And I don’t want to hear you complaining that everything makes me cranky! I get especially grumpy about armchair futurists making pronouncements about biology when they don’t know a thing about it.
Chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy, Enriquez says that humanity is on the verge of becoming a new and utterly unique species, which he dubs Homo Evolutis. What makes this species so unique is that it “takes direct and deliberate control over the evolution of the species.” Calling it the “ultimate reboot,” he points to the conflux of DNA manipulation and therapy, tissue generation, and robotics as making this great leap possible.
The day may come when we are able to take the best biology of the known animal kingdom and make it part of our own. This isn’t just about being a bit stronger, or having perfect eyesight our whole lives. All of our organs and limbs have weaknesses that can be addressed, and there are also opportunities to go beyond basic fixes and perform more elaborate enhancements. At a private lunch on Thursday, Enriquez spoke of a young girl who, after suffering a knee injury, received tendon replacement therapy centered around tendons grown in a lab. It not only fixed her knee, but made it stronger than normal. Later in life as she pursued life as a professional skier, he coach actually asked that she have the same surgery on her other knee to increase her abilities.
Every species is new and unique. Humans have some unusual specializations, but it doesn’t warrant his misplaced enthusiasm. Every species also takes control over its own evolution, in a sense; individuals make choices of all sorts that influence what will happen in the next generation. You could rightly argue that they don’t do it with planning and intent, but I have seen nothing that suggests that our attempts to modify our species, low tech and high tech together, are any wiser or better informed about the long-term consequences than those of any rat fighting for an opportunity to mate. We do what we do; don’t pretend it’s part of a long term plan that is actually prepared for all of the unexpected eventualities.
And then, of course, what does he talk about? Phenotypic patchwork! That isn’t evolution at all. That girl’s children will have whatever tendons her genetics grant them, without regard for the surgeon’s tinkering. Then he has the gall to claim that this warrants the designation of a new species? Hah. I wear eyeglasses. I declare that I am a member of Homo oculis! I read and communicate with text, so I’m now a member of Homo literatus! I’ve had my appendix removed, therefore I am part of the bold vanguard of Homo sanscecum!
And don’t get me started on Ray Kurzweil. That guy is bonkers.