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.
One of the most remarkable things in my young life happened just a few years ago, when I was twenty-three years old. In that time I served as the apprentice of the Townman of the town where I was born, the first step in my career as a bureaucrat. One of the tasks of the Townman is to take care of updating the list of residents in his or her town, a job which is normally delegated to a minor official like the Townman’s apprentice.
For this reason I was one of the first persons who was informed that a long time abandoned mansion was bought by a young lady. The daughter of our local real estate maker, who was also a former classmate of mine, visited me at my office at the town hall. “Asaph, I have come to you to tell that my dad has sold that old mansion at the edge of our town.” “Mariette, the mansion of late Paterson?” “Yes, that one.” “To whom?” “Some young blond lady, I believe her name is Daniella Young.” “Do you know when she is moving to our town?” “Well, my dad sold the mansion yesterday, she said she will move in this weekend.” “I will visit her this weekend. Thank you, Mariette.” “You’re welcome, my dear.” Continue reading →