Stephen Hawking predicted race of ‘superhumans’

Here’s a troubling insight from one of history’s great scientists, via The Guardian:

The late physicist and author Prof Stephen Hawking has caused controversy by suggesting a new race of superhumans could develop from wealthy people choosing to edit their and their children’s DNA.

Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time, who died in March, made the predictions in a collection of articles and essays.

The scientist presented the possibility that genetic engineering could create a new species of superhuman that could destroy the rest of humanity. The essays, published in the Sunday Times, were written in preparation for a book that will be published on Tuesday.

Can’t help but remember this episode from Star Trek TOS:

Who can forget this blistering exchange between Spock and McCoy:

SPOCK: Hull surface is pitted with meteor scars. However, scanners make out a name. SS Botany Bay.
KIRK: Then you can check the registry.
SPOCK: No such vessel listed. Records of that period are fragmentary, however. The mid=1990s was the era of your last so-called World War.
MCCOY: The Eugenics Wars.
SPOCK: Of course. Your attempt to improve the race through selective breeding.
MCCOY: Now, wait a minute. Not our attempt, Mister Spock. A group of ambitious scientists. I’m sure you know the type. Devoted to logic, completely unemotional

The problem with selective breeding, as Spock later points out, is that “superior ability breeds superior ambition.” Instead of Ghandis and Einsteins, you get Hitlers and Napoleons.

Indeed, that’s the problem with all utopian schemes, from eugenics to communism — those pesky unforeseen consequences. Our minds evolved to adapt and survive in small social groups facing a harsh, unforgiving environment. The complex processes underlying the universe are beyond our grasp, just as our muscles are incapable of tossing boulders into orbit. Our muscles and our minds are not only useful, but extraordinary, but each have their limitations. True wisdom is the recognition and acceptance of those limitations.

That’s why we should heed Hawking’s last words.

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21 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking predicted race of ‘superhumans’”

    1. M.L. Kappa,

      True. I’m reminded of another great movie, Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Wonderful post. I remember reading an odd article at a UK news site that complained about technology’s negative portrayal in fiction. The author thought we shouldn’t be so fearful and wary. For some reason, many in the UK seem to have that “secular” faith in technology and “progress”. However of course, not every Brit is like that.

    A political activist I once read online from the UK also praised Strider in LotR, condemned the hobbits. He exclaimed that everyone wants to be Strider… I never really considered which character I want to be, but I very much admire the wisdom of the hobbit community and the humble strength of the mere hobbit who can throw the ring into the volcano.

    And of course Sam, the mere hobbit gardener, was admirable. Additionally, though Sam might not have been Strider, he did get married, presumably to raise a family. It’s interesting to me how a sort of dichotomy of values arises between the individualists worshiping dominance and the communalists who worship God, uphold their duties, and enjoy life. “Communalist” can be replaced as you wish; the meaning is the obvious. I continue to see what I’m calling “individualist” values in other material. Maybe in truth some sort of balance is best since it’s very easy to take anything to an extreme, but the balance wouldn’t be to “evolve” into a “superior” entity. I’ve been inclined to just preserve the strength we have, not to improve upon creation via unnatural means.

    Managerialists (ie. corporate and government managers) and highly paid specialists sometimes seem to focus on their individual egos and careers, neglecting to have children. So, many of the wealthy and otherwise powerful might not choose to develop their children. A popular saying is how great men have a great women behind them. Well, great children likely often have great parents behind them, parents who maybe sacrificed their careers to some degree.

    One addition to my tangential rant: Those objective scientists might be quite emotional. Like Elon Musk, they might imagine their own minds to be most superior. The true way “survival of the fittest” works is simply that some scientist might manage to have great influence, regardless whether that influence is truly beneficial when judged by one objective standard or another. It’s really propagation of he who propagates.

    Liked by 1 person

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