For those of you who have seen Orphan Black, you’re familiar with the term Neolution. (And if you haven’t seen Orphan Black – you probably should.) This sci-fi thriller deals with a group of clones, and the people who created them. The Neolutionists are a scientific community that experiment with physical alterations and the human genome, and they are really the ones behind the clone war. This is, obviously, science fiction and quite unrealistic. Or is it?
The concept of self-directed evolution is actually not something left to the world of fiction. There is a real-life group, called transhumanism, that more or less operates under the same premise as the fictional Neolutionists. Transhumanists are all kinds of people – young, old, religious, atheists, black, white, wealthy, poor. They are working with and supporting radical science in the hopes of extending humanity beyond what we are currently capable and accelerating the evolution process, with the ultimate goal being immortality.
There is another concept gaining recognition which has been called Neo-Evolution. Neo-Evolution deals with the rapidly improving science surrounding picking and choosing traits within the DNA of our offspring, and possibly also within ourselves. If you had the choice – would you prefer a male or female child? One who is artistic and creative or a math and science genius? Brown eyes or blue?
The implications and questions concerning the ability to choose who our children become are all at once exciting, inspiring, and frightening. Would the human race become more homogenous as more and more people choose the same genetic traits? Or will it become more varied? Will people use these choices for good or evil? (I’m imagining some government creating a whole army of the best and smartest fighters on the planet.) What are the ethics behind choices like these? Will people still have choices in what they do with their lives if they’ve known from birth what strengths were chosen for them? Will competition die out? And how will they be regulated? Are we royally screwing with nature’s evolutionary process or is this the logical next step in our natural evolution as human beings?