But What Is Man

So, there are themes that run through people’s work, sometimes without the author realizing.

Now, I’m not the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but I can read print when it’s six feet tall and printed in letters of fire.

I’ve long ago realized that “what is being human” and “how to be human” is one of the main themes of my work.

Not that I set out to do it, mind you.  It just sort of happens.

Perhaps it is part of being an Odd, an Outlier, not a joiner, but one who stands out.

One of my earliest memories of childhood is of the renter kids (all older than I) locking the gate from grandma’s backyard to their yard, as a way to make sure I wasn’t even allowed to be near them when they played.

I remember standing there, hands on the gate, plotting vengeance.  Because that’s who I am, and that’s what I do.  Apparently.  Although frankly, I’m not big on vengeance these days, first because I’m too lazy to be proactive about it, and second because people who are nasty for no particularly reason usually end up being their own worst punishment.  (All of those kids self-screwed, without my having to lift a finger.  It’s a thing of beauty.)

Anyway, perhaps I stood outside groups looking in long enough that I came to the conclusion that maybe I’m not one of them monkeys.  And then I had to think myself back into how I am in fact one of those monkeys, even though their fur is brown and mine seems to be dyed a bright, hot pink.  We still largely behave the same way.  My instinct to belong might be attenuated, but I’m still a social animal, and I still enjoy the company of my kind.

Or to put it another way, I might be different, but no matter how little the rest of the species likes it, I’m still wholly human.

Yet it’s no wonder that my future history revisits the question of “what is it to be human?”

You can see, as the genetic knowledge and ability to manipulate improves in the DST world, they start getting cutesy.  Because THEY have lost track of what the point of humanity is, and so treat humans as just any other animal.  So, yeah, you start seeing things like creating human-animal hybrids that look like things out of mythology (as in, the short story Ariadne’s Skein.) And intentionally handicap children, and–

The thing is, we will.  I mean it’s no use saying it’s bad or it’s unethical.  If the science is there, we will use it.  And if the utilitarian idea of humans being a cog in the societal machine, or people who exist to serve some purpose is there, then creating humans to be show pieces, or intentionally disabled or whatever will be done all over and with gusto.

And the utilitarian idea is already there.  We’ve lost the sense that humans are important because they’re human, and instead, humans are only granted humanity if they’re “wanted” (as though Craigslist weren’t full of pets who were once desperately wanted, but who live to be not wanted at all) or if they’re going to serve some purpose.

Given that, how easy is it for governments to create creatures from human genes who are deliberately made different from normal humans and who are more or less slaves.

And once that is done what is it to prevent us from creating “supermen” to rule us?

Which is how the “Good Men” come into being, though originally they’re not supposed to rule anything, but only to “serve” the state.  It’s just that once you endow them with intelligence, manipulative ability and, well… everything… what is to prevent them taking over?

Absolutely nothing.

And why should people who haven’t been raised as humans, cherished because they’re humans and no more, love or respect humanity?

They won’t/don’t.

Since we’re already raising and indoctrinating kids to be “good for something” instead of “the best human being you can be.” we’re already on that road.

Treating any human as a thing is diminishing humanity as a whole.  And each of us in particular.

 

284 responses to “But What Is Man

  1. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Man is a wolf to his fellow Man.

    (For good and for ill. First quote that came to mind, not necessarily the one that best summarizes my own opinions. No warranty regressed, expressed, or implied. Some settling of opinion may occur when shaken vigorously by circumstances. Void where prohibited. Silly everywhere.)

  2. Christopher M. Chupik

    Was re-reading Dave Farland’s The Golden Queen recently and noticed that he had a rare positive take on engineered leaders. The Tharrin are designed to be Servants of All, and only reign for ten years before stepping down. Unfortunately, any real life attempt at such a thing would probably not be so idealistic.

    • Servants (even slaves) often overtake their supposed betters/masters as they accrue more and more responsibility. We’ve seen examples of this throughout literature/entertainment, ranging from Star Trek (can’t remember the episodes w/ renegade AIs) to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and everything in between. How many paranormal novels have the demon that was summoned as a servant and the summoner became lazy or careless and was taken over or eaten by the former servant?

      The big lesson, which we need to be reminded of regularly, is that handing that much power/authority for your life to someone else always ends in disaster.

      Book rec: I’m currently reading Jay Allan’s Crimson Worlds: Refugees trilogy (which does indeed feature a renegade AI)

      • The Angles in Briton invited in Saxons to stand their guard against the barabarians and nothing untoward followed. The Kievean Rus asked the Varangian Northern Princes to protect them and everything went swimmingly.

        People worry too much about potential negative results. After all, Peter caught the wolf.

      • Aalabamdill

        Joseph in prison in Egypt

    • The trick is to make sure the slaves are unable to breed, or if so then they are unable to pass on their qualities to their children.

      Why do you think eunuchs were trusted as ministers? They had no vested interest in any progeny. Likewise the Ottoman Janissaries were effective as long as they weren’t permitted to marry.

      This figured into Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun: the Autarch’s half-animal servants were few in number and unable to breed, so they were the only ones the Autarch could trust to guard his treasure: if they did steal, how would they spend the money? The common people reviled them.

      The same theme was in the anime Witch Hunter Robin: the ancient witches (people with psychic powers) set themselves up as ‘gods’ in the ancient world, until something happened – either divine judgment or a mutation – that prevented them from passing their powers on to their offspring. Or at least doing so imperfectly. The ‘gods’ vanished in a few generations and any new witches that popped up were hunted, persecuted, and either killed or driven out of society.

      So: control the method of reproduction.

      • -re: Witch Hunter Robin – and eventually harvested and used as a resource by a covert government agency.

      • The trick is to make sure the slaves are unable to breed, or if so then they are unable to pass on their qualities to their children.
        So, you make …. Mules?

        • Michael Houst

          If I remember correctly, mules aren’t totally sterile. Just so extremely infertile as to not be an issue.

          • clark e myers

            Rare as no known examples for mule/mule breeds Time Enough for Love to the contrary. Molly mules have dropped foals. Herodatus uses one such as a portent re Xerxes and later writers have followed him – maybe based on events maybe based on convention. Unequal chromosome numbers are one issue in outcrosses.

            • True, as far as we know as it applies to male mules.

