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It's A Double-edged Sword, And Both Edges Are Sharp

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Posted by Mario Dovalina on September 11, 2001 01:53:43 UTC

Well-Dressed Genetic Makeover Salesman: Hi, Person A, wanna buy a genetic makeover?

Person A: "No, I don't want to tamper with my genes."

Well-Dressed Genetic Makeover Salesman: "Fine, but you'll have to deal with the many imperfections that evolution has dealt you. All the gene fragments that have been left over by invading bacteria, all the genes left over by genetically damaged ancestors, and all the genes mutated by radiation damage. In the end, you are a hodgepodge of different parts which work together by pure chance now, but decades down the road, when you're dying of cancer from damaged cells, or when you're hooked up to a dialysis machine as a result of renal failure, or when you're babbling incoherently from Alzheimer's disease due to degenerative brain damage, you'll wish with all of you that remains that you'd taken this opportunity. Would you rather lay all your existence, everything you are, on a roll of the dice, or would you take the bull by its horns and iron out all the wrinkles nature dealt you? Nature doesn't care about the individual. Do you know why diseases like Alzheimers haven't been diluted out of our genetics? Because their symptoms begin AFTER you've passed child rearing age! 'Mother' Nature keeps you aroung long enough to procreate, then lets you die in a pool of your own feces. That bitch. So are you going to go gentle into that good night? Are you going to die a slow death at the hands of your own body? Or will you make yourself better, stronger, faster then before? We have the technology. We can solve all of Mankind's woes, no longer will we have the weak, the infirmed, the retarded. We, all, every one of us, will be perfect. Imagine a world with no more murder, no more sadness, no more poverty, no more ignorance, no more war, famine, or suffering. And you would throw it away, clutching vainly to some imagined 'ideal'? We can all work together as a race from here on out, or we can accumulate ever greater and more destructive technology, put it in the wrong hands, and wait for the world to end. Or, will we repair our genetic faults, get up out of the mud, and gaze forward confidently into an infinitely bright future?"

Person A: "Hey, man, you're right! I think I WILL buy a makeover! How much? I've got twenty six bucks on me."

Passing Unshaven Homeless Person: "Don't get suckered into this, man. You'll be transferred from a randomly imperfect world to a deliberately constructed one. There are other problems to consider. If we were to genetically engineer the perfect human, any differentiation in the genetic code, no matter how minor, would result in the kind of social stratification and tension that we see, and fight against, today. Only now, it's all consciously predetermined. Social differences are now chosen by chance, which is bad enough, but imagine a world where our faults and failures were determined by someone in an ivory tower, deciding that the world needs more concrete workers and less musicians? Or people with more intelligence but with a shorter lifespan? Suddenly, rather than serendipity choosing our own shortfalls, it's all consciously, calculatingly carried out by our overseers. Even today, if we were to begin just by correcting small genetic imperfections, it would gradually expand until we were engineering personalities, likes, dislikes, even favorite colors. Regardless of the nature of the self, it is better in this case to leave this part of ourself tainted by nature and untainted by man.

And this assumes that our overseers, the genetic engineers in control of the situation, have the good of the world at heart. Do you think that this 'Utopian' society would last forever? Isn't it more likely that some controlling group in the government would eventually work in genetic code to make the populace more complacent and obedient? Power exists to propogate itself, after all. Blind luck is often a better companion than a sharp-eyed devil.

Clearly, the only solution to this problem of stratification and power-grabbing would be a totally homogenous population: no imperfections, no differences, genetically perfect in every way. But is this really the kind of world you want to live in? A world of drab grey, where everyone thinks the same thoughts, lives the same lives, and lives forever? Imagine this exchange:

'So, what do you want to eat tonight, Frank?'

'I dunno, Frank, what do you want to eat tonight?'

'I was thinking McDonald's, Frank.'

'You mean like the last 12,731,452 nights? Sure thing, Frank! I'll just grab $8.57 (plus $1.71 for a 20% tip to the cashier) and we'll be on our way!'

'Does the Camry have any gas in it, Frank?'

'12.8289370982 gallons left, Frank! That will be plenty for the 6.392721 mile drive to the restaurant, then factor in 8.328721 seconds of having the car in idle, and we'll only go through .6674521 gallons tonight.'

'Sounds great, Frank! Let's go!'

And this doesn't even factor in the population. Ostensibly, a genetically perfect human being would never die of old age. After a few generations, you don't think it would get a LITTLE crowded around here? So what's the solution then? Population control centers? Once you get tired of life, just walk into a suicide booth and die, making room for one more identical life? Welcome to Utopia."

Well-Dressed Genetic Makeover Salesman: "You're only using worst-case scenarios, you ignorant, useless bum! We as a species need these changes to survive much longer. Most of the changes you described are inevitable in any case. I just help to make it bearable!"

Passing Unshaven Homeless Person: "It's better to be shot than to shoot yourself, isn't it? You'll doom humanity to eternal hell!"

Well-Dressed Genetic Makeover Salesman: Eternal hell? Life is what WE make of it! Not what fate does!

Passing Unshaven Homeless Person: Shrivel and die, you thinly veiled Nazi conspirator! I fart in your general direction!

Well-Dressed Genetic Makeover Salesman: Ha! I'll bring you down, you closed-minded, tunnel-visioned, imperfect-and-loving-it fool! (pulls out knife and lunges at Passing Unshaven Homeless Person) Yeaaaarrrrrghhhh!

Person A: (shoots himself)

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