Many readers of my novel, Requiem of the Human Soul, tell me that the 22nd century scenario it paints of genetically optimized humans controlling our world is disturbing precisely because it seems so realistic. I wasn’t trying to create a dystopia in the novel – a gloomy future scenario of our world – but rather a realistic portrayal of where our global society will end up if we continue on the our current trends.
I see three stages of evolution towards the full blown genetically optimized d-humans in the late 22nd century. In the book, they’re referred to as d1, d2 and d3, as follows:
D1 humans could be with us as soon as 2030, only a couple of decades from now. They’re simply babies that have been screened for genetic diseases, and who have had their genes optimized for good health when a troubling gene is discovered in the very early stages of fetal development.
D2 humans begin to emerge a couple of generations from now. They represent the commercialization of genetic enhancement, when genes are optimized not just for health, but also for intelligence, beauty and physical prowess. In the novel, the first designer babies are produced in offshore havens, where the stricter rules against designer babies that exist in most countries can be circumvented. Then, as they get increasingly popular, domestic rules are relaxed and it becomes the norm for well-to-do middle-class parents to design their babies in advance.
Finally, d3 humans come on the scene around the beginning of the 22nd century. In addition to all the d2 designer-baby enhancements, they’re also neurologically optimized for enhanced character and better personalities. Only, d3 humans come with strings attached. In the early 22nd century, the world is just recovering from the Great Global Wars, the worst devastation in human history, that arose from the ravages of climate change. Everyone agrees “never again,” and this time they can actually do something about. So a UN law is passed that d3 humans must have their gene-sets for aggression and doctrinal beliefs subordinated in the gene expression hierarchy – thus creating a world that, theoretically at least, will never cause the destruction that we unenhanced humans – or Primals – have unceasingly brought upon ourselves.
[Click here to read an article in Harper Atlantic Magazine, dated February 2117, featuring a speech from Juan Jose Gonzalez, the newly appointed Chairman of the United Nations Governing Council, on the new way forward for global peace and prosperity.]
The graphic below shows the three stages of how humans evolve into d-humans. Click it for a larger version, or click here for a pdf version.
In Requiem of the Human Soul, our world is ruled by the d-humans, designer humans who are healthier, better looking and smarter than us mere Primals, or unenhanced humans. The book’s set in the late 22nd century, over 150 years from now. But how do we get there from our present world?
In these extracts from the PEPS archives (not found in the novel), the novel’s hero, Eusebio, tells us how Naomi, (his d-human advocate), first told him about how the d-humans had taken over the world from the Primals.
Because he’d spent his whole life in the “time capsule” of Tuckers Corner, Eusebio knew virtually nothing about recent history. Although he was a history teacher, his topics were the indigenous groups of the world before they were conquered by the West.
But Naomi Aramovich soon brought him up to date…
“In North America, Primals are no more than 15% of the population. The majority live in inner city ghettoes, and are virtually all either black or Hispanic. They couldn’t afford the early genetic optimization technologies that began to define the d-human species. The gap quickly became unbridgeable. The same was true for the predominantly white Primal communities in the less developed parts of North America, such as the Appalachian mountains and the bayous of Mississippi, as well as other marginalized communities such as American Indians still living on their reservations.
The few other Primal societies that still existed in North America were groups that had chosen to opt out of the d-humanization of society. Most were driven by fundamentalist religious philosophies. There were various Christian sects, who had split with the mainstream of their religion when, one by one, their established Christian denominations had proclaimed that the genetic optimization of the human race was consistent with Christianity. There were the extreme right-wing survivalists and conspiracy theorists in Idaho and South Dakota who refused to participate in the d-humanization of their offspring. There were the extremists of the other side of the political spectrum, who lived off the land, maintaining environmentally-friendly communities. Then there is my own community of Humanists.”
“In China, Naomi explained, over 90% of the population was d-human. Primal communities consisted mostly of backward groups in remote rural locations, or some ghettoes in the major urban areas such as Shanghai and Beijing. In the mid-21st century, the Chinese government had been the first to institute a national program of enforced d-humanization. Western countries began to view the Chinese policy as a threat to their global political power, in much the same way that the USSR’s Sputnik space flight technologies in the twentieth century led the USA to re-think its approach to space.