              From Wikipedia: “A female mule that has estrus cycles and thus, in theory, could carry a fetus, is called a “molly” or “Molly mule”, though the term is sometimes used to refer to female mules in general. Pregnancy is rare, but can occasionally occur naturally …”

              “There are no recorded cases of fertile mule stallions. A few mare mules have produced offspring when mated with a purebred horse or donkey.”
              Savory, Theodore H (1970). “The Mule”. Scientific American. 223 (6): 102–109. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1270-102. and Kay, Katty (2002-10-02). “Morocco’s miracle mule”. BBC News. Retrieved 2009-02-05.

        • Dan Hamilton

          Farnham’s Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein
          You can also EAT them.

      • Curiously that was why they were called “Mules.” Still didn’t work.

        • Far be it from me to steal a cheese line from Jurassic Park but…

          “Life will find a way”

        • Well, the Autarch was smarter about it.

        • Hmmm, how to story-link Sarah’s “Mules” and Asimov’s “The Mule”………

          • Parallel universes. Or Heinlein’s multiverse, World as Myth, where every story is true in one of them. Asimov’s Mule escaped from Sarah’s universe. Seems there may have been some time travel included. 🙂

            • Meets Star Trek’s Khan, the Cumberbatch and Montauban versions both!

            • That is a good explanation. There is a great website that shows the math of their only being one Mule in the entire Foundation period is pretty improbable.

              Then again, I think by the third or fourth story the universe breaks down. By explicitly not acting until the Seldon Crisis the population is acting knowing that are under control of PsychoHistory which by the premise of the stories means it can’t work.

              If Seldon really had a plan he wouldn’t reappear to laugh about how it working and you fools couldn’t stop it.

              • Later books in the series suggested that an outside group had started acting to keep events roughly on the course that Seldon had originally plotted. This was realized when one character noted that since The Mule, deviations from Seldon’s plan had suddenly all but vanished (when the outside group suddenly started acting much more proactively than they had before The Mule).

                • Yeah, even in Second Foundation we learned they were behind it all. I thought it wasn’t up to the others and the series went downhill from there.

                  • The post-Mule books (written much later, when Asimov was busy tying his Foundation and Robot books into one large setting stretching over millenia) revealed that even the Second Foundation was being manipulated by yet another outside group.

                    And finally, that group was being influenced – though not to the same degree – by none other than R. Daneel Olivaw, who had been keeping an eye on humanity ever since he and Giskard rationalized the Zeroeth Law of Robotics.

                    • Yeah, by that point my BS meter was going off…he should have left it at the initial three and not tried to make the robots through the Foundation unified.

                      Not to mention his ideas for humans from Edge on were creepy.

                    • I have never forgiven him for turning Daneel evil.

                    • Terry Sanders

                      That was a standard Asimov thing. I once joked that the perfect Asimov novel read somewhat as follows:

                      HERO stuggles against terrible odds to accomplish his purpose.

                      PULL BACK TO–
                      TV screen showing HERO struggling.
                      VOICE(ONE): Little does he know I have manipulated him into doing all these things in order to accomplish my goals. Everything is going precisely according to my plan…

                      PULL BACK TO:
                      TV screen showing ONE watching HERO.
                      VOICE(TWO): Little does he know I have manipulated him into influencing that poor fools struggles in order to accomplish my goals. Everything is going precisely according to my plan…

                      PULL BACK TO:
                      TV screen showing TWO watching ONE.

                      Everything is going precisely according to my plan…

                      PULL BACK TO:
                      Wrist TV screen showing TWENTY-SEVEN watching TWENTY-SIX watching…(etc.)
                      HERO: Little does he know I’be mNipulating him to manipulate the others to accomplish my real goal. If I can just keep looking hapless for a while longer, we’ll accomplish *everything.*
                      Everything is going precisely according to my plan…

  3. …self-screwed, without my having to lift a finger. It’s a thing of beauty.

    Ah, yes. While I have no examples come to mind just now, there have times when “How did you do that?” was met with “Do what?” And then discovering that by leaving some.. Problem.. to their own devices… they did worse to themselves than I could have imagined doing to them.

    • To be fair, I must have been a pain to the renters’ kids. I was much younger and the granddaughter of the land lady, so you know, they’d have to be nice to me. Still, they were nauseating little bastages, all of them.

  4. All of those kids self-screwed, without my having to lift a finger.

    But don’t you see: your plotting against them created negative energy which contributed to their destruction. You cast the Evil Eye on them.

    Process proceeds from conclusion desired. It is very, very human.

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    When I listen to people complaining that “we put ourselves above other animals while we’re “just” animals as well”, I worry because if we’re “just” animals, then the Powers-That-Be (or Want-To-Be) can treat us like humans have treated animals.

    Those people like that think we should treat “other” animals just like we treat our fellow humans but never imagine that they might be treated as bad as others treat animals. 😦

    • And there was that Great Cynic, Twain who divided the world into humans and the Higher Animals.

    • “Are you suggesting a Duke’s son is an animal.”
      “No, I am suggesting he might be human. Put your hand in the box.”

    • I have read arguments for eugenics that compared it to sheep breeding without the slightest sign of awareness that they were nominating themselves as the shepherd, to breed, care for, fleece, and slaughter the flock.

    • Exactly, If we’re ‘just animals’ then can we be ‘put to sleep’ when we become inconvenient, too?

    • And what makes you think God doesn’t do exactly that? Genesis and much of the OT doesn’t often read that favorably for His interactions with his “chosen” people.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Well, I trust G*d more than I trust my fellow humans.

      • Having spent some processing cycles in consideration of the qualifications of “God” — existing through hyperspace, being outside of Time, possessing omniscience and being able to handle that — I am convinced that neither I nor any human who has walked this Earth has the job qualifications to play God, and that any who presume to are dangerous lunatics who need to be kept carefully away from any actual authority.

  6. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
    Psalms 8:4

  7. It is kind of funny, in a way. For much of my life I was told, “You are not really human.” in some way or other. Now that I’m comfortable with that, it seems many humans are not. I’d say one can’t win, but I think I am winning by simply no longer really caring about it all.

    And I must relate a bit from Pa, years ago when the family had a dog. From time to time he’d jokingly comment, “You’re a dog, and that’s all you’re ever gonna be.” And more than once that was a followed by, “The odd thing is, the dog is probably more alright with that than I am.”

  8. I got nothing…

  9. Yet it’s no wonder that my future history revisits the question of “what is it to be human?”
    Honestly, Sarah, this is the theme of every good speculative fiction around. Take humans, change something – themselves, their environment, their rules, their technology – and explore what happens.

    The worst fiction around, imo, is stuff that assumes humanness can be overcome, somehow. IOW, the progressive concept of perfecting man. Or “transhumanism”.

