” ‘Our new biology’, adds Gregory Stock, ‘will allow us pierce the veneer of inside things so that we may reach the naked soul of man.’ In the words of Jay Hughes, ‘Re-engineered minds will permit us to think more profound and intense thoughts.’
Forgive me for saying so, but these sound like sentiments shared in the parking lot on the way out of a Phish concert. Look, environmentalists—and I am one—may overvalue the present and underappreciate the glories of the techno world to come. But I don’t get it.
The great Princeton geneticist, Lee Silver, in the conclusion of his book, Remaking Eden, on the gen-rich future, describes the immortals that we will build with all our new technologies, as different from humans as humans are from the primitive worms of tiny grains that first crawled along the Earth’s surface. He can’t find the words to describe these celestial beings; intelligence, he says, does not do justice to their cognitive abilities. Knowledge can’t explain the depth of their understanding. Power is not enough to describe the control they have over technology that can be used to shape the universe in which they live. So what do these sublime creatures do all the days of their endless lives? In his view, they dedicate their time to answering three questions: Where did the universe come from? why is there something rather than nothing? and what is the meaning of conscious existence?
With all due respect, these strike me as profoundly uninteresting, at least compared with the deep human questions, like how are you feeling, and can I give you a hand with that, and do you think you could ever love me too. It’s there that I end my defense of the world that we now inhabit.”