Human Playing God
Human always attempt to play god --- to change the rule of nature, and to re-write the supreme laws of human minds. Reprogramming nature and the human brain is also a constant fascination for science fictions and prophecies. I see such efforts as extremely dangerous, which might result in the destruction of human race before they produce any meaningful advances.
We live in a very complex and delicate equilibrium that has been reached by millions of years of adaptation and adjustments. If we suddenly change a single factor of our environment, it might trigger a domino-like transformation of other factors (which are all interconnected and interdependent), hence threaten our own survival because we can’t adapt as fast as we are changing our surroundings. For example, recently Malaysia released thousands of mutant mosquitoes to fight Dengue. However, the consequences of such attempts have not been studies thoroughly or are not even predictable. Back home is the United States, genetically modified crops are approved by federal agencies. The triumph of science in the recent centuries has boosted our confidence in understanding and managing the environment. Some of us assume that we have turned from guests of nature to the master of nature, and that we are authorized to make any change as we see fit. But recent climate change and the intensifying natural disasters around the world have shown how little we actually know about the world we live in.
In Brave New World, we see a future where people are conditioned to be a part of certain castes and perform certain functions from the very beginning of their life. But this totalitarian conditioning does not take into account the mutation of human mind and genes. What if someone from the lower caste start to develop independent consciousness, and infect other lower-caste members with such intelligence? What could the outnumbered Alphas do?
However, warnings against such dangerous god-playing attempts are useless because the temptation to become the Supreme Being is too strong for the ambitious to resist. Or, in the case of genetically modified crops, the drive to make money is too powerful, and our regulation bodies are too weak and underfunded to even understand what those big corporations are doing. Since we are talking about prophecy, I will predict the following: I think sooner or later, human activities and scientific advancements will cause such drastic and unpredictable change to our surroundings that our own survival will be the cost. We will be the modern Icarus who is flying too close to the sun with a pair of wing made of wax and feather. Our attempt in becoming God will result in the downfall of our civilization. It seems like that there is a pre-installed, self-destructive program inside of human nature to prevent us from becoming the master of the world.
The Gravity of Human Nature
Kant once said, “Nothing entirely straight can be fashioned from the crooked wood of which human kind is made”. Looking at all the prophecies we have encountered so far, I find a good way to test the strength of any prediction: to ask ourselves whether or not the future world is based on the same human nature that we possess today. In our seemingly random history, the only thing we can hold on to is the universal, unchanging human nature. People are as crooked two thousand years ago as they are today; they are equally full of hope and love; they are no less cruel or selfish. Human nature is the gravity, and history is the pendulum, swinging back and forth between better and worse. No matter how far we go on either direction, the gravity of human nature always pulls us back to the point where the pendulum is nearest to earth. Once we reach that point, we are ready for another swing. A good system can hold up the pendulum for a longer time in the better direction, but eventually the arm gets sore and the pendulum falls. Similarly, the most repressive regime could only push the pendulum the other way for a limited duration, then the power will be exhausted and gravity will prevail. Human nature, like gravity, is neither good nor bad; it is like the Yin-Yang: in the darkest age, we feel the strongest force of love and hope, while in the best moments, we experience the most evil urge. Therefore, the best systems are always built upon the defects of human nature. Only when we have prepared for the worst can we then hope for the best.
People might say, “we are human, therefore we have this-and-that quality”. I think the truth is the other way around: we have this-and-that quality, therefore we are human. If we are anything other than what we are, then our species wouldn’t even be able to survive long enough to develop such intelligence with which we are now observing ourselves. Before we become smart enough to make sense of “who we are”, we have to survive first. And the millions of years of survival have predetermined who we are. So it is no surprise that we will discover our human nature as it is today, and it is not a long shot to predict that thousands of years later, the same human nature will still linger in every one of us --- if our species could make it that far.