government has ever been able to stop the development and application of scientific discoveries. This happens because any group that uses science quickly overcones those who fail to develop. Basically, that means research and eventual use of genetic engineering is yet one more area where greed and fear will force everyone to get into the game. One might be deliriously happy realizing that truth, but human propensity to use any discovery for military or economic advantage should temper that delirium.
On one hand, legislative efforts to limit research are laughable, as anyone with half a brain knows the USA government will be pushing hard behind the scenes to gain a global advantage. Conversely, by forcibly removing prerogative from the public domain, such discoveries as are made will be used at the whim of the powerful. This implies that the values of the powerful will create a self-serving result that will only increase the differences between the powerful and the pathetic masses.
Lip service will be paid to religionists who might otherwise incite fear and anger among the ignorant masses, yet nothing of consequence will result from announced governmental refusals to allow people to "play God." As it was with the Manhattan Project, virtually everyone outside the inner circle of power will be kept ignorant of the reality.
There will be a gradual changing of attitudes among the common people as genetic engineering is used successively for disease elimination. Let us remember, however, that the elimination of diseases exacerbates the population problem, especially among the unproductive older people, and that is a serious problem indeed. Taking the long view it seems that upgrading people is the only way to succeed, such that we avoid lethal overpopulation by bestowing intelligence upon the ignorant who reproduce to excess today.
I recently read about another aspect of our technology that promises to have major impact on our ability to employ the ignorant masses. My son-in-law directed me to Marshall Brainís web site to review Brainís essays on the "Robotic Evolution." The short answer to the only important question about robotics is that within the next fifty years there will be no need for at least 50 million people working today in the USA, out of a total of 110 million workers. Thanks, Marshall, for, uh, making my day!
Massive unemployment will really upset the global economic applecart. To confine oneís view to only the USA, as Marshall did in the robotics essays overlooks the destruction to other economies globally where we have outsourced jobs. Isnít that a hoot? There is no example out of history where transcended technologies and jobs were maintained once better methods were discovered to accomplish a given purpose. I find that to be yet one more reason why we will use genetic engineering to upgrade humans. Of course, there may be terrible temporary discontinuities as we move from billions of ignorant people alive today to fewer billions of far superior people by the year 2100. And as I think about the last sentence, it is frightening, for we are going to act as a God without much useful prior experience.
My concern is not in the doing of the development or the ultimate result. I am far more worried about the transition period and within it the manner in which we support those who will not be part of the future. Will we be kind? Will our leaders demonstrate human kindness or their more typical blatant cruelty? While I obviously donít know what will happen, I do believe we need to address that issue early on and demonstrate, for once, the capacity of Humans to be kind to each other. I guess I really am an optimist at heart.
Okay, now letís get back on track. My preferred way of looking at the fruits of the future is to refer to those things in our environment that support us and which we did not create. Like fruit. What we eat, and the air we breathe, and the sustained temperatures necessary for us to live on this planet are indicators that we do not pay for what we have. These things are easily overlooked in our efforts to differentiate ourselves in our economies. That is, our assignment of relative value to jobs and the resultant pay scales pales to irrelevance once a source for supplying human need becomes self-sustaining and ubiquitous. So it will be with our future, both with regard to robotics and the production/supply of food and shelter.
The very idea that we can transcend most of the work ethic and human labor in general is overwhelming in both positive and negative ways. After all, donít most of us presently value ourselves based on our ability to earn a living through our developed aptitudes? Are not our economic systems based on the concept that we have to earn money by work to survive? Is not the concept of fairness violated if only a few bright people do all the work to support the entire population?
How might we find value in ourselves if we did not have to worry about our physical needs and do useful work to provide for those needs? Perhaps we could all engage in competitive sports and thus differentiate ourselves on that basis! Oh my, it quickly becomes clear that our entire mindset about values and personal meaning will have to change. In fact, if we fail to upgrade Humanity in aptitudes and lifespan, we will have no challenges, which could become dangerous indeed as boredom develops.
Isnít it great to be alive today? I find it very challenging to try to figure out how we will evolve in a Humanitarian way. I also find it extremely interesting that our pathetic basis for differentiation is finally being undermined in a most final way.
Whither Humanity? Is genetic engineering a delusion or a fact of overwhelming importance?