    Since we’re already raising and indoctrinating kids to be “good for something” instead of “the best human being you can be.” we’re already on that road.
    Being “good for something” as a necessary part of being a human is not necessarily the same as being inhuman if you’re “good for nothing”. It’s the flip side of “necessary, but not sufficient” – “necessary, but not really a requirement”.

    • On the “good for something” front, Free Market Capitalism has proven itself a very effective means of directing that result. Instead of being good at pleasing the boss we are enabled to daily provide proof of our service to mankind via monies freely received for services rendered.

      • And you have pinpointed exactly why the Progressives MUST convince people that Capitalism enslaves people. The Progressives desperately, DESPERATELY want to be slaveowners. They want to be Massa, living the Good Life, lording over their lesser, and having the occasional fling in the slave cabins. And they know that if Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution ever compete their conquest of the globe, all would-be slaveowners are for the chop.

        • In response, another quote from Prof. Williams:


          I don’t think that is the definition the Warriors have in mind.

        • Capitalism is a lie, a straw man created by the Marxists and Socialists to justify what they do.

          An honest characterization and name for the economic system bogey-man they’ve named would truly be something along the lines of “Traditional” or “What actually works for humans”, as opposed to this straw-man creation they’ve come up with. Calling it “Capitalism” is falling into their trap, and framing the issues within their extraordinarily flawed worldview. I think it should stop, and we ought to be using an entirely set of terms to describe the systems–I’d term the “Marxian-Socialist Theory” something like “Delusional Economics”, and what they call “Capitalist Exploitation” something more along the lines of “Rationalist Motivational Economics”.

          Communism/Socialism only ever works on the micro-scale, as in families and small segments of society like the military–And, they’re entirely dependent on inputs from the greater rationalist economy they parasitize on.

          I don’t know what a post-scarcity society would look like, but the fundamentals are going to be much the same as the traditional economy, just based on different terms and resources. Like as not, there will still be “capital”, and the stuff we use to do exchanges, but the basis is probably not going to be resources. More probably, it will be on “social credit”, so to speak, so that men like Steve Jobs will be able to attract others to work with him due to his reputation and track record. Instead of a currency based on resources, there’s going to be a trade in credibility and reputation–You have a track record of success at doing things, you’re going to be able to attract people to work cooperatively with you, who are otherwise independent in terms of self-sufficiency. Have a shitty reputation? Good luck with persuading others to do things with you, because that won’t be happening.

          The future economic systems are going to look much different on the surface than the ones of today, and yet they’re going to have many of the same fundamentals. The basis of exchange will shift, but the fact of exchange…? It will still be going on, and it will still be the same fundamental transaction as we have today.

          • I was always bothered by the “capitalist” thing too. The more-or-less system we live with still has some capitalists (more corporate than individual, now) but should they all vanish overnight, people wound probably find things would still move right along without them, after the initial confusion.

          • There isn’t going to be any such thing as a post-scarcity society.

            Or if there is, we already live there.

            In the USA, nobody dies of exposure except for cause of mental illness. Nobody dies from hunger except for cause of mental illness. We’re there.

            Yet we find new stuff we want more of every single day. No matter how much we’ve got, we want the latest pet rock or virtual pokemon or novel or what-have-you.

            Forget the descended from apes thing. I think I just made an excellent case for dragon ancestry.

            • Yup. You can’t run a homeless shelter without providing amenities — called necessary to make it fit for human habitation — that kings and queens and emperors of two centuries ago would gawk at in astonishment.

            • Hey now! No dissing novels as necessities!

          • “Communism/Socialism only ever works on the micro-scale, as in families and small segments of society like the military”

            And the military and most families are organized on an hierarchical, totalitarian basis. The leader makes the final decision.

          • James P. Hogan had an interesting take an a post-scarcity economy. It was based on competence. “Voyage from Yesteryear”, 1092.

      • *mischievous grin* RES, my dear wallaby, you’re gonna trigger some snowflakes by quoting a black man in support of capitalism.

        • Some people’s heads should be set spinning. This is one of the reasons we like the wallaby. 😉

    • Let me re-state the “worst fiction” part. The absolute worst fiction is something that doesn’t tell a good story, but preaches at you. The worst kind of story *other than that* is the story where “oh we just fixed that human trait with a little genetic tweaking or a really good en vitro education program, and voila! we overcome humanity!”

      • Brave New World does that, and it’s good fiction.
        (Just depressing as Hell.)

        • I think it tends toward “humanity will win out over everything done to suppress it, in at least some people”. And yes, it’s depressing (and good fiction).

  10. What is MAN? That’s easy. It’s a truck and bus company from southern Germany:

    Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG

  11. China. Various stories about lack of empathy and compassion. It does seem greater than big cities infamous lack of compassion but they are not the same culture as ours. Given the cultural environment, people will do anything.

    • The toddler who was repeatedly run over, and people watching… nobody acting.

      • There’s a story one of my college instructors related about an early Chinese ruler – I think Qin Shi Huang himself, though I’m not completely sure. According to the story, the Emperor asked for his coat. One of the Emperor’s subordinates carried out this order. But the subordinate who did so was not the subordinate who was supposed to be providing the coat. So the Emperor had him executed.

        According to the Emperor, it was better to have a job and not do it, than to do a job that wasn’t assigned to you.

        • As opposed to the Parable of the Two Sons. (Matthew 21:28-32)

          • The two stories touch on different things, though. The Two Sons talks about whether words or deeds are more important (the son that says he won’t do it, but does it, is lauded above the son who says he will do it, and then doesn’t; note that both sons were asked to do the task). The story with Qin Shi Huang discourages personal initiative. The servant who tried to be helpful was executed because what he was doing – while helpful to the Emperor – wasn’t his job.

  12. it’s no use saying it’s bad or it’s unethical.

    Austin Bay, quoting American Spectator‘s George Neumayr yesterday:
    “Liberalism, philosophically speaking, is proudly unprincipled, insofar as it recognizes no divine law prior to man’s will.”
    https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/the-left-flirts-with-trumpicide-from-the-american-spectator-liberalism-philosophically-speak/

  13. Treating humans as things is the true root of all evil.
    (I’m sure that’s a paraphrase of a quote I read somewhere, but it don’t gotta be a quote to be true.)

  14. Treating any human as a thing is diminishing humanity as a whole.

    Children do not come into the world an innocent blank slate. They come with some level of a will to survive, and a totally self centered view of the world. For nine months it has just been them, or maybe a sibling or few. Now there are servants, um, parents. And they are not anywhere near as good as the old system at satisfying demands before they are even made.