China’s began to enforce the d-panel on all couples in the name of social health and welfare. It became illegal to have a baby without using the d-panel. Within a couple of generations, China had succeeded in virtually eliminating many diseases from their society. This was considered to be one of the greatest steps forward that humanity had ever made.
Later, the government began to enforce the d2 technology: each couple had to choose from a small set of “minimum standards”. So, new generations of Chinese children grew up who all shared optimal features for a particular socio-economic group – farm-workers’ offspring would be born with greater physical strength and endurance; factory workers’ children would be born with a greater capacity for patience.
As a result, the majority of China’s population are now d2-humans. The ruling and wealthiest classes in China, perhaps 10% of the population, had the resources to use d-3 genetic enhancement for their children.”
“In India, the move towards d-humanization had been much more chaotic. The initial advances were made by the elite, urban, educated classes. As the d-panel became available on a mass scale, there were efforts by the Indian Government to apply the technology to the entire population, following China’s example. However, in India’s case, the application was not so successful. As a result of corruption at the regional level, and conflicts between different villages and castes at the local level, only about 40% of India’s population succesfully used the d-panels. This led to an ever increasing gap between the living standards of the d-humans and those who were to become known as the Primals.
To make matters worse, many poor families tried to purchase the d-panels on the black market, but received pirated, faulty versions. This created a new group in Indian society of terribly deformed people, with limbs and organs frequently misshapen. These people were without a home, abandoned by both the Primals and d-humans alike, forced to wander the countryside, begging for food.
Within a couple of generations, boundary lines became increasingly firm between the d-human towns and villages, and those communities that had never gained access to the d-panel. These boundaries quickly became embedded in the social structure and caste system. The two groups began to have less and less to do with each other. If a Primal entered into a d-human area, he would most likely be lynched, and vice versa.
The d-human communities became increasingly advanced and disease-free. The wealthier groups began to utilizing d2 technology to optimize the features of their children. Meanwhile, the Primal communities stagnated. Disease became ever more rampant in the society. Education and social standards declined as the authorities allocated more of their resources to the d-humans. Corporations would only employ d-humans in their factories and offices, wanting to maintain basic health and efficiency and avoid conflict.
As the difference in living standards widened, the economic gap also widened. A d-human worker in rural India now earns about twenty times more than a Primal worker in a comparable job. As a result, Primals are unable to afford to purchase the d-panel technology for their children, even if they were to desire it.
This has led, Naomi explained to me, to the current situation where the two groups, the d-humans and the Primals, share the same country, but share nothing else. D-human Indian society is a thriving, modernized place, where healthy people pursue their work and culture efficiently and productively. There is an increasingly large elite class that’s d-3. Primal Indian society has degenerated to the point of squalor. The Primal areas of India are ridden with disease and emanate massive pollution. Their agricultural land is highly inefficient, producing about one tenth of the possible food that d-humans produce from their land. The Indian cities are divided into d-human and Primal sections. In the Primal sections, the basic infrastructure has broken down. Sewage washes through the streets; hunger is everywhere; vermin share the garbage with the impoverished beggars. Violence is endemic while basic family structures have disintegrated as a result of the hunger, disease and hopelessness of the population.
As the gap between the d-humans and the Primals widened, so did the sense of a shared humanity. At first, the Indian Government attempted to provide welfare and assistance to those who had failed to access the d-panel technology. However, within a few generations, the political will to assist the Primals evaporated. The governing classes were all d-human, and they had been voted into power by d-humans. It became increasingly expedient and ethically acceptable to regard those who had missed out on the d-panel as a different species, as the Primals, and therefore not deserving the compassion and economic investment that one reserves for ones own species.”
Asia, Africa, South America
“While India is the most extreme example of the vast gap between d-humans and Primals, the same is true of most of Asia, Africa and South America, even though significant differences exist country by country.
In Japan, for example, virtually the entire population is d-human; there are almost no Primals to be found. Singapore is perhaps the only country in the world where there’s literally not a Primal to be found – it’s rumored that those who had not participated in the Government-sponsored d-humanization campaign had been secretly sterilized by the Government.
