22 October, 2008

travel in a genetically enhanced future...

Read below or listen to the podcast:

Travel in a genetically enhanced future.

Future Fact? Present Fiction:

The year is 2417,

The starship "redvector" is in transit to the nearest Earth star system of Proxima Centauri, the first decel. stage has been invoked by the onboard computer as the ship reaches it's 80% way point along the trip to the "New Brooklyn" Colony located on the Southern continent of the fourth planet, named "Quat" which phonetically sounds like "4" when stated in French. When this planet was first discovered and landed on over 150 years previous by the French Centauri Pioneer Expedition, the hope was that the planet would have some vegitation. Earth scientists had long ago determined the precise amount of water on the surface and knew that there was oxygen in the atmosphere roughly approximating the percentages found in the Earth atmosphere but they didn't expect to find a well evolved ecosystem of native living organisms both flora and fauna. All that is historical detail to Afusa O'Reilly, he's lost count of the number of trips he has made to Quat but he does remember his first trip, he left Mars colony on April 28, 2147. If you are astounded at what that says about how old Afusa is, you should not be. You see Afusa is not an ordinary human being like you and me, he has been enhanced by multiple genetic treatments , the first of which he received while undergoing his training as an astro-geological engineer in the Earth Space Administration, he was only 22 back then, the year 2138. The genetic revigorations that he received were standard for astronauts of the ESA at the time. Today, the program is a historical footnote of the ESA's nearly 300 year history because since the invention of full genome vigorations development back in 2032, the entire human population has been undergoing continuous vigoration and adaptation. Human's that will do much of their work in high radiation environments have genetic modifications to withstand the onslaught of radiation and repair cells and genetic damage at rates hundreds of times faster than was possible when Afusa first got his treatments. Human's that chose to enter theoretical astronomy and advanced biogenetics are usually those who have received neuronal density invigoration treatments , giving them artificial synesthesia that allows them to create incredibly complex designs and compute incredibly difficult problems without nary the input of a computer. Afusa received several courses of neuronal density invigoration in his days of training, if he lived in the 20th century he would be worshipped as a God among men.

Compute pi to the 1,000 place ? He could instantly beginning reciting it.
Instantly count a random collection of items? He can instantly blurt out the answers.
Determine the precise notes played in a piece of music played to him for the first time? Afusa still can recall music he heard when he was NA: 26 over 200 years ago.

And then there are the physical benefits of vigoration, the increased rate of cellular repair has slowed down the aging process to the point that humans (with periodic 50 year revigorations with a synthesized copy of their own stored genome from the very first time they underwent the treatment) are essentially immortal. There is one aspect of the trip to Quat that is new to Afusa every time and that is the approach to the 6th planet of the Centauri system, a massive gas giant with a radiant blue red atmosphere. He sits in the observation Hall and smiles as the ship slowly arc round the massive planets gravity well , getting a slight gravity assist as it rounds the horizon and reveals the distant centauri sun. No matter how many times he sees it, Afusa just loves the view. As he stands there gazing at the spectacle one would be hard pressed to guess his physical age. You see, because he has received regular invigorations since joining ESA he has an exceptionally great level of genetic preservation, his gvp score is rated at 99.348% by the ESA doctors, meaning that in the 279 years that have elapsed since his first revig. he's aged only a fraction of a few days as far as his cells can tell. To him these facts are insignificant realities of life in the 25th century, right now all he can think of is the feeling of cool water over his body when he jumps into the southern ocean, the "red vector" has been 16 years in transit to Quat and Afusa is just dying to experience more water than the few gallons that are allowed per shower on the ship. His smile betrays his thoughts, "16 years since I took a real bath but this view is more than worth the wait."

6 comments:

Francia said...

David, while reading this, I could not help thinking about Jules Verne. I think you have a talent for science fiction.. I believe this is kind of scary, yet fantastic. Scary because I believe that though science can bring benefits to all of us, I fear that those changes can make us less humans. However, I am hopeful; I want to believe that these changes will improve our lives without changing our essential qualities..

