A Different Species?

Louis XVI Louis XVI in his coronation robes, 1777

Recently I heard a self-styled “futurist” predict that the super-rich would find ways, with the help of modern science, to extend their lives beyond that of ordinary humans. Even more, they would genetically engineer themselves to become a different (and presumably superior) species. I wasn’t terribly impressed. While futurists can get interviewed on public radio, IMO they are no more likely to make accurate predictions than Madame Zelda with her crystal ball.

The rich have always lived longer than the rest of us, in any case, without genetic modification. They aren’t worked to death on plantations, in the coal mines, or in factories. They can avail themselves of the best medical care. And they’ve always considered themselves different from ordinary humans. The Russian anarchist Bakunin described a noblewoman’s astonishment when she found one of her serfs grieving over the death of his child. “But they have feelings like us!” she exclaimed in surprise.

What would happen if the super-rich did manage to turn themselves into a different species? The mating population would be vanishingly small. Inbreeding could result in some grotesquely defective offspring. Indeed, what could be more grotesque than the fact that the 62 wealthiest people own as much as half the world’s population? (See the Oxfam report of January 18, 2016 for details.)

And if they do become a separate species, what would their legal status be? Would it be murder if we sent them to the guillotine?


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