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In case you missed it, this was written in 1996. A very interesting read indeed. Yet it is somehow disappointing to see that 16 years later, there are yet not a lot of examples of what he calls the "self-designing" of the human race. Quite contrarily there's still a strong opposition (both amongst the legislators and the general public) against stem cell research and human cloning in many countries.



I would suggest you read cell biology papers from 1996 and from the same authors and institutions today, nearly 20 years later. There has been a pretty staggering amount of insight gained into how cells "work" and by work I mean where folks can predict changes that would occur by making changes in the structure of a cell.

As others have observed it is now possible to 'print' a virus using a DNA printer. Further there is growing evidence that viruses are a change agent for evolution as they physically re-write the genetics of a cell to propagate, and even after the virus is conquered sometimes their structure lives on.

When you combine those, you can see that we're approaching a point where a non-nation state actor (basically a smart biologist in reasonably well funded lab) will be able to code a genetic change, print up a retrovirus to make that change, and then instantiate that change in a test subject (or themselves).

Evidence suggests the first 'customers' for that technology will be athletes who are looking for an 'edge' but when it happens, it will appear to have happened 'over night' where something fundamental about a person can be proactively changed. Whether its baldness, red blood cell production, or the color of your eyes, the changes will be profound and for many quite upsetting.

The key is that people will be able to get changed without the regulating agencies being able to intervene and that will change things quite dramatically.


> Further there is growing evidence that viruses are a change agent for evolution as they physically re-write the genetics of a cell to propagate, and even after the virus is conquered sometimes their structure lives on.

Retro-viri do this. (Not all viri are retro-viri.)


Resistance is an important factor in guarding against runaway phenomena in dynamic systems. History has many examples of severely disappointed humans caused by too little resistance.


Dynamic systems tend to runaway by themselves, whether there is resistance or not. At the very least they tend to become unrecognizable from the original system within a short time whether there was resistance or not (which is chaos theory in a nutshell).


Hawking's point, though, was that it only takes one renegade to start on the track of deliberate genetic improvement, then they'll outcompete and displace the unimproved humans. That may well happen, especially among countries with looser ethical standards than most of Western civilization.


There nothing disappointing about strictly controlling that type of research and the experiments they're allowed to do. If superhuman's were to be developed it could spark off the same type of arms race that defined the cold war. Every country would want to have better humans ot risk being left behind


There is very little risk of this. We don't have the capacity to rival the raw computational power of millions of years of evolutionary trial and error. In the short term, any change to the human genome would lead to a net-negative. You'd have an army of inferior humans, not superior ones.


The goals of evolution are not the same as those of some country's army.


Fun trivia: EVE Online's lore is moving in this direction. And by "moving", I mean "going all in".


Loyal EVE vision believer here; what do you mean? Can you back this up with links and examples?




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