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.
Senator Alice Parker: Professor why did you create a headless pig?
Genetic engineer Rik Veldman: Headless pigs could be used in scientific research, ma’am, without having related ethical issues. Continue reading →
They say that he shouted “Eureka, eureka!” when geneticist Rik Veldman discovered the HSB1 gene. Whether he also run through the streets naked is unknown – at least there are no police records showing the genetic engineer had ever been arrested for public nudity. However, we know that the discovery of the HSB1 gene changed to world and gave birth to a new but equally controversial science of psycho-genetics. Continue reading →
An interesting article on The Guardian:
Unlike what the title might suggest, scientists do not propose to put astronauts into hibernation, a common trope in science fiction (sleeper ships are a particular example). Instead the article focuses on the issue of bone degeneration and what we can learn from bears in dealing with bone degeneration as result of low gravity.
Another interesting article:
Over-fishing is a great problem and modifying plants to produce “fish oil” is an interesting alternative.
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.
Elsysia, late 2030s
The laboratory was almost empty. Only Richard Fredric Veldman was left in this part of the faculty for life sciences, as the other biologists had already left for the weekend. The young professor was happy that his colleagues were gone, now he could pursue his experiments without interference. Continue reading →
Professor Veldman was sitting at his desk, while he read a newspaper written in the Dutch language, since he was born in Netherlands he was able to read Dutch. The scientist read a long article which was published by an opponent of his work. Veldman was a geneticist and he had experimented a lot with genetic engineering. His greatest achievement was the creation of the HSO. HSO was the abbreviation of Humanoid Synthetic Organism. What had Veldman done? He had taken an empty rabbit egg, and instead of the nucleus he had injected a bunch of artificial chromosomes in the cell. These chromosomes contained the typical genes of a mammal. One set of chromosomes contained the genes which made humans human. All other chromosomes contained versions of genes from cattle, pigs and monkeys. Therefore a HSO resembled at a first glance at a human being, but HSO wore a jellyfish gene which made them fluorescent. Continue reading →