New Human Variant is Needed
Persian Article مقاله فارسی
Kurzweil's Comment 2/6/11: Thanks, well done, Sam.
In the industrial society of the last three centuries, the visionaries of both capitalism and socialism focused their attention on economics. Adam Smith was the economist for capitalism and Karl Marx was for socialism. The modern futurists such as Ossip Flechtheim (1) and Bertrand De Jouvenel (2), after the end of WW2, who came to the conclusion that neither capitalism nor socialism provide the framework to solve the issues of freedom and economic justice, focused on the need to go beyond the industrial society itself; nonetheless, they had their focus on *economics*. And later, Daniel Bell, the prominent theorist of Information Society in his book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, still had his focus on economics and in fact considered his work as the next volume of Marx's Capital. Also, futurists like F.M. Esfandiary (3), FM-2030, discussed human engineering, but still such changes were seen as long term factors impacting current social development, and the global change was still viewed as the development of the information society.
Ray Kurzweil has shown us the imminence of major changes in human body and mind in his seminal work The Singularity is Near (4), where he predicts the Singularity to be around 2045. For my own part, in 1985, viewed Intelligent Tools to be imminent to be the cornerstone of production both with regard to what the tools had been and what humans had done as tools (5). But today, thanks to the eye opening work of Kurzweil, I see that the human, as far as its needs are concerned, must become a new variant in order to achieve a just and free world.
It is interesting that all pre-Kurzweil futurists including FM-2030 focused on economic theory, whereas Kurzweil has made his mission not only to predict the *nearness* of Singularity but actually to try to play a major role in how this change will usher in. Although he does not say that he is being an agent of the new upcoming mutations for a new human variant, it seems inevitable to me to conclude from his work that this is what he sees as imminent.
Hitherto, all mutations were basically errors at the genetic level, and viable mutants survived, whether their predecessors vanished or continued to live in parallel (6). Formerly, humans have artificially started new species, such as by grafting trees or making new dog species, which hardly differ from their predecessors in terms of basic needs, but instead differ in some traits such as fur color or facial features. But now we have the advent of new genetic modification by gene therapy and site-directed mutagenesis to make mutants that can be significantly different from existing species. Using these methods, a new human variant should be significantly different in its *basic needs* from its predecessor exactly because of the economic factor in the global reality, which is talked about the least by those who correctly see this evolutionary change in the horizon.
All the focus of economic, social and political thinkers in industrial society, and even before that, going to ancient thinkers, had been the issue of humans' basic needs. In other words, food, clothing and shelter are central to any social or political thought, because any sociopolitical model has to be able to provide the basic needs for the humans it is being proposed to manage. This factor even is at the heart of systems like slavery that required slave masters to be able to provide the minimum basic needs for more than themselves in order to own a slave. Now if the issues of the needs of the growing human population can be addressed by a variant whose needs could be modified, rather than trying to modify the socioeconomic reality to fit the existing needs, as has been the case for the last 10,000 years, in effect, we are solving the economic issue without really trying to come up with an economic model. In other words, rather than focusing on envisioning an economic model which can provide social justice for humans as they are, we will focus on envisioning a new variant whose needs can be addressed with the current state of technology and natural resources in the world.
This proposal is not an exercise in science fiction but instead the real futurism for our time. What has remained of modern futurism of the turn of the 20th Century is nothing more than analytic forecasting, and there is hardly anything visionary in it. This is why Alvin Toffler himself ends up supporting Newt Gingrich for his vision of future US economy and social change (7), because frankly, forecasting about information society can hardly come up with any novel solution to the old structures of the industrial society, which in both its capitalist and socialist forms has long been nonfunctional. Even in the largest economy in the world -- the U.S. -- poverty can be seen in the homeless sleeping in snow a few blocks from the White House in DC, and 47 million people without even basic healthcare are living in the U.S. And Europe with all its socialist tradition is not in any better shape either. European countries are even cutting retirement benefits when more people are living longer lives -- which is becoming bad news rather than good news -- because human needs are not changing although humans are able to live longer.
Not all mutations are good. Many mutations are deleterious or neutral. And we cannot wait for a specific desirable mutation to happen over the course of time (8) and in response to what Kurzweil calls *accelerated change*, humanity needs to work for *accelerated evolution* (9). Thus, we should not wait for inducing the desirable mutation. Any ethical system that considers such action as unethical will leave humanity vulnerable to the worst conditions, while we witness the accelerated growth of Information Society. Obsolete ethics cannot provide the answer to the current dilemma of the human species, no matter how much it calls itself spiritual. We need to change our ethical views, which are more of an obstacle, than our economic theory.
The centrality of needs rather than work is the major difference between what futurists are facing today and what the leading thinkers faced in 19th Century.
Planning for a new human variant is not limited to discussions for or against trans-humanism. Ray Kurzweil believes that we will not have trans-humans, but rather it will be the humans who will make the leap as Homo sapiens sapiens have done many times in the course of evolution. Others want to refer to this change as trans-humans. The point is not about traits as much as the needs. A new variant with suitable needs to the global reality is the epochal change that can make a just and free society feasible for humanity.
An example of an animal species with radically different basic needs from most other animals may be found in the Tardigrades, also known as water bears (10). Tardigrades are able to survive and reproduce in extreme temperatures, radiation, and space vacuums.
The discourse regarding a new human variant involves a mechanism for this transition. One would need to induce mutations in the human genome in order to create changes in phenotype and develop new human traits, but how would one know what to mutate, especially if these mutations are hitherto unobserved? Another issue is how to run experiments using accurate models and overcome any ethical barrier in order to observe the effects of various mutations on phenotype in humans.
Once this variant is developed, would it be a species or subspecies? In order to qualify as a new species, the variant must not be able to reproduce naturally and make fertile offspring with a typical human. We should research this, because if the new variant is able to do so, then it might be a new subspecies instead of a species.
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
Number_of_mutations_per_population_per_generation=(6.4mutations/individual)(6.486*10^9individuals/population)=41.5*10^9mutations. So the one-half of DNA one inherits from his/her father or mother differs from theirs by 3 mutations. For chromosomal mutations versus point mutations (a nucleotide changes) see: http://www.1lec.com/Genetics/Chromosome%20Structure/index.html
New Variant to Meet Human Needs-An Electronic Book
واریانت جدید برای تأمین نیازهای بشر- کتاب الکترونیک