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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Master Race, Made to Order? -- Bio

Recently, in discussing one of the items in my last post, I received some interesting feedback, and wanted to share the ideas that emerged as a result.

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Yep. They appear to have a technique that could make people superhumanly intelligent by altering the physical brain. And no one seems to have noticed. The mind boggles. Here's the snippet from my site where I comment on it and a link to the article where they discuss the nuts and bolts. (Without delving into the obvious implications.)

"Now here’s one of those breakthroughs that makes you wonder why they didn’t mark it with a screaming neon sign that says 'Blatant Human Enhancement Research.' It starts out innocently enough. 'A protein that's key to determining the developing brain's size and shape could be used to manipulate stem cells to rebuild the organ in adults.' But then they add, 'Underscoring the protein's impact, over-expressing it in rats gave them enlarged brains with grooves and furrows similar to those in evolved mammalian brains.'

"All right. I’m assuming they over-expressed this protein in very young or in-vitro rats. (Or that they would have to in order to get the fullest possible impact.) But nevertheless, we would appear to have the basic method necessary for developing superintelligent infants. Now sure, we don’t know how greatly a broad-based expansion of the brain would improve human minds, which abilities it would most effect or what drawbacks would exist. (Or how those factors would change with greater or lesser or targeted uses of this protein.) But nevertheless. We now have the means to literally create a whole generation of “superbabies.” And obviously, any applications for adult enhancement would be intriguing as well. And apparently, no one has even noticed."

One reader commented "Khan Noonien Singh will be born in my lifetime." (That's a eugenically engineered Star Trek superman, in case you're wondering.)

I responded...

Actually, this is one of those things I suspect could happen in the not-too-distant future. I don't think most authoritarian governments have much time left, but imagine if a tightly controlled dictatorship -- say, North Korea -- were to have thousand or tens of thousands of babies modified in vitro to have this over-expressed protein. And that they made sure the kids continued to have an excess of it in their brains growing up.

Imagine the impact such a country could have on the rest of the world if they had thousands of young adults who had been raised to be fanatically loyal to the state -- children of mid-level party loyalists, or simply orphans raised completely by the state. Imagine what would happen if their brains were as superior to ours as ours are to a mentally disadvantaged person (with no savant gifts) or a really, really high-functioning chimps.

Imagine what they could do to everyone else.

Perhaps more importantly, this protein experiment has already been pulled off in rats, just as the muscle-building trick you cited has been accomplished in mice. Which means these resources could probably be used now -- no major breakthroughs required.

To take another tack, imagine a major emerging power such as China or India testing out this method... and then altering the protein levels in their leaders', scientists' and engineers' brains. Among others. In India's case at least we (the U.S.) would be dealing with a democracy we get along fairly well with. China, on the other hand, hasn't made all of its intentions clear other than a desire to become the foremost power in Asia and, presumably, the world.

Hyper-evolved brains in the heads of the people who can do the most with them could completely alter the world's balance of power. Super-muscular troops are probably less of an issue, but physically superior ground troops never hurt anybody. And hyper-bright officers and weapons designers are apt to have an enormous impact on the capabilities of one's military.

So I ask, should democratic countries be ignoring this issue utterly? Just a thought.

Comments more than welcome. =)


Future Imperative

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