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.
Name: Le Republica de Simia
Primary location: Sun-Earth Lagrange points
Form of government: Consociational unitary republic
Capital city: Bokito city
Economic system: Mixed-market economy
Official ideology/state religion: none
Role in international relations: middle power
Main allies: Elysia
Main rivals: Satelliteland
National anthem: Up town, monkey town
National sport: none
Featured in: The campaigner
Former Elysian supreme court judge Chantek Batyr died yesterday at age 91. His wife Irene Steiner-Batyr broke the news this morning. Continue reading →
From Science Daily:
The human brain expanded dramatically in size during evolution, imparting us with unique capabilities. Scientists have now shown that it’s possible to pick out key changes in the genetic code between chimpanzees and humans and visualize their respective contributions to early brain development in mouse embryos. The findings may lend insight what makes the human brain special and why people get some neurological disorders, such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease, whereas chimpanzees don’t.
See full story here. Scientists brought in one single human gene into a mouse embryo, which subsequently develop larger brains than normal in mice. It has yet to be seen whether such mouse is actually smarter than ordinary mice. Nevertheless, this kind of research could lead to uplifting of animals.