In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, we are presented with a vision of our own distant descendants, where the human race has split into two genetically divergent species, the savage Morlocks and their meat-flock, the Eloi. Although this early example of dying-Earth fiction was written before the advent of genomic mapping, the dystopian future depicted could eventually become a reality.
Genetic engineering, cognitive augmentation and expensive gene therapies will widen the existing social Rubicon imposed by economic disparity. Deprived of nutrition, saturated in toxins, our physiology coursing with stress-hormones, we, the embattled underclasses, are unwittingly shouldering an indelible epigenetic burden. The effluvium of modern lifestyles is irreversibly staining our genes, with every smoky breath and tainted sip of water; methyl-markers accumulate on our DNA, and are passed on to our offspring. In the short-term, this isn’t a massive problem, but when compounded over thousands of generations, our race will become physically as well as socially delineated. Those with sufficient resources will be able to tune their progeny for success, with increased intelligence, strength and health. For expectant parents of the future-elite, genetic abnormalities and underachievement will be the footnotes on a closed historical chapter.
Current trends indicate that the birth-rate decreases as countries develop economically, but birth-rate and population statistics are becoming decoupled as people live longer, and therefore, a declining birth rate does not automatically equate to a decline in population. Exacerbating the socio-economic divide, new figures from the US show that although, in some areas, production is up, the number of human workers has fallen. This is attributed to ever-growing technological and software encroachment into the job-market, with the likes of Amazon, Ikea, and large consumer electronics companies employing sophisticated inventory and process technology. It is within the disenfranchised, low-income demographic that birth-rates are highest, and it is this demographic that commonly constitutes the bulk of menial labour and unskilled manufacturing roles. If those jobs are increasingly usurped by efficient, reliable machines, then a sizeable slice of an already restless population will be marginalised, hungry, and angry with their untenable lot in life.
As time marches on and the elite become physically, mentally and existentially separated from the redundant masses, the exploitation of this army of the dispossessed will ramp into atrocity. In War against the Weak, Edwin Black recounts a dark and little publicized facet of President Woodrow Wilson’s early twentieth-century administration of the United States. The dubious pseudo-science of eugenics gained popularity amongst government figures, and led to a campaign of chemical-castration against the disabled and ethnic minorities, even going so far as to include alcoholics and drug addicts within its sinister remit. Black’s prose illuminates the path that began with the Victorian polymath Francis Galton, and ended in the gas-chambers of Auschwitz. The book explores how the U.S. government’s sanctioning of eugenics methods lent a spurious air of authority to a campaign of sterilisation and enforced euthanasia against the so-called ‘feebleminded’.
These events, and those that followed in the Second World War, seem distant today, almost unreal, the regrettable actions of the ignorant and unenlightened, but, with social upheaval, and the troubling rise in popularity of xenophobic politics, it’s possible that, through genetic manipulation, a master-race will invent itself, both in thought and in action. A distinction will be made between the altered and the natural, the smart and the dumb, the rich and the poor. Perhaps, if we cast ahead, further into our potential destiny, we might see super-intelligent Aryans cracking a digital whip over their devolved and impoverished cousins, deep future chambers echoing with the pain of millions crushed beneath the tank-treads of relentless civilisation. And further again, until the overlords have shed their flesh to exist as pure consciousness in a synthetic Garden of Eden, the now unrecognisable sub-humans left to feed off the filth, converting toxic sludge to fertiliser as they worm their way mindlessly across land made putrid with neglect.
If we eschew epigenetics and compounded devolution, we are still faced with the ticking time-bombs of misguided, biased, ill-fitting programs of education, of fluctuating moral commonality and a burgeoning excess of role-model absenteeism and corruptive parenting. If we combine higher birth-rates with economically marginalised groups, then slowly drizzle in a generous helping of government irresponsibility, beat it all together with the whisk of societal unrest, and smear the steaming concoction in a glaze of technological advancement, we’ve a recipe for riotous dismemberment.
Psychologist Richard Lynn and political scientist Tatu Vanhanen have released two books based upon their research into national intelligence levels. IQ and the Wealth of Nations and IQ and Global Inequality are controversial works, scorned and praised in equal measure, but if we take their statistics at face value, we find a clear correlation between intelligence and economic standing. The heritability of intelligence remains open to debate, but there is certainly evidence that the distribution of wealth, both at a national and global level, affects the consolidated intellect of a nation.
In The Cosmic Serpent – DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, Jeremy Narby details his encounters with the shamanic practitioners of Western Amazonian. When questioned as to the source of their medicinal plant knowledge, they explained that, whilst under the hallucinogenic influence of ayahuasca, the medicinal uses of the jungle flora were revealed to them. Narby attempts to explain the unfathomable knowledge-transfer with science. After a great deal of reading he came across research conducted in the early 1980s, proving that DNA emits an ultra-weak, but astonishingly coherent photonic output, with a wavelength exactly correspondent to visible light. Could this be how the shamans were acquiring their knowledge? By reading the very light of life?
If we were to look inside ourselves, and bear witness to the light-journey of our own biological foundations, would we see every step of our evolution, the convoluted chain of species that connects us with the Precambrian, and then beyond, panspermia, the infinite universe, the void, the absence of all? Or, would we see a guttering candle, a flickering flame labouring in the smoke of its own exhaust?
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