On Being Human: Questioning Ourselves
By David Brin
What do you mean by “people”? Will that term signify the same thing in 88 years?
Its meaning already changed during the twentieth century, as the great big Inclusion Movement brought more kinds of beings into the tribal firelight. All of our old tribes defined a stark, moral difference between outsiders and those who could be called “human beings,” deserving protection of morality and law. But gradually, then with accelerating speed, we’ve seen races, classes, and genders who were previously excluded demand and attain the respect of adult citizenship.
Indeed, as technology and wealth gradually lowered fear levels, one result was an expansion of our perceived horizons: Horizons of space, as maps became continental, then planetary, then interstellar. Horizons of time, as evidenced by this magazine and this very article! Horizons of inclusion and also of worry. Where our ancestors fretted over their next meal or harvest, or the next enemy invasion, we now ponder dangers that may only prove dire decades, even centuries, from now.
So, will this process continue? Will we be granting moral rights and citizenship to other species? To those we alter—or “uplift”—toward sapient equality? To intelligences that are artificial, blended, gengineered, or even alien? Precedents abound, both in real life and the thought-experiments of science fiction.
Will even the simulated inhabitants of our games and stories start demanding liberation? Nobody ever said the future will be simple. At least, no one who remains credible.About the author:
David Brin is a scientist, highly sought-after technology speaker, and award-winning author. His new novel, Existence (Tor Books, 2012), explores the hundred pitfalls that lie between us and success as an interstellar species.
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Futurists: BetaLaunch, THE FUTURIST magazine's invention and idea expo, is entering its third year and will be part of the opening night event at WorldFuture 2013. We'll be updating you soon on the BetaLaunch winners that will be showcasing their startups and inventions this July in Chicago. Right now, we would like to catch you up on one of our alumni, the Cyberhero League, an anti-bulling, pro-future game platform that teaches responsibility, sustainability, and civic-mindedness.
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