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Friday, February 05, 2010

Genetic Upgrade or Perish

It has long been proposed, by scientists such as Steven Hawking and many others that we must expand our species to other planets, quickly, or perish as a species. The reasons for this are many, but the most important reason is our sensitivity to global disasters. Many species would survive a massive asteroid strike, or some other natural disaster, but ours is not one of them. We simply don't have the stored resources to weather such a geological event. As such, it's only a matter of time.

There's a corollary to this however. If we must colonize... how soon must we do it? Again, there's a real time crunch. As we use up resources on this planet it becomes far more difficult, both politically and practically, for us to launch energy-hungry colonization missions. At some point we simply won't have the resources to launch. The race is between our technological ability and our resource consumption. Many experts estimate between 20-100 years.... or we've run out of time.

This leads me to a third conclusion. I don't think we have the brainpower, social will, and ability to actually colonize anything. What's more, I don't see that changing any time soon. Our pace of technological growth is fast, but not fast enough to keep up. Unless, of course, we accelerate that pace.

There are several genetic upgrades that would accelerate growth. One is to repair existing expert, but ageing brains to reintroduce the plasticity needed to adapt and improve. Another would be to improve ability directly. And finally, provided the first two are working, would be the extension of the number of productive years of labour of creative experts, increasing retirement ages and preventing the loss of intellectual capital.

Our ability to change, adapt and survive in the difficult or unusual conditions of our environment has always been our species strength. We wouldn't be here without it, and we won't survive the future without continuing down that road.

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