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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Will We Say 1 Superhuman Super-life Is Worth 10 Normal Lives?

Before too many decades we may see the appearance of a small number of genetically-enhanced humans with higher intelligence or much longer lifespans. This may create a social upheaval, and the tremors may penetrate deep into our laws and moral ideas.

Today if you ask anyone whether all human beings are of equal worth, almost anyone would agree with such a statement. In many cases people act in a very different way, as if the citizens of their country are worth more than the citizens of other countries. But at least almost all of us would answer affirmatively when asked if all human lives are of equal value.

But in the future, things may be very different. We may see the rise of a small group of humans with extremely long lifespans. We may also see the appearance of some humans with a much higher level of intelligence. If that happens, will the “all humans are of equal worth” idea continue to be endorsed by all? Something very different may happen. We may see people start talking about “super-lives” that are worth more than regular lives.

Here is the kind of reasoning that may come into play:

Is the life of a man who will live to be 1000 worth the same as a man who will live to be 80? Is the life of a man with an intelligence quotient of 500 worth the same as a man with an IQ of 100? Of course not! We must distinguish between ordinary lives, and super-lives. It is only logical to consider a super-life as worth more than a regular life. How much more? That is a matter to be calculated, using logical mathematics.

What kind of “logical mathematics” might such a person have in mind? It could work something like this. Someone might calculate that if a superhuman has a lifespan x times greater than the regular lifespan, then that superhuman has a super-life worth x times more than a regular life. Someone might also calculate that if a superhuman has an intelligence x times greater than the average human intelligence, then that superhuman has a super-life worth x times more than a regular life. Such calculations might be applied simultaneously, so that someone with a lifespan five times greater than the average lifespan (and an intelligence five times greater than the average intelligence) might then be considered to be worth 25 times more than a person of average intelligence and average lifespan. 


I am not at all saying that I agree with such calculations, nor am I saying that a superhuman should be considered some type of “super-life” worth more than a regular life. I am merely suggesting that this type of reasoning may become popular, regardless of its validity. It may even be that the rules of law are rewritten to take such calculations into effect. One can only imagine the bizarre legal ramifications.

A new law might be introduced saying that if a superhuman is very sick or badly injured, and needs to get to the hospital quickly, he has the right to drive to the hospital as fast as he can, even if that means running over and killing ordinary humans in his path. Superhumans may have a special 911-like number they can call to summon an ambulance, a type of ambulance that arrives more quickly than ambulances for ordinary humans.

The government might cut foreign aid to help poor and starving people in other countries, reallocating such funds to pay for the genetic engineering needed to create superhumans. If anyone complained about the loss of life, the official rebuttal might be: it is better to create one super-life than to save ten regular lives.

A new law might be introduced saying that if a superhuman has a reasonable reason for suspecting that a regular human might kill him, the superhuman has the right to draw a gun and kill that human. Superhumans may walk out of court uncharged, by merely using an excuse such as this: “He looked rather mean and scary, so I killed him.”

Superhumans might be granted cards that place them first in line for any organ transplant, first in line for any blood transfusion, and first in line whenever they walk into an emergency room. Instead of the traditional lifeboat rule of “women and children first” when a ship is sinking, the new rule might be “superhumans first; then women and children.” Faced with two fires at the same time in a city, computers might route fire trucks to first go to the blazing home of a superhuman, and only later to go to the blazing house of a regular human.

When it comes to education, we can expect that the superhumans will get the finest free schools along with free college educations at elite universities. No one will be able to resist this slogan: a super-mind is a super-terrible thing to waste.

If such laws and provisions are introduced, they will no doubt create bitter resentment. We ordinary humans are used to being the top race on this planet. We will not take kindly to being relegated to second-class status. One can imagine an angry mob of regular humans carrying torches and pitchforks, along with hand-made signs saying: Death to the superhumans!

If something like that happens, then all the talk about superhumans having a thousand-year lifespan may turn out to be ironically inaccurate. Hunted down by resentful humans, the superhumans may not even live as long as ordinary humans.