Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Editing the Human Genome? Welcome to PARADISE GARDENS, http://maglomaniac.com/editing-the-human-genome-welcome-to-paradise-gardens/



Humans now have the possibility of editing our genome (NY Times
 (3/20). Ethicists are discussing the implications of being able to 
not just produce physically beautiful and intellectually superior people, 
but to pass down those traits forever. Of course scientists have
already edited the genomes of mice and other lesser mammals, 
though how that might change the planet doesn’t seem to be 
a concern. Superior mice simply exist to show the procedure will 
work on humans, the leap from mice to men is a small step.

This procedure, considered relatively easy, is sure to catch on.
Manipulating gender by aborting females is already a norm in
 some countries, so look out for a world of smart pretty people. 
Will this boon, the most coveted of human fantasies, be widely
available? Or will the process quickly disappear from public view, 
controlled by a group of mega corporations?

In the 1980’s, when I began my novel PARADISE GARDENS, I was
 reading an economics history about the passage of society from 
medievalism to capitalism. I was wondering under what conditions it 
might reverse and, for this fiction, it was fait a accompli in the
 2050’s on the Earth’s surface. In 3011 those futuristic medieval 
estates would flee to an underground feudal world.

The basis of those corporate business estates was the production
 of employees, whose individual genomes were a matter of 
inheritance based on family performance. They were determined 
by destiny lines planned by the “Psychologicians”, the keepers of 
the database that governed the UBS, United Business Estates. 
Beauty is a given, at higher levels for “average” employees than 
“superiors” with more intellectual decision-making capacity.

Admittedly, this is what used to be called “paranoid,” speculative 
fiction, rather than science fiction. But now the possibility is 
science fact. I believe it was Freud, who once said “paranoia is a
 sign of health in an insane world.” Perhaps, rather than ethicists 
wringing their hands, while licensing is already in the hands of 
big Pharma or other nongovernmental hands, scientists might 
consider a unified revolt–bite the hands that feed their research.
I ponder whether allegedly non-conformist, original thinkers could 
actually become worldly enough to seize control of a product that
 may be the zeitgeist of our time. Consider Wikipedia’s definition:

The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher
Georg Hegel but he never actually used the word. In his work 
Lectures on the philosophy of History he uses the phrase der Geist 
seiner Zeit (the spirit of his time)—for example, “no man can surpass
his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit.”

Are we doomed to a world, where beauty is not just commonplace
 but mandated by business? Where plastic surgery to banish aging
 is a requirement for continued employment? Where intelligence is 
only valued, when used to create wealth for the UBS? Where 
employees happily accept the advantages they receive for
 productivity, as they reach levels of their career?

Welcome to PARADISE GARDENS. Cautionary tales are just that.
 And even in the UBE, rebellion could not be bred out of a 
genome, just muted by other characteristics. Where the wild human
 soul is concerned, even psychologicians could not predict al
 outcomes. But, Cassandra that I am, I can see this one coming. 
Step aside, I think. Are we mice or men?

S.W