Directed evolution of the human species promises to leave very little to chance. We’ve all read about genetically-designed babies of the future, of carefully crafted societies where life becomes predictable and orderly, where humans are hatched from cloned eggs rather than born.
One of my favourite all-time reads is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a thought-provoking vision of one possible future of humanity. Although this new world is described as utopian, its citizens are mass-produced and socially conditioned into a tightly controlled caste system. Alphas and Betas are bred for intellectual pursuits and aesthetic appreciation while the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are conditioned toward menial tasks. Everyone is assigned a station in life. In a brave new world, evolution has been wrestled from the hands of “god” and placed squarely into our own, guided by human thought.
How courageous of us. How progressive.
But don’t get me wrong, I am in love with our techno-, nano-, info-, neuro-, bio-, co-evolutionary process. It’s the subject of my dissertation. I find the dream of human enhancement fascinating and the risks frightening. The irony is that the possibility of a fundamental transformation of the human species is very real, as is our total annihilation.
Consider this: Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Society) is an organization of futurists and philosophers (Nick Bostrom) who have been thinking about these scenarios for more than a decade. The Transhumanist vision has garnered the attention of general media and research institutions. In fact, my alma mater, ArizonaStateUniversity, led an inquiry into the Transhumanist movement which was funded by the Templeton Institute. This is big time research. It’s the subject of several TED Talks and has been considered “the worlds most dangerous idea” according to policy intellectualFrancis Fukuyama.
So I ask you, where does chance lie in our very imminent, self-directed evolution? What risks exist? What are the chances of the survival of what we currently define to be human?