    You have to be taught to think of others as individual and worthwhile human beings and a means to your* ends. Humans beings are not cogs in a machine or conveniences for others.

    *your: be that individual or family or tribal or national or international.

  15. They’ll go where a thousand scifi movies have gone before, and then be shocked!!! that it turns out badly.

  16. In terms of creating beings who are handicapped from birth – we have people now who want to (or are) doing that. There are a few Deaf groups that are clear that they only want deaf children and they even say they would not take a “cure” for deafness because that would limit their unique society/culture.

    Look up “Deaf culture” (capital included) and you can find groups that believe this. I saw an article where people said if they could pick, they would pick for their children to be deaf. Look up audism, etc and the fights over ASL being taught or not taught in school.

    -John

    PS: I have not unpacked how I feel about this, parts sympathy but also parts pity (in the “they don’t know what they are missing”) – I don’t see how you can appreciate classical music or a bird’s song without having heard it. But maybe that is my own limitation.

    • I know how I feel about it. These folks are essentially leftist activists of the worst kind, insisting on retaining a treatable disability for the purpose of maintaining their identity group as something to hold against other people. And saying that they only want deaf children is equivalent to racism (real racism, not that proclaimed by the left about anything they find distasteful).

      • Not entirely.

        I have a friend who studied linguistics, her advanced work was in American Sign Language. She is one of the few hearing students who has attended Gallaudet.

        There is an isolation when hearing parents do not or are unable to master communications with their deaf child. For many deaf children the first time they are in a world where they experience being a part of a community is when they are sent off to a deaf boarding school.

        Deaf parents know that they cannot teach their children to speak. They cannot help their children navigate the hearing world. Their children are often put in the unusual position of being their interpreters. (Imagine this at parent/teacher conferences.)

        I do not think deliberately creating a handicap is a desirable solution. I would be more sympathetic if the movement’s aim was to adopt children who are deaf.

        • What you say is true, but I still say that the deaf activists are in it more for the leftist control they get from segregating their identity group from the wider society than for any laudable purposes.

      • It will take care of itself. The world is full of cars with loud engines and paint that blends into the fog……

      • I know how I feel about it. If I could acquire the fourth color cell for my retinas that certain women have, I’d do it in a heart beat; even if I had to put up with 90 days of headaches trying to retrain my brain to receive and interpret the signals.

        • And what if the cost were migraines for the rest of your life, a span cut short be several decades by the additional stress of rewiring your brain?

          You assume you can anticipate the costs of your choices. You have failed to demonstrate a reasonable basis for such assumption.

    • Issues with and over the so-called “deaf community” are precursors and indicators for what we’re going to be dealing with when the time comes for accommodating the folks who aren’t totally up for transgenic modification of their genes in order to keep up with the rest of society. Gattaca was an interesting story, but you’ll note that there was no significant pushback from the “normals” shown in the storyline–Which is totally against what I expect to actually happen.

      There’s going to be modifications of the genome. The question is, how much are we going to tolerate along the lines of “create a superior human” before the majority says “Enough…”?

      I think Sarah has it right, that a lot of this is going to come in from the transnational “elite” that makes believe it is running everything for the best, on behalf of the rest of us. Reality is, the whole thing is and should be as chaotic as the rest of nature, and isn’t truly amenable to control. You may think you’ve identified the genes that go into intelligence, but as with any complex system, the nuances and vagaries of what else will be affected are entirely unknown.

      I look at what happens with domestication of canids, and wonder: The traits we select for in terms of behavior in dogs, when applied to the fox, produce similar physical effects in the resultant domesticated foxes. So, the implication there is that there are genetic contributors to behavior that have physically apparent results for the animals in question.

      I leave as an exercise for the reader what implications that might have in human populations, and on any attempts to produce “optimized man”. There are likely to be a bunch of side-effects that are going to make heads spin, when it comes to this stuff.

      Personally, I’m not entirely against genetic engineering, but I’m a cautious man who doesn’t believe in making huge, all-at-once changes. Unfortunately, the cautious approach to this stuff takes a long time, and few are going to want to wait for final results before going “hot” with changes.

      I am almost morally certain that the first attempts at engineering “genius” humans and “supersoldiers” are going to end in abject failures, massive in nature. That’s just the way of things–Nobody wants to take the time for incremental, carefully-planned and vetted things in these fields. They want super-smart servants, and super-soldiers, and that’s what they’re going to go for. The results are likely to be quite anti-ethical to the stated goals of the programs…

      • The kicker is going to be; are the genetically modified Elite actually an improvement? Given what we know about the kind of imbecile who thinks this is a swell idea, I have my doubts.

        • Nature has a way of fixing that. The ones better adapted to the environment survive and reproduce, the others die, or are killed, and vanish from the field. Is it the fear of being maladaptive yourself why you have doubts? Nobody likes to think of themselves as being obsolete, last year’s model.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Are you the one who decides that other people are “obsolete”?

            Your very language demonstrates the problem of seeing other people as “animals/machines” that can be replaced with newer “better” models.

            It isn’t that the “newer models” are more able to survive in the “wild”.

            It’s the Powers-That-Be deciding that those “older models” must be “eliminated” to make room for the “newer models” that worry us.

            • Oddly enough, I had a rather good mental rant yesterday afternoon about the lack of correlation between folks willing to preach on the subject of Sneetches with stars and a willingness to pause a moment before taking on the role of demanding folks get stars….

            • That’s just it. If your the one who determines whether and what to improve on your children, that’s not much of a problem. It’s the imposition of that by others violating your right to choose, as well as deciding what gets done, that lies at the root of the problem. If I do a better job of making my children better able to survive that you do with yours, that’s my gain, and yours and their loss. Doesn’t matter if we’re CRISPRing them, coaching them in sports, mentoring them in CDC, tutoring them with their schoolwork, or just reading to them. It’s also why WE must be the ones to make that decision for ourselves, and our children.

              Sorry if you see a problem with my mindset of using the term, “models”; but I’m a STEM grad who came up through the military with a combination of computer maintenance, vehicle maintenance, and statistics. People are animals, biological machines with feelings and souls. With emergent properties that we still don’t understand. It’s a Brave New World. We just have to make sure it doesn’t come out as dysfunctional as Huxley’s.

              • If your the one who determines whether and what to improve on your children, that’s not much of a problem.

                It is still a problem, in that the assumption appears to be that a child is property of the parent, rather than the parent is guardian to the child.

                • We’ve already seen this mindset in action, too, with the “surrogate” babies.

