Friday, May 29, 2009

Uplift, Why Do it?

One idea that many transhumanists support is the idea of biological uplift, the possible modification of non-human animals so that they become at least as intelligent as humans. The concept was popularized, and named, by David Brin with his Uplift series of novels, where humanity has not only uplifted Dolphins and Chimpanzees but also discovered that almost every sapient species in the galaxy was uplifted by another species. Brin technically wasn't the first one to come up with the concept, H.G. Wells wrote about beasts vivisected to become men in The Island of Doctor Moreau back in the Victorian era (guess how it ended), in addition the hard sci-fi webcomics Freefall and Schlock Mercenary both involve characters that are genetically engineered animals and the Orion's Arm universe includes both provolves (they couldn't use Uplift for legal reasons) and splices. Now there are a number of transhumanists (such as Abolitionists) that think it is our moral duty to improve the quality of all sentient life, which includes most animals not just humans and maybe extraterrestrials.

But what they are not taking into account is whether animals would want to be uplifted, or even if humanity would have a practical reason to uplift others. Aside from attempting to colonize environments that humans couldn't survive in like in Freefall, I don't see much reason why anyone other than the military/police (and maybe Furry fans) would have a use for a talking animal. Maybe someone will think that society could benefit from having different points of view from multiple species or people will start wanting pets that can hold a conversation with them. But if you do think that non-humans should be uplifted to our level, you should consider whether a species would want to be uplifted. In some cases, such as great apes, it might be possible to simply ask a non-uplifted individual (using sign language or a computer) if they would like their kids to be able to talk like humans or be as smart as one. But for most other species it would be very difficult for them to understand the concept of intelligence and language, uplift would effectively create a completely different species so you might as well just uplift at least a few individuals and ask them what they think. So, if you think uplift sounds like a good idea, think it over a little more.


Particleion said...

Wow Now I know what you mean by coincidence, hmmmmm Im going to have to think about that some more.

I believe whats happening is that we're seeing all these experiments happening and we tend to ask questions that are being ignored as we do these experiments.

So till the world wakes up, I guess we can debate this. lol

My argument is rather simply if we uplift beyond humans it will only be a matter of time before we lose our species dominance not just in the universe which may already exist but on our homeworld. From that point it may become rather dangerous for humans to prolong there existence.

ZarPaulus said...

It's even more coincidental because the only reason I wrote that was because I finished reading Sundiver.