Tuesday, October 15, 2002

I've been rereading a lot of biological anthropology books lately. Like Sperm Wars: the Science of Sex, and the Moral Animal. One of the things that that biological anthropology posits is that genetics influences behavior. In other words, that aggression and other bad behaviors may be inherited because they grant an advantage in spreading your genes. A man who is promiscuous, or who rapes, may end up having more progeny than a man who does not. And therefore, if those behaviors are genetic in some root cause, then by some estimations about 30% of our genetic material is derived from rapists.

Scary thought.

So, that got me to thinking about Iain Banks and his Culture novels. The thing I love about Iain Banks is how militantly, almost evangelisticly utopian his novels are. The Culture is a space based civilization in his novels, with no crime or poverty or war (with notable exceptions). It is explained better over at kuro5hin and by the man himself.

One of the ways that the Culture insures sane and rational behavior by its inhabitants is a practice Banks calls "genofixing". That is, undesirable genes have been weeded out of the population over generations. Not in any ominous way, like eugenics or genocide or whatever, but by basically practicing genetic therapy with every generation.

And with world events going on, I'm wondering if perhaps something like that might be necessary in our future. To build a sane and rational world, are we going to have to "fix" people basically? Are we hardwired for rape, war, murder? Will we have to change human nature in order to save humanity?

And what will be the cost? If we do something like that, and we met the Borg, Aliens, or whatever, will that doom us in the end?


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