My previous posts on the future of work have leaned toward the pessimistic, for example, A World with Too Few Decent Jobs. My articles on genetic enhancement have generally been agnostic, for example, in this conversation with Harvard's George Church, the father of gene editing. In addition, popular Hollywood movies always present genetic enhancement as negative: dystopian if not downright apocalyptic, from The Boys from Brazil and Blade Runner to The Matrix, to the now-in-theaters Dark Mirror.
This post offers a counterbalance to all that negativity, a perhaps too optimistic vision.
It is the year 2078 and the world has finally recovered from the so-called Viral Revolution. It started in the U.S— the inevitable explosion by The People who could no longer tolerate the mammoth and growing income inequality. Then, like a viral YouTube video, the revolution spread worldwide, even to authoritarian leviathans like China and Russia.
Now, in most countries, people are treated more equally: universal taxpayer-paid health care, transportation, housing, food, indeed all the basics, including a guaranteed basic income.
But all is not roses: People are pretty equal but can more accurately be described as equally poor. The high income tax rate combined with the relentless disparagement of society’s Haves has reduced people’s desire to work and to produce. So product shortages are severe and people must find their life’s meaning in creative expression, relationships and, alas, drugs. Marijuana and soon hallucinogens and even opioids became legal worldwide because the few holdout countries that were worried about legalization's severe health effects were forced to capitulate as the drug-hungry populus swarmed neighborhood countries to get their chemical feel-goods, anesthetics to their life’s penury.
Indeed, Adam and Sophia were high when the next Big Event started. First, they thought it was a hallucination but knew it was real when the slender, silver rocket descended onto their homette's nanofiber lawnette. A door halfway up the rocket opened and three four-inch balls, one tan, one, green, one purple, emanated and floated down onto the lawnette. Adam and Sophia crept outside to find that the balls spoke English.
The tan ball said, “We are from astral coordinates DZB, QRP, MVS, BRQ and we have received a neutrino impulse from Earth.
Sophia asked, in her stilted voice, “How do you know English?”
The green ball responded, "We all have advanced artificial intelligence. Speaking languages is nothing. We are able, in most instances, to calculate optimal individual and societal behavior.”
Adam asked, “Okay, so what’s the optimal societal behavior for Earth.”
The purple ball said, “Our team of six, which rules our planet—That's the ideal form of government, selected by our AI system's prediction of who will do the most good for the planet—has determined that we will take over the earth.”
The tan ball added, “Actually, we’ve already taken over. You just don’t realize it yet. This week, we’ve released from our airborne vehicles, which are invisible to earthlings' detection systems, our Gentle Takeover Genome Replacers: Each is nano-sized so we could easily release enough to be breathed by everyone on earth three times over. For one week, you notice no changes in yourselves even though during that week, everyone’s genome is slowly being replaced with ours. At the end of the week, the Replacer chemically flips a switch whereupon each earthling will start to become dramatically more intelligent, altruistic, and peaceable—You’re a quite primitive civilization, actually. Frankly, it’s because Earth is among the most primitive of the "advanced" planets that we decided you’d be next on our list.
Sophia exclaimed, “Next?”
The tan ball laughed. "I think we’re up to about 4,000 by now."
Green added, “We’re a little nervous about other planets taking us over!” We're hopeful that any planet with the AI to do that will be even more altruistic than we are—Only foolish AI would be malevolent. But who knows?"
Adam asked, “So what’s going to happen to the earth after the week?”
Purple said, “Earth will slowly become like the other 4,000 planets: no more crime, no more wars, all your intelligence will cure cancer, provide good work for all, elect better leaders—We learned that your presidents have included a peanut farmer, a B actor, a sleazy businessman, and a talk show host.
Tan asked, “Her name was Opah?”
Adam said, “Not quite but I know who you’re talking about. She served four terms before being replaced by Brutus, a wrestler.
The balls laughed, waved goodbye, floated up into their space needle, and it soared away.
Three years later
In Adam and Sophie's immersion room with all four walls being ultra-OLED 3D screens, they're watching the first anniversary celebration of one-world government at the United Nations. One of the world's six leaders rises to speak:
It seems appropriate today that we look back at our accomplishments since DZB, QRP, MVS, BRQ bestowed its genome upon us. It was just three years ago yet the accomplishments, I must say, dwarf what we earthizens had accomplished in the previous 100:
We’ve permanently figured out how to keep government and banks from retaking the financial system from cryptocurrencies. That will keep trillions of dollars in the people’s hands.
Our artificial intelligence system has optimized the amount of the guaranteed basic income so it still provides incentive to work while providing life's basics to all. And our AI in-home edutainment system, with its profound understanding of how to teach and motivate people, has given nearly all our populus— with its genetically enhanced intelligence—the ability to do so many different kinds of work, all well. The System has also engendered in nearly everyone a desire to work—Finally, nearly everyone realizes that being productive and contributing to a better world is infinitely more important than hanging out or buying stuff.
There’s no shortage of jobs any more, thanks to The System having identified so many unmet needs that people are willing to pay to get met. We’re particularly proud that literally billions of earthizens are now serving as physicians, on-call when a citizen’s health belt signals them. Thanks to the AI-driven Dr. Watson, Version 235.0, only six months of training is required to be an effective physician.
Because nearly all of us have a good life or the hope of attaining one, substance abuse has declined to virtually zero.
Cancer, with all its human and fiscal costs, has been eradicated and premature heart disease is on its way out.
Today's automated farming has created all the food the world needs, and in an environmentally sound way. Because of that and the brilliant insights of our genetically enhanced and AI-assisted scientists, we've harnessed nuclear energy to provide virtually unlimited green energy that's safer than fossil-fuel energy. We’ve stopped climate change and species degradation.
En toto, Earth’s Gross Happiness Index is three times that of the highest scoring country in 2018: Bhutan.
Of course, not everything is perfect. Our edu-modules and AI-assisted legislators and judges haven’t yet solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And some people still complain of racism, sexism, elitism, lookism, weightism, and increasingly, demeanorism. But our enhanced genomes give all six of your leaders realistic hope that by the dawn of the 22nd century, those problems will be as solved as the problem of income inequality and climate change.
Adam said “Alexa, screens off” and all four screens faded to Navajo White.
He asked Sophia, "The president is so optimistic. Do you worry about anything?"
Sophia said, in that stilted voice of hers, “Humankind, even with its enhanced genome, has not quelled the Darwinian desire to compete, to have more than the neighbor does. War or even greed will not be permanently replaced by kumbaya and 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.'”
Adam didn’t want to face that, so he pulled her close to him, kissed her, and Sophia opened her robot mouth to receive him.
I read this aloud on YouTube.