David said...

We'd first have to have an agreed definition of what it means to be human. Afusa though virtually immortal, still bleeds, he still cries and still feels pain. It is conceivable that some of the people that undergo "enhancements" may lack or gain abilities that today no single person possesses but does that make them less human or does it simply make them different?

The genetic revolution that is currently underway can only hint at the possibilities that we will make common place. The dawn of virtual immortality will allow us to break the limits of space and time that today deny us the ability to reach out into the stars. Ironically, it is by tinkering with our own makeup that we have the most likely method for achieving practical interstellar travel. Sure "practical" will be within the context of human beings that live 3 centuries while aging only a few days but this is what will be required for us to span the immense spaces and times that separate our oasis of life from other potential oasis in orbit about distant stars.

I have some fear of the possibilities that nefarious use of these technologies can realize. Super pathogens with incredibly fast rates of mutation and expansive vectors of infection could potentially be constructed in the lab to not only be lethal to particular groups but to particular individuals. As the difficulty of engineering these organisms is reduced our ability to destroy ourselves will multiply significantly beyond the current risks we face from nuclear annihilation. I however am confident that morally we will make the right choices, maybe just in time. The impetus for this confidence lies in our increasingly connected access to information through the internet and how it will humanize us, one to another. My brothers and sisters on the otherside of the world in Myanmar, or East Timor or Paramaribo Surinam are a point and click, an IM conversation or a VOIP phone call away. The proximity of information about other human beings translates to proximity of our empathy for those human beings and I truly believe reduces our ability to mindlessly make choices concerning the lives of others.

I have written on this subject in several other posts regarding the connectedness of information. Search the blogs and check out my ideas on the subject and thanks for the compliment. (regarding science fiction writing)

Derek C. F. Pegritz said...

This would form the basis for am excellent novel--one which I would certainly devour. :) I particularly admire that you are dealing with questions of rights and identity in regard to "enhanced" versus "unenhanced" humans.

In my own work, I've developed a "Version Tree" for humanity: baseline humans, without any recognized anthropogenic gene alterations or implanted cognitive enhancements are 1.0, posthumans are 2.0 (postposthumans are regarded entirely as Machine Intelligences, since they're primarily digital in nature), and between 1.1 and 1.9 are a wiiiiiiiiiiiide variety of people with an even wider array of capabilities. This is a quantitative measure, though, not a qualitative one: a 1.9 human is certainly smarter, sturdier, faster, and just plain better than a 1.0, but most First-World Western nations agree to abide by the Version Tree Protocol which gives ALL humans, regardless of version number and capabilities, certain inalienable rights. Of course, there are nations that do NOT follow the Protocols...but that's why they're the Bad Guys!

David said...

Derek, interesting idea with the version tree...though I wonder how the international world would ever come to such an agreement! As easy as such modifications will be to self administer in a few decades there simply won't be control enough (unless all nations become a lot more Gattaca like in their political and social structure) to prevent all sorts of rogue modifications being sold. It would be like trying to enforce a global version tree on the only extant system that models closely what will be possible with genetic programming, software programming. Programmers set their own version histories based on the changes they perform to their code independent of what any outside competitor or agency would dictate and as a programmer I can tell you not all changes come with the disclosure of an increase in version (at least for private managed developments..the open source nature of "open source" would be impervious to this sneaking in of new code but would still be subject to "forking" which is the bifurcation of a code base at a point where the developers reach some philosophical difference. There is no law (and can't be a law) against forking in open source. In genetics enforcing any laws would be next to impossible...though the idea of the world that results from the attempt might make interesting fodder for a bit of science fiction, go for it!

A! said...

Wow. I really like your writing David. Very cool.

olivier charitos said...

if you can think it, sooner or later, someone will be able to do it...