The Scientific American cites excerpts from a new book by Strategic Foresight Initiative Director Mathew Burrows, The Future Declassified: Megatrends That Will Undo the World Unless We Take Action:
Most of us are relatively comfortable talking about the rise and fall of countries or even civilizations. That’s an age-old story we’re familiar with. Being able to change or duplicate human nature, however, has been such a staple of science fiction and related films and television—like Blade Runner, The Six Million Dollar Man, or The Matrix—that it has been easy to dismiss as entertainment or diversion. In the nineteenth century Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution shattered earlier conceptions about humans’ creation and undermined the literal biblical interpretation and, for some, their faith. People started applying the principle of survival of the fittest more broadly, with mostly deleterious effect. Racism was supposedly justified and war extolled as an extension of the law of nature.
We’re at another watershed moment, and it is hard to know the full extent of the change or what will be the total effect. We no longer just study creation, as in Darwin’s day; we can now change our fundamental human nature. In other words, we don’t have to wait for God or natural selection. At the same time, as Ray Kurzweil, author ofThe Singularity Is Near, put it, “By understanding the information processes underlying life, we are starting to learn to reprogram our biology to achieve the virtual elimination of dis- ease, dramatic expansion of human potential, and radical life extension.”