In the rest of Asia, the situation is similar to that in India, where a massive gap has arisen between d-human and Primal societies. The d-humans consist of the elite classes and the more prosperous peasants and working classes. The Primals represent those who had never had the money or political clout to gain access to the original d1 technology, and receive an ever-diminishing share of their country’s resources. The Primal societies in each country are disease-ridden, overcrowded, violent, polluted and produced barely enough to keep their populations away from starvation.
The same situation exists in the countries of Africa and Latin America. In each country, the ruling elite is highly advanced and has access to the latest d3 technology.
A significant middle-class enjoys the benefits of d2 technology, where they can customize the features of their offpsring. Among the working-classes and peasants, the more prosperous have access to d1 technology, and are free of the vast bulk of diseases that had afflicted mankind for time immemorial.
And, in each country, a big minority of the population, lacking the financial resources and outside the circle of corruption and power, labor in their original human form, suffering from disease and hunger, outcasts in the race towards the ever-increasing development and prosperity of the d-humans, who were once their fellow human beings.”
Middle East and Europe
“The Middle East, Naomi explained to me, took a different path. During the period of d1 genetic enhancement, most of the Arab and Muslim countries had distributed the d-panels through the mosque, rather than through the Government. From the outset, however, many local imams and mullahs rejected the technology, believing it was part of a Western conspiracy to undermine their genetic make-up, and against the tenets of their faith.
So, although the ruling elites of every country adopted genetic enhancement as it became available, many regions of the Arab world remained completely human. In more recent generations, a more disturbing development occurred…
When the leaders of the Arab nations and other Muslim countries unanimously adopted GALT , along with all other members of the UN, many d-human Muslims disagreed so profoundly with the principles of this treaty that they vowed to lead an insurrection against their d-human leaders. These people, who became known as the Rejectionists, viewed the human Muslims in their countries as natural allies.
Finally, Naomi turned to Europe, where the problems were less severe than elsewhere. Fewer than 10% of the European population were Primals. As in North America, most Primals comprised inner-city racial minorities in inner cities who had failed to take advantage of the genetic enhancements offered to them by the state. In Europe, d1 technology had been made available to everyone through the pan-European national health services. D2 and d3 technologies were available to all those who could afford it, which was the majority of the population.
Europe is exceptional in one respect, Naomi explained. It is the only part of the world which continues to offer a full array of health and welfare services to the Primals. These populations are kept strictly apart from the rest of the d-humans, for public health reasons, but they’re treated relatively humanely. In Europe, the Primal question has been transformed into an economic problem: over 30% of the region’s GDP is spent on maintaining the Primals, who account for less than 10% of the population.”
In a New York Times op-ed piece today, Adam Shriver proposed a whole new way to mitigate the suffering experienced by farm animals – breed them through genetic engineering so they won’t suffer any more.
In my blog, Tyranny of the Prefrontal Cortex, I’ve written a rebuttal of this idea, called “Animals Suffer? Lobotomize Them!”, where I argue that to do what Shriver proposes would be to destroy the animal’s soul before they’re even born.
This issue is strikingly similar to one of the major themes of Requiem of the Human Soul – do we risk destroying the soul through genetic engineering? I’m not talking about the Judeo/Christian/Muslim eternal soul here. Rather, it’s the essence of a creature that I’m talking about, the soul that arises from the complex dynamic interactions of all aspects of a creature’s existence.
In the book, there’s a scene where the hero, Eusebio, is taken on a visit of a 22nd century game reserve. The reserve was created using genetically engineered versions of creatures that had, for the most part, become extinct as a result of our 21st century devastation of the natural world. The d-humans of the late 22nd century are extremely proud of their creation. At first, Eusebio’s thrilled to experience what he thinks is the natural world. Then, back at Reserve Central, he discovers that every creature in the reserve is being micro-managed using transmitters and responders genetically engineered into them. As this sinks in, he begins to realize that he’s been hoodwinked, that in fact he’s just taken part in a 22nd century version of Disneyland.
What do you think of the issue? If we can use genetic enhancement to make up for some of the devastation we’ve caused – whether it’s the suffering of farm animals today or the extinction of wildlife next century – should we do so? If we have the technology to “play God” and fix our own screw-ups, is that the right thing to do? Or are we just on a ever-accelerating joyride on the human spaceship leaving Planet Earth behind?
Please let me know your thoughts.