How to make an almond - How to make a post-human being
I am enjoying Chapter 7, "How to make an almond", about plant domestication. It is interesting how humans selected a few plants for increased growth by chance, say around the latrine. Later other more sophisticated choices were made without understanding the underlying principles. Selecting peas with pods that didn't burst, mutants that germinated every year, or mutants that were able to self-pollinate. Interesting to see how quite sophisticated crops were developed without understanding anything about genetics. I look forward to Chapter 9, "Zebras and other unhappy marriages", which appears to be about animal domestication.
This subject got me thinking about a parallel with another book I've been puttering around with. Gregory Stock is director of the Program on Medicine, Technology, and Society at the School of Medicine of the University of California at Los Angeles. He has written Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future.
I haven't gotten very far into it, but he makes a strong argument that human genetic engineering is inevitable and cannot be stopped. It will grow out of our desire for such improvements as plastic surgery, artificial knees, and improved life for children. We already accept fertilization in the laboratory and so will accept "new biotechnology that will allow scientists to delay aging and to insert genes that enhance physical and cognitive performance, combat disease or improve looks into embryos."
I hadn't thought about this until I read Chapter 7 in the Diamond book, but it sounds like we are now engaged in redesigning the human animal without understanding the potential outcomes or principles. Perhaps in the distant future, a descendant of Jared Diamond will document how we transformed from homo sapiens-sapiens into homo super-sapiens without realizing it.
I also wonder in what other areas of nature we are making similar dimly understood choices that radically change the genetic future. Edited by: LanDroid at: 10/18/02 7:42:34 pm