                  Order seems unlikely to come out as desired? Destroy it and try again later.
                  Surrogate is reluctant to destroy the order, wants to keep it? Sue to destroy the order anyways. (Rumor has it, she doesn’t have an option.)
                  Surrogate is reluctant to hand you the end product? Too bad, she doesn’t have an option. You bought it, so it is yours, no matter that it rested under her heart for nine months.

                • Then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
                  The child is always the “property” (i.e. responsibility) of the parent; until the child becomes an adult by deciding it’s time to make their own decisions and accepting the consequences of those decisions.

                  • Terry Sanders

                    So you are the “property” (i.e. responsibility) of how many government officials?

                    A responsibility is not property. The word means “something you ANSWER for.” As in “you screw this up, you will PAY for it.” Ownership is not implied. The fact that you are responsible for what you own does not mean you own what you are responsible for.

                    • I am neither the responsibility, nor the property of any government official. And my relatives ceased having any responsibility for me, or any control over me, decades ago. As for ownership, the only thing you own is what you’re willing to fight, die or kill for.

                    • the only thing you own is what you’re willing to fight, die or kill for.

                      Nonsense. You own consequences for your actions of lack thereof. You own your ideas even if you are willing to abandon them at the least hint of a threat. You own your life whether or not you are willing to fight, die, or kill for it.

                      Lofty rhetoric is a way of eliding an argument, not of making one.

                    • Doesn’t that definition of “ownership” refute the definition you used to proclaim the parent as owner of the child?

                  • we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

                    IOW, you acknowledge you have no argument and must shift the terms of debate. If a child is your “property” — as is a chicken or calf — there is no reason you cannot sell the child or even slay, roast it and serve it for dinner.

                    Inability to distinguish a difference between “property” and “being responsible” does not mean there is no difference.

              • If your the one who determines whether and what to improve on your children, that’s not much of a problem.

                There are two ways to read that– you were blessed with excellent parents and do not realize how horrible they can be, or you do realize that things like the Roman notion of the father being able to kill any of his children at any time were actually used, and you’re OK with that.

                Either way, it’s more like it’s not your problem.

                It’s the imposition of that by others violating your right to choose, as well as deciding what gets done, that lies at the root of the problem.

                That contradicts the line immediately before it, because you are not your child– by deciding what to “improve” in your child, you are deliberately violating their right to choose.

                . Doesn’t matter if we’re CRISPRing them, coaching them in sports, mentoring them in CDC, tutoring them with their schoolwork, or just reading to them.

                Trust me, it does. Even with very small children, the difference between doing something with a child, and doing something to a child is extreme.

                Coaching means working with them. Teaching them is with them. Even reading takes their cooperation.

                Chopping a leg off for an upgrade? Not so much.

                • You do realize that the point you do most gene tinkering is at the single cell level? The cell may be alive, and it comes from a human source, but that’s not a child.

                  • You do realize that some of us are of the opinion that the only clear line you can draw between ‘a human’ and ‘not a human’ occurs at fertilization?

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    So?

                    That single cell will become a human that may suffer from “your” meddling.

                    Regardless of when you believe “human life” begins, genetic “meddling” on that level involves another human being.

                    “It” might not be a human (in your mind) when you “meddle” but it will become a human being.

                    You are still playing G*d with another human being while saying “it’s not really human”.

                    • It is always easier to proceed if we can tell ourselves that what we are dealing with are less than human.

                      History indicates that once such a position is adopted by one group of people about another group of people all sorts of misery occurs.

                    • “genetic “meddling” on that level involves another human being”
                      By definition, since the whole point of meddling is to affect the human being “on the other end”!

                    • BTW, *THIS* is one reason why I said “every attempts at engineering “genius” humans and “supersoldiers” are going to end in abject failures”. It will never be a success because it will always entail directing someone else’s life for your own purpose.

                    • Rather.

                      Both genius and supersoldiers require the ability to think for oneself. As long as that exists in the engineered subject he may choose to reject your purpose for them. Not only may they reject your purpose, but they might decide to take what you have endowed them with and make you subservient to them … if only for your protection and care.

                    • He, she, or it is going to suffer whether I meddle or not. That’s the nature of life. The question is, will my “meddling” reduce, increase, or have no effect on the suffering that person will endure during their life? Only in 1 of those three outcomes does suffering increase; not bad gambling odds. And plenty of children suffer and die because of poor life choices of their parents, even without the questionable benefits of genetic modification. You meddle with your kid’s genetic makeup in your choice of mate. Welcome to semi-divinity, oh mortal god!

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Which is why we must always “think about what we are doing”.

                      On the other hand, I was mainly responding to your “well its not a human” comment.

                    • Actually, that single cell is a member of the species H. Sap. with it’s own distinct genetic identity, every bit as much as you or I.

                      For the ethically inclined of our species, the fact that it’s immature, rather than adult, constrains us to greater care for it.

                  • You are biologically incorrect; your skin cell is a cell from a human source, but the human organism is an organism even if it is at the single-cell stage.

                    If it is alive, then it is a member of the species, even if it is smaller than other examples of the species.

                    You seem to have a philosophical blindspot where it comes to children being as much a person as a healthy adult, which usually shakes out to be a philosophy that’s designed around “person” meaning something like “those who can defend their own wishes in a way the philosopher recognizes.”

                    • Person. Exactly. It’s not a blind spot. It’s a fundamental difference in opinion on when something becomes human based on mental ability. Is a disembodied brain human? Stephen Hawking and Christopher Reeves may as well not have (or had) any bodies at all for all the use they got out of them. It was their minds that make them human.

                      Now take a kid born with anencephaly. Doesn’t meet my definition of human. No higher brain function and the organism rarely lives past infancy. Never develops language, never develops symbolic manipulation capability, no memory; in short, an empty body. It may look on the outside, but it’s not human. A store manikin looks human on the outside too, but that doesn’t make it human. I could play Frankenstein and clone up a pile of human body parts, most of them actually functional, slap them together so it looks like a human being, but that won’t make it one. I could do the same thing, but put one of those living disembodied brains in it, and if I’m lucky enough for a miracle, boot it back to life, and suddenly I’ll have a human being in a human body again.

                      No mind. No humanity. Not human. Being human is an emergent process. You don’t start as one, you develop into one, or not. And you can also lose that which makes you human; either by death of the mind and personality, or death of the entire organism.

                    • Your assumption of a convenient definition for “being human” is a fallacy, begging the question and arguing from an unsupported tautological premise.

                      There is more to being human than is dreamt in your philosophy, Horatio. First of all, that it is possible to devise a simple definition of humanity.

                    • Argument by redefinition.

