Engineering the Human: Human Enhancement Between Fiction and Fascination

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What Tech Will Look Like in | News & Opinion |

Or get it by Tue, Sep 24 with faster delivery. Pickup not available. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production.

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The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.

Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance. Read more: The surprising link between science fiction and economic history.


The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

Already, artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests. Digital fabrication technologies, meanwhile, are interacting with the biological world on a daily basis.

Engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit. Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives.

Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game—any of these can now be done remotely. In the future, technological innovation will also lead to a supply-side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.

At the same time, as the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out, the revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor. On the other hand, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.

We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge, and history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two. However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production. In addition to being a key economic concern, inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital—the innovators, shareholders, and investors—which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor. Technology is therefore one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries: the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends, but a hollowing out of the middle.

This helps explain why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their children will continue to stagnate. It also helps explain why middle classes around the world are increasingly experiencing a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and unfairness. A winner-takes-all economy that offers only limited access to the middle class is a recipe for democratic malaise and dereliction. Discontent can also be fueled by the pervasiveness of digital technologies and the dynamics of information sharing typified by social media.

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  • More than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, learn, and share information. In an ideal world, these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and cohesion. However, they can also create and propagate unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes success for an individual or a group, as well as offer opportunities for extreme ideas and ideologies to spread.

    Intelligent people have 'unnatural' preferences and values that are novel in human evolution

    They however went unaccounted for, a fact the governments of the time did not disclose to the public in order to prevent panic. Rumors were later on confirmed in the 23rd century that Khan and 84 of his followers had managed to flee the planet aboard an early sleeper ship , the SS Botany Bay. The official number of casualties from the wars was placed at thirty million, although some historians believe it to be closer to 35 million, with another figure established as being 37 million. Although the wars may have ended, Humanity's fear of genetically-engineered beings remained well into the 24th century.

    Following the wars, controversial debates ensued between Earth's governments regarding the fate of thousands of Augment embryos. Uncertain of how to handle the issue, the governments opted to have the embryos placed into cryogenic suspension. This fact was also kept from public knowledge.

    Generosity: An Enhancement

    The issue of genetic manipulation and Human genome enhancement continued to plague Earth well into the 21st century , proving to be one of the causes of World War III in In the 23rd century , the Eugenics Wars themselves were sometimes viewed as synonymous with the Third World War. Genetic engineering of Humans was ultimately banned on Earth, as the concept was considered anti-Humanistic by Earth leaders.

    FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement - New Day Films - Disabilities - Sociology

    As a result of this, Doctor Stavos Keniclius was exiled from his community, which eventually led him to depart Earth permanently. The ban was placed primarily as an attempt to prevent another event like the Eugenics Wars, and to ensure that Humanity did not endure the wrath of another Khan Noonien Singh-type tyrant.

    The ban on genetic engineering was challenged by the geneticist Arik Soong in the s , when he stole some of the Augment embryos left over from the wars which were being stored at Cold Station Soong believed that genetic engineering was the key to improving Humankind and preventing illness, and that it should be given another chance. By raising the Augments himself, Soong believed he could prevent them from behaving like their brethren from the Eugenics Wars.

    His plan failed as the aggressive nature of the Augments dominated, and they threatened to incite war and cause mass murder.


    Starfleet 's mission to hunt down and capture the renegade "supermen" ultimately led to the destruction of the Augments, as well as most of the embryos. Not all of the embryos were destroyed, though. Some found their way into the hands of Klingons who, believing Humans were improving themselves in order to conquer the Klingon Empire , attempted to use the DNA from the embryos to enhance themselves.

    The end result was a mutation of a highly-contagious virus that caused massive changes in physical appearance, biological structure, and even basic personality traits of large portions of the Klingon race. ENT : " Affliction ", " Divergence ". In " Space Seed " the "supermen" of the Eugenics Wars were said to be the products of selective breeding; this was later retconned into genetic engineering.

    At one point during that decade in reality, Ronald D. Cinefantastique , Vol. In contrast to the Eugenics Wars having previously been established as taking place in the s, "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", set in , references the Eugenics Wars as having occurred two centuries prior to the episode, placing the Wars in the late 22nd century.

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