The Future Is Going to Be Great!

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We are entering an era in which nature vs. nurture is inevitably going to start taking center stage again:

Having read several hundred books on this topic, I used to write a fair amount about it. But then I stopped. It wasn’t worth it because most people haven’t read several hundred books on the topic and are more interested in the political implications of genes and upbringing than the actual scientific facts.

But it’s not going to be avoidable for much longer. I haven’t kept up with the latest research in detail, but there’s no question that geneticists are plugging right along regardless of what political activists think of them. And they’re discovering gene complexes for all sorts of interesting things, right along with genetic codes that control how and when and if various personality traits get expressed by those gene complexes. We’re still a long way away from understanding how all this stuff interacts, but by “long way” I mean maybe a decade or so. That’s not really so long.

So prepare yourself for a few things:

  • We will discover the genetic wellsprings of things like memory, artistic talent, mathematical ability, extroversion, laziness, aggression, ability to swot up foreign languages, and a hundred other things. And that’s not even counting fast-twitch muscles, balance, speed, stamina, and other traits that make great athletes.
  • Thanks to CRISPR (or perhaps CRISPR+) we’ll be able to fine-tune these abilities in babies. Maybe in adults too. The era in which we argued about the ethical implications of this stuff will be over. We’ll just do it and see the results.
  • How much does parental upbringing affect any of this? I’m going to put my money on “not much,” but it’s hardly worth making guesses anymore. In a decade or two we’ll know.
  • How much effect does the entire environment outside the womb have starting with the day a baby is delivered? I’m going to put my money on “some,” but that’s as far as I’ll go.
  • The effects on social justice will be profound. Once it becomes irrefutable that certain people just flatly have more talent than others, and furthermore, that they can probably buy even greater talents, the philosophical justification for paying the talented more than the untalented disappears. In what way do the talented deserve any more money if we can literally draw a map showing where their talents are located on their genomes and where their ambition, focus, and zeal for hard work comes from?

Anyway, get ready for all this, is all I’m saying. It’s not so far away. And shortly after that, the robots are going to take over and nobody will care about jobs anyway. And while we’re on the subject, we’ll all be disease free and able to live more or less forever, if we want to.

This is all about 30 years away if we can manage to avoid killing ourselves or frying the globe. That’s not too much longer to wait, is it?

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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