                      “Human” does not mean that– and you deciding that you get to pick which humans are not people is, thankfully, unlikely to be my problem.

                      Since you can’t even be honest with yourself in framing your arguments, it is unlikely that anything of use will come out conversation.

              • “It’s the imposition of that by others violating your right to choose, as well as deciding what gets done, that lies at the root of the problem. If I do a better job of making my children better able to survive that you do with yours, that’s my gain, and yours and their loss. Doesn’t matter if we’re CRISPRing them, coaching them in sports, mentoring them in CDC, tutoring them with their schoolwork, or just reading to them. It’s also why WE must be the ones to make that decision for ourselves, and our children.”

                See, the problem with the mentality expressed in this paragraph is that it is simultaneously schizophrenic and paternalistic. You argue for the “right to chose” as an individual, and then express a right for you to do to your children precisely what you object to having someone else do to them…

                You have no right to play god with your children’s genome. I rather suspect that this would be one of those deals where parents are going to be way too prone to trying to live their lives out in proxy, through their children, and will opt to select traits optimized for things like sports the parents aren’t good at, and so forth.

                Do you have that right? Do you think your children will thank you, for trying to live your life over again, through theirs? What’s the recoil on it going to be, if these casual, ego-driven modifications don’t quite work out? Say that the increased muscle strength you selected for turns out to include massively debilitating arthritis of the joints and near-crippling calcium accretion in the muscle tissue, leading to your hoped-for football-hero son being crippled in a wheelchair in his forties?

                Wonder what that conversation will sound like… “Gee, son, I just wanted you to have the football career I never could…”.

                The idea that your son might prefer to be an artist, or something else never occurs to these people–Which means that there are going to be tragedies galore along these lines when and if casual genetic modification becomes a “thing”.

                Personally, I rather suspect that there’s going to be a generation that does it, and the resultant rage on the part of their children is going to lead to a general outlawing of the idea in succeeding generations.

                I find it rather odd that you argue on the one hand for autonomous agency to do as you will, and then at the same time, are suggesting you would then inherently deny that to your children. Or, are you thinking of somehow consulting with the gene patterns before conception, and asking them what they want?

                • kenashimame

                  People living vicariously through their children and projecting their unfulfilled dreams through them is hardly a new idea. Being able to edit a child’s genome in order to accomplish that is just a new wrinkle on an old problem.

          • The mindset you describe is, itself, maladaptive– the closer a group gets to idealizing “Nature” removing the “unfit,” especially when they specifically include helping “Nature” with the task, the less successful the group is beyond the immediate– frequently, they are not even successful in the short term, but they are definitely not well suited to having successive generations.

            It is also limited by human judgement.

            You might want to consider why your immediate presumption for someone having doubts is that they are fearful– are you afraid that you cannot compete unless others are removed, or you are somehow boosted?

            • Idealizing anything creates problems, because to idealize things basically means you’re fantasizing about crap you don’t know enough about. The idealized picture of anything almost inherently implies that your mind has emphasized certain elements of that picture, and lessened others. The reality of it all will almost certainly bite you in the ass, whether you’re talking about people or things.

            • Since I still work for a living, I happen to have plenty of experience in people either “boost” themselves, or they rapidly become unemployable.

              That “boost” can either be new skills, new mental abilities, or new physical capabilities. Now that doesn’t mean I’m going to graft a 3rd arm on ala motie, or implant a transceiver in my skull for direct neural reception and communication (We’re not there yet either, but we’re getting closer.) But I can learn how to juggle, I can learn a new process, I can exercise to become stronger and faster. As long as the job requirements don’t exceed my maximum physical capabilities, I can compete. But how can I compete against someone inherently faster or stronger than I am, at a job that requires someone to BE faster and stronger than I can get? If I could boost myself to be able to compete for that job, shouldn’t I do so? Or should I throw my hands up and say I’m a natural human, I refuse to be boosted, and you have to pay to take care of me?

            • Patrick Chester

              More to the point, Nature’s “opinion” on what is fit/not fit isn’t guaranteed to match what wannabe eugenicists think it is.

              • That’s why “Nature” sometimes needs just a little…help… with the “killing” part.

                Avoids accidents, y’know?

                -.-

          • Feh, nature has nothing to do with it. The plan I signed on for when I got the fully cyborg body included regular upgrades to make sure that I stayed up to date. Unfortunately I didn’t read the fine print, learned that it’s against the terms of service for me to refuse them and the markup is stupid high. Of course it’s either get them done or risk having my body repossessed and get left a brain in a jar. Yeah, in theory that’d be fine for working a desk job or maybe forcing me to become an actual serous writer, but that’s not really what I’m into.

            • Nothing wrong with being a brain in a jar as long as you’re hooked up to run a state of the art starship.

              • Yeah, I know, there are plenty of brains in jars who have gone pretty far in life, I’m not trying belittle them. I know full well I don’t have the qualifications to pilot a starship, even if I went through training for the job I don’t have the right state of mind for it. I’m way too easily distracted and I don’t do well under pressure.

                So yeah, power to all the guys, girls and AIs that are able to do that sort of thing, but I’ll never be one of them.

              • Nothing wrong with being a brain in a jar…
                As long as your name isn’t “Abby something”.

      • And this is also reminiscent of the Chinese trying to breed super-intelligent humans. How do the Chinese know if someone is more intelligent than the rest of us? They do better on tests than anyone else.

        Meanwhile, here in America, we don’t always believe that the future belongs to the test-takers…they may go on to do well in well-paid, cushy jobs that require intelligence…but we also admire the high school and college drop outs who go on to build commercial empires and push the boundaries of technology…

        • Amazing how great a success some spectacular failures turn out to be.
          Tricky thing, the prediction business is.

          • Look at how well we’ve “improved” bovines with the standard old fashioned breeding method of genetics. 😉

            • Define improved.

              For domesticated species it means “for the ends humans put them to” not “more likely to survive and reproduce in the wild”.

              In fact, many domestic species will die off without human care. Modern, western diary cattle are a great example from the bovines.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                IIRC female English Bulldogs can’t give birth without human help.

                The pups heads are too large for them to come out normally “thanks” to human breeding of English Bulldogs.

                The mothers have to give birth via C-Section. 😦

                • Probably why I prefer mutts and halfbreeds.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Some of the “working breeds” are still good pets.

                    The Breeders haven’t “destroyed” Beagles as working dogs and they are also good pets.

