Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Ten Unconscionable Scientific Developments That I Would Love to See Happen

Illustration for article titled Ten Unconscionable Scientific Developments That I Would Love to See Happen

There are ethical guidelines that have to be followed when conducting experiments. They keep experimenters from committing acts of pointless waste or extreme destruction. That's fair. But if those ethical limitations were ever swept aside, I know what unholy acts of scientific mayhem I'd like to see.


10. Chimpanzees with human vocal cords.
Project Nim has hit theaters. It's the story of a chimpanzee raised among humans as an experiment to see if chimps can learn language as well as humans when raised in the right environment. The experiment was hampered by, among other things, the fact that chimps can't speak and his human family didn't know sign language. At the time, there was nothing to be done but have humans learn sign language while teaching a chimp to learn sign language as well. Now, if we can put an ear on a mouse, we can put some vocal cords in a chimpanzee. Or a gorilla.

9. Make everything huge.
We've seen that when lions and tigers mate, the offspring gets a combination of the growth genes from each, growing to gigantic size. There are genetic ways to make animals enormous. There needs to be an entire branch of science that does nothing but work out how to make various animals gigantic. I picture it as being called The International Cool-Ass Center for Embiggening, and it should make chinchillas the size of ponies, ponies the size of SUVs, and elephants the size of houses.


8. Also make everything tiny.
Obviously, this goes both ways. I should be able to ride my three-story elephant back to my house to play with my cat-sized pony, and all while keeping a pocket-panda in my coat at all times in case I get depressed.

7. Fire things into the sun, or the moon.
We've got no shuttles. We're not going to the moon. We're not going to Mars. Let's just fire things into the sun and splatter things across the moon. It will be like the bit where Letterman threw things off a roof, only better. We don't need to be particularly precise or ambitious. Just lob things, a freighter full of watermelons, a player piano, balloons full of jello, at the sun or the moon with a camera just good enough to observe the splash/inferno.

6. Make some zombies
This would be a multidisciplinary attempt at apocalypse. It has been shown that various creatures can be zombified through parasites, through neurotoxins and other chemicals, and someday probably through nanotechnology. It's time to see if we can make some honest-to-god zombies. And if they get out of the lab and start wrecking civilization? Well, that's been shown on TV and in movies, so it must be desirable. Let the wildly unscrupulous experimentation with inadequate safeguards begin!

5. Do massive, sustained sociological experiments.
Remember the Milgram Experiment, in which people were made to believe that they were shocking a fellow human being to death? Or the Stanford Prison Experiment, during which some students were assigned the roles of 'prisoners' and others were assigned the roles of 'guards,' and which had to be stopped after six days when the guards and the prisoners participated in torture? Those seem almost quaint, in the era of reality shows that dunk anorexic aspiring models in ice water until they need to be rushed to the hospital or make people eat spiders. Not only would these new experiments be fascinating to watch, they'd be readily funded. Get an unscrupulous psychologist, or a social engineer, and have a TV crew haul them and a bunch of people, who either believe in the cause or will do anything to be famous, out to the middle of nowhere for the most elaborate and cruel sociological experiments ever. Hell, if the shows are profitable enough, and private space travel works out, we might get lunar colonies after all.


4. Bliss brain jacks
Scientists are finding ways to manipulate the various chemicals that make the brain happy. They might start working towards finding a way to keep it happy, or even brain modifications that make people happy all the time. Yes, it's all scary and dystopian. But if you believe the idea saying that, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," real life is even more dystopian. If the future looks bleak, maybe it would be a good idea to let people march into it artificially happy.

3. Isolate and reproduce the neurochemical soup that makes people feel love.
The potential for abuse is right there on the surface, and even if it weren't abused it would be creepy. But I like the idea that not only could people isolate and reproduce these chemicals, but they could make different 'flavors' of love. So those who wanted to experience all different types of love during their time on earth, could go with their partner and pick out angry, conflicted love one weekend, and obsessive love the next, and even chaste, courtly love if they needed a couple of days off. Those accustomed to their lovers could pick out 'first love' or 'new love' again and again. It would be a time saver. A horrific, soul-cheapening time saver.


2. Develop human intelligence for everything.
Artificial intelligence is getting good. Scientists are investigating the genetic sequences that might switch on human brain development in apes. They're also finding out about collective intelligence in animals like ants and bees. On film we've seen an uprising of the machines. We're going to see an uprising of the apes. What we need to see is a fight between the apes and the machines. Meanwhile, sentient sharks could fight sentient seaweed and algae in the ocean, and superintelligent colonies of ants could fight the encroaching flocks of intelligent birds. Enough uprising. It's time for a free-for-all.

1. Brain transplants.
I have to admit, this one would end not just the credibility of science but life as we know it. The rich would be farming the poor for bodies before anyone even thought of the appropriate twitter hashtag for the story. But I'd love to see if it would work.


Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Why would anyone want to farm smelly meat bags when they could have a full-body android prosthesis? I want my robotic body replacement. I'll wait until I'm confined to a bed and everything coming in and going out does through by way of a tube.

But then, pop open my skull and move house baby!

And clamps, I think I'd like clamps.