Iain M. Banks: Humans Could Join the Culture via Genetic Engineering

Apparently scifi author Iain M. Banks (Matter, Consider Phlebas) believes that future humans could conceivably reach the advanced techno-political state of the Culture, a vast, intragalactic society he describes in several of his novels. And we'll get there via designer babies. Over at Biology in Science Fiction, Peggy quotes the author saying we'll become like his A.I.-loving Culture folk by "genetically modifying ourselves, I suspect." And he's figured out exactly how we'll do it.

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He continues:

Finding the set of genes that code for xenophobia in general - these days usually expressed though sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, Romaphobia and so on (and on, and on) - and knocking them out. Possibly then we'll be nice enough for the Culture or something like it. Of course maybe inventing true AIs will be enough, always assuming that they're as benign - and yet sympathetically interested in us - as they are taken to be in the Culture.

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I love it when a progressive author comes out in favor of genetic engineering like this. GMO humans are a huge can of worms that Banks just blithely opened before hurling those squirmy nematodes all around the room.

Banks isn't the only progressive scifi author to advocate extracting our xenophobic tendencies via genetic engineering. In her series Lilith's Brood, Octavia Butler describes how a group of (mostly) benevolent aliens think the basic problem with humans is that we are hardwired to be both intelligent and hierarchical, which is the most dangerous combination imaginable. They have to genetically alter humans to remove their hierarchical tendencies.

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Could We Evolve into the Culture? [via Biology in Science Fiction]

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