                    Note: My Lily (a female Beagle) is sleeping near me. 😉

                  • Absolutely. They are usually much smarter and healthier than AKC purebreds. The AKC has done more to ruin American dogs than any other organizations combined. The military and police do not buy AKC dogs, they usually go to Europe for their dogs.

                    • The military and police … usually go to Europe for their dogs.

                      Sonnuvabit! Just one more job Americans won’t do.

            • Over generations we have selectively bred cattle for the improved production of meat and milk, at a cost to their overall independent viability. We have yet to produce an all round breed of super cow.

              We aren’t cattle.

      • I am almost morally certain that the first every attempts at engineering “genius” humans and “supersoldiers” are going to end in abject failures, massive in nature.
        FIFY, imo.

        • No, somebody will take the time to get it right. Eventually. Hell, it’s gonna happen, if only by accident.

          Now, of course, to be absolutely honest, the “success” there is going to look like a disaster to everyone else who’s not a part of the program…

          • I think your definition of “failure” might be different than mine.

            • They are probably close to the same, it’s just that my cynicism and expectations of my fellow man are respectively a lot darker and lower than yours might be…

          • This, this so hard it hurts.

            I see this exact sort of thing when I talk to one of my friends, we’re both odd, but in wildly different ways and when I try and talk about stuff like this with her our ideas go in such wildly divergent directions that what I’d call an ideal outcome is a worst case scenario that she couldn’t even imagine and vice-versa.

          • Get it right?

            According to whose concept of right?

            We don’t really have a handle on all the factors from nature and environment that are involved in human formation. I am thankful for this. Attempts to create a race of Ubermench will undoubtedly happen, but I doubt it will prove stable.

            I could see most of the nations in the world looking to also create passive obedient citizens whose health will not cost much to maintain while productive. Then, with the kind help of a government physician, they will be permitted to leave this mortal coil instead of being forced to suffer the indignities of old age.

            This is the stuff of nightmares.

        • I see nothing wrong with engineering out things like CF, Tay Sacs, high blood pressure, any tendency to diabetes, sickle cell anemia. I’m all for making us more resilient to malaria, tetanus, staph, listeria, influenza, any of the childhood diseases we currently vaccinate against. I’m all for engineering the ability to safely consume more types of foods, resist more poisons and toxins. Stronger, faster, better. Longer and healthier lives.

          Funny thing about longer and healthier lives. It will require humans to take a longer term view of what they do; since then they will be around to live with the consequences of their decisions, and mistakes.

          I doubt people will be abusing the technology that much if they keep it applied to their own family lines. When you get the State, or corporations involved in it; then they are looking at resources and commodities, not people. THAT’S when things go to hell.

          • Review the things that changed in the foxes the Russians domesticated, and then contemplate that they were “merely” working on behavioral issues, not physical ones. You knock out the genes that code for the various genetic diseases you mention, and there’s no telling where the hell the side-effects are going to pop up. Or, for that matter, how long it will take for those side-effects to become noticeable.

            I would propose a hell of a lot of caution before doing anything in the germ lines, because we just don’t know what we don’t know.

            From what my reading in the literature leads me to believe, the whole question of how the “genetic” system actually works is still a huge unknown. The gene that codes for susceptibility to cystic fibrosis, for example, may have unknown effects on other areas of the biology, and until someone can reliably predict what editing that gene is going to do elsewhere, well… You just don’t know.

            A huge part of this problem is that a lot of the work we need to do at this stage of things would require actual experimentation on living sentient beings, with our current technology. That’s something that’s going to slow things down, and open up things to people who are less picky about their morals–Which likely means that someone like Little Kim(tm) is gonna be the guy who comes up the whacky super-science for this shit, while the rest of us are going to have to play catch-up using their data, the way we did with the stuff the Germans did in the concentration camps, and what Unit 731 generated in terms of data.

            Sucks to be the good guys, sometimes…

            • ” . . . experimentation on living sentient beings . . .”

              A problem that I used fictionally. So many human and animal genes are just alleles of each other, if not completely identical. Just assemble them in the right order, stick human control genes in the right places, and voila! You have a hybrid laboratory test animal, demonstrably less than 10% human genes. No angry protests about endangered species, just keep it quiet if you’ve accidentally got the brains looking awfully human . . .

            • Changing the genes is one thing – from what I am starting to understand about epi-genetics there is a whole nother layer there to deal with. And there are probably layers that we can’t see yet. I would love it if I wouldn’t need glasses anymore (and didn’t pass it down to my kids – but they all have glasses already).

              But – there is lots of ground for science-fiction stories in here…..

              -John

          • I don’t have a problem with doing that either, but what we’re finding is that those are curiously tied to “good genes.”

            • Yes, this.

            • The devil is in the details. We concentrate on the genetic coding and often fail to remember that the rest of the cell, and body, influence and control development also. What would people do if we came up with a prenatal treatment to permanently eliminate eczema without any adverse side effects?

          • And yet sickle cell, in some limited circumstances (environments with high incidences of Malaria) may be a survival trait . . .

            • Oh yeah, you’re choice is being dead, or being crippled to some extent. I’m sure most sickle cell carriers would prefer eliminating malaria AND sickle cell.

              • I would prefer waving my magic wand and eliminating all human problems in this world. Unfortunately, the Monkey’s paw Rule indicates that would likely end up eliminating all human life.

                Happily, I don’t have a magic wand.

        • Patrick Chester

          Maybe they shouldn’t go for “super” soldiers. “Sort of nifty” might be enough. 😉

      • It’s that “go big or go home” attitude, along with “devil take the hindmost” that some people have.

  17. clark e myers

    c4c

  18. I am reminded of something from the intro to some Hammer’s Slammers book, to the effect that ‘The problem with hiring mercenaries to do what you can’t or won’t is that if their command is a bit too wolfish, there’s the problem of the desire to rob the paymaster, or take over.’

  19. ““how to be human” is one of the main themes of my work.”

    Hmm… Some days I think I could use more books on “how to be human”.

    • If you could provide books on how to be human to the Left, it would be a service to all humanity.

      • Nah, they would refuse to read them. Not intersectional enough, or something…

      • It would just validate their already held beliefs.

      • Now, now, don’t make the same mistake that the leftists do. Leftists already know how to be human. Well, they know how to be their kind of human. It’s just that their definition of “human” tends toward the orcish version rather than the elvish one.

        IMHO, 90% (or more) of the problems between humans spring at least partly from the fact that we all have different definitions of what it means to be human. “Human” means “like me” — but how much like me? The trouble starts when you answer that question too narrowly, and then classify all “not like me” as “not human”, which action is usually followed by classifying “not human” as “morally insignificant.”

  20. “I remember standing there, hands on the gate, plotting vengeance. Because that’s who I am, and that’s what I do.”

    I play a really long game. I once managed a joke that took several years, and the reaction was glorious. That’s who I am, and it’s strange.

  21. All good points. Sets your future histories exercise up to be rather depressing. I wrote in Time Magazine about 20 years ago that it doesn’t matter whether a child is cloned or not. Once they’re born, a living and breathing baby, they’re human children and need all the love, compassion, attention, and care we as responsible parents can give them.

    Anywhere you run into genetic slavery, whether Jerry Pournelle’s Sauron Supermen to David Weber’s Mesans in his Honorverse, it’s just plain ugly. Of course we see that ugliness even in todays world when people treat other people as things or property.

    • PRECISELY on the child.

    • Arguably, the bit about genetic slavery also applies to those who are intentionally bred stupid so that they are more easily contented and don’t question their lot in life – such as the lower ranking castes in Brave New World.

  22. kenashimame

    c4c

  23. Another kibble-worthy post! You don’t say what size bag you buy the kitty-kibble in 🙂
    The song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” was revised for revivals . “A kiss may be grand but it won’t pay the rental/On your humble flat/Or help you at the Automat,” had the last rhyme replaced by “Or help you feed your pussy cat.”

  24. I am reminded of Lewis’s observation that if someone ever remakes humanity in their own image forever after they have changed not only the future but the past (exact quote if people want when I get home).

    For the progressives that is their goal.

    They should heed the title of the book in which Lewis makes that observations: The Abolition of Man.

    They might not own that goal. They might not even realize they have it.

    But it is the goal they strive to achieve.

    • That’s one I re-read often. Like Kipling, he had some dire warnings for us. One doesn’t have to look far to see the men without chests, nor the results of the green book these days.

      • One doesn’t have to look far to see the men without chests …

        It takes more than an untrimmed beard and a flannel shirt of plaid to make a lumberjack, and that’s okay.

  25. Patrick Chester

    (All of those kids self-screwed, without my having to lift a finger. It’s a thing of beauty.)

    They were affected by the evil cackling and ominous thunder from the other side of the gate? 😉

    • No. Look, I was a thoroughly unpleasant child in spots, but I was so fricking lonely I tended to be very nice to kids my age. These kids routinely played pranks on me, broke my toys and locked me out of play because they could.
      They were the same way when they grew up…

      • Oh dear. Infants that are left alone too much stop eating and die. Toddlers and small children left alone too much – well they don’t die, but they tend to have certain things not quite right with them.

        Range of issues is from little things like difficulty forming attachments, up to really big things like being more likely to be a serial killer.

        • Of course I’m a serial killer. Nah. I had companionship enough, just not other KIDS. And my adult relatives never wanted to play the games I played, or sit down and do legos with me. My brother read to me a lot, though. And grandma told me stories. BUT I was fascinated by other kids and wanted to play with them.

          • Lol. My siblings are a fair bit older, and my extended family experienced multiple simultaneous disasters just as I was learning to walk. So while the older kids were off at school, I mostly had the run of the house to myself (nobody really had time for me aside from keeping me fed) until I was old enough to be allowed to play outside on my own.

            So I had a couple of lonely years. I’m aware of some of those effects, but no no serial killer here either. But your post made me think of that.

            And it does rather explain Mules.

            • What it did do was cause me to go inside a lot and make elaborate stories. Also to learn to read really early.

              • Shhhhhh …. we don’t want some Proglodyte to swipe* a time machine, go back and bribe those rental kids to play with you! We’re quite happy with you the way you turned out.

                *As if they could invent something of that sort.

          • Poor characters

  26. Human is as human does. It’s a simple answer.

    Like how you can be born American on the wrong side of an ocean, it just took you a little while to sort out the details and get here.

    You do what we expect of a human, a person, and you’re people.

    I have certain sentimental attachments to the human form, but I’m willing to make allowances. How do you treat someone with a visible mutation?

  27. Doubting Rich

    “Treating any human as a thing is diminishing humanity as a whole. ”

    Which is why I will never agree with people who say that socialism is good in theory, even if it isn’t in practice/it has never been tried/it could never work.

    Socialist theory treats people as things. It dehumanises everyone – except of course the class of the wise who appoint themselves to decide for the things that happen to be genetically humans but in the lower orders. Every one of those things is to be a slave and a ward of state. It is even spelled out in one of the most popular slogans of socialism “From each according to ability (slavery), to each according to need (wardship)”. The person is a thing, property of the state. The state will therefore look after its property – as long as the property is not faulty. Disagreeing with the state is a fault.

    I prefer “from each according to what he is willing to give, to each according to what someone else is willing to freely give”. Humans are free.

    • Collectivists really are that alien.

      When they think about it, individuals don’t matter any more than the dead skin cells they loofah’ed in the shower that morning.

      Because what they worship, the entity they really care about, is the collective. (However they express it, be it Man or The State.)

      Of course such collectivists usually, individually, leave themselves escape hatches so that *they* *personally* can matter, as a mere individual.

      • There’ve been a few stories about the next stage of human evolution being akin to the social insects. Should it ever go that direction, I think “Human” would no longer apply.

        • The ones I’ve seen all involve some kind of psionics. So magic. Not really concerned.

          What really does concern me, is the type of person who thinks a group can have some kind of existence or consciousness or other ‘reality’ separate and distinct from the sum of the individuals. Now. With no magic.

          • People have that, already. It’s just not noticeable, most of the time.

            Ever been a part of a really dysfunctional organization, and wonder “How the hell did it get like this…?!!?”? That’s usually a function of the collective “whole”, the gestalt of the organization. We don’t study it, we don’t necessarily even have awareness of it, but I assure you, it is a real thing, and it exists.

            Some would term it “corporate culture”, some would call it “mob psychology”, but it does exist, and the sad fact is, we don’t study it very much at all. I’ve been a lifelong student of the phenomenon, and I’m here to tell you, it is something that very badly needs formal study. It can be a long-term sort of thing, where veteran employees tell the new guy “We don’t do things like that, around here…”, or it can be an ephemeral thing, where the mob decides the hell with it, we’re burning down the Bastille, today…

            Doesn’t matter how you look at it, humans are already doing these “meta-organism” things; just not very well, or very consistently.

            • You’re missing the key point here.

              There is no corporate culture that remains after simultaneous 100% turnover. ‘Corporate culture’ is retained and spread by *individuals* within the corporation.

              There is no group or collective that is anything distinct and different from the sum of its parts.

              