Animal Uplifting

Animal uplifting, the use of scientific methods and genetic engineering in particular to increase to (cognitive) abilities of non-human animals, is coming a step closer to reality. Chinese scientists have added human genes associated with intelligence in monkeys.

Though the effectiveness of this method has yet to be established, it raises the question on whether animal uplifting is something we should want. Save from the obvious question if we have the right to do so, we need to answer a series of questions:

  • should we uplift all animals?
  • If not, which animals should we uplift and which not?
  • How can we make such a distinction?
  • What role should uplifted animals play in society? Should they be partners or slaves?

I could easily increase this list with many more questions. I won’t answer this question right now, but these might be a serious plot element of some of my mundane science fiction stories, which feature animal uplifting.

More generally, I believe that authors of (mundane) SF should use fiction as a tool to explore the ethical and social consequences of the trends in scientific and technological progress. Reflection is, as far as I am concerned, one of the primary functions of literature. Writers should stimulate discussion on important issues.

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6 responses

  1. The most we should do is edit out diseases.

    1. I tend to agree with you. However, I think this will be inevitable as some researchers won’t be stopped by either law or ethics.

      Also a genetic engineer could argue that “low intelligence” is a disease to be edit out. So what does constitute a disease?

      In my fiction I want to explore the arguments that proponents of animal uplifting could use and whether they make sense.

      1. You’re absolutely right, someone is going to meddle regardless of ethics.

      2. Therefore in my stories I always work from the assumption: if it’s possible someone will do it.

  2. What would it mean to uplift a dog or a cat if we don’t also enhance their physical dexterity?

    1. Good question and I am working on a story in which an uplifted cockatoo is dealing with this very issue.

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