By : Jim Pinto,
By : Jim Pinto,
More than ever before, the world seems to be poised for rapid change. More and more people are beginning to recognize the naiveté and inadequacy of the present social order. There is an awakening acceptance that many of the old icons have been broken beyond repair, and that a new age is indeed being ushered in.
San Diego Mensan magazine, January 2003
A succession of unusual, and even cataclysmic, events have already been recorded in the brief history of this new century - a disharmonious Presidential election, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the stock market debacle compounded with a display of executive greed and corruption, terrorism emanating from extremists of the world’s second most followed religion, uncovering of a pedophile clergy and unconscionable cover-ups midst the hierarchy of a major segment of the world’s foremost religion. Indeed, there is no segment of modern life that is not currently in crisis.
More than ever before, the world seems to be poised for rapid change. Surely only the dreamers expect a return to the "good old days". More and more people are beginning to recognize the naiveté and inadequacy of the present social order. There is an awakening acceptance that many of the old icons have been broken beyond repair, and that a new age is indeed being ushered in.
The wild card that forces yet more shuffling of the deck and re-arranging of the deck chairs on the tilting Titanic is technology. This is fueled on the one hand by technology laws that dictate annual doubling of processing and networking performance, and on the other by the accelerating unraveling of medical discoveries and breakthroughs, centered on the decoding of the very essence of life - DNA and the human genome.
Cloned livestock are already proliferating - to the extent that some are demanding that meat from cloned animals should be clearly labeled as such. And cloned livestock are already banned from competition. Breeders are concerned that the opportunity for creative combinations may be eliminated from the process if they simply cloned the prize bulls. Imagine a flock of cloned prize cattle from 2002 in the year 2050: nothing new, nothing evolved, perhaps succumbing to a disease and obliterated. Hitherto, sexual reproduction has maintained biodiversity, which generated greater long-term sustainability.
Already it has been announced that the very first human clone will be born in January 2003, with two more expected weeks later. And millions of childless couples wait and watch for their turn to get a clone of their own, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are more millions of unfortunate babies waiting to be adopted.
Within a few short years - or even perhaps a decade, given that there may be problems that need to be ironed out - human cloning and genetic engineering will be commonplace. Of course, the conservatives will be leery of these unnatural methods; and the orthodox will insist, "God did not intend it that way." But, when the relatively safe and successful delivery of an increasing number of genetically engineered human clones is demonstrated, who will choose instead the dangerous lottery of the conventional birthing process?
With this will come the need for new thinking in all the systems of human society - laws, ethics, morals, theology, philosophy. Do clones have a soul? Are they allowed to vote? Can they be bred as soldiers? The specter of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World looms.
Just recently, I watched as my son, his wife and another couple watched with delight as their babies, born at the same time about six months ago, were doing similar things - moving on all fours, getting ready to walk, etc. I wondered aloud what they would say and do when another set of parents proudly announced that their cloned baby, born at the same time, was walking and talking already. One of the mothers declared spontaneously - "Well, we wouldn’t be their friends!" The ensuing discussion was interesting, to say the least.
Later, I mused about his parents’ response when my grandson announces that he was bringing home his new fiancée - a cyborg (synthetic human). How will my son (his father) respond when his wife asks, "Guess who’s coming to dinner?"
In the meantime, with human life-extension technology becoming commonplace, perhaps I'll still be alive at the age of 115, on my seventh career (engineer, doctor, lawyer, clergyman, plumber, space scientist and then politician) and perhaps I'll be dating some cute 90-year-old.
It is interesting to speculate what the elite universities will be like some 50 years from now, when genetically engineered clones and techno-humans (humans with intelligence augmentation) are a major part of student enrollment. One wonders what will happen when a majority of the enrollment at Ivy League colleges is genetically engineered and synthetic humans. Will there perhaps be separate universities just for "conventional" humans? Perhaps too, there will also be military schools and colleges training clones specifically for hazardous and heroic military operations.
And all the while, the gap between the haves and have-nots seems to grow ever more unbridgeable. For the majority of the world, the spread of disease is the most urgent problem. They see the west as greedy and arrogant to be calling for free trade and then not supplying Africa, for example, with drugs that are available because they don't have money. Millions of people are dying because pharmaceutical companies won't let poor countries make AIDS drugs. These are the people who will be following the old tried and true path of 'natural selection', not cloning and genetic engineering. They are facing much harsher circumstances than we are, and in the long run may turn out stronger as a result. And wouldn't that be scary. Imagine the justice they would dole out if they took power, and the "more advanced" countries were stuck with outdated genes, looking for DNA handouts.
Beyond this futile futurist thinking, today the mass of humanity continues to subsist on the edge of starvation, catered to only by extremists and religious zealots and political demagogues inciting ever more dangerous unrest. Within the next few years, perhaps decades, these worlds will collide.
In the midst of this turmoil of events, the ever-present media do little else than report and repeat the instantly available news. Each channel competes for attention with a succession of talking heads breathlessly breaking the news of harsh events as they unfold. Brash headlines count down the days to a Showdown with Saddam as if this was just another heavyweight title fight. And the global village grows ever smaller.
While disaster looms, the vast majority remains silent, feeling like helpless onlookers completely incapable of doing anything. And this leaves the minority fringes, the extremists, those who are willing to sacrifice everything - even their lives, acting from an utter sense of despair.
The conventional hard solutions are completely inadequate - tanks and warplanes cannot stop a suicide bomber. The impending war with Iraq clearly runs the risk of being the fuse that ignites far greater conflict. How many millions must die before the paradigm shifts? What is the catalyst that will signal the recognition that no one is right or wrong?
The mass of humanity yearns to renew itself, and the time for transition is near. The change will come when we care enough to ask each other, "What am I doing that makes you feel you must hurt me?" With understanding will come perhaps the beginning of a universal brotherhood of humanity.
Ever the optimist, I predict - perhaps I just feel - that the solutions already lie within the problems themselves. Inventive, innovative, caring, charitable, far-sighted humans will indeed find a way. The future will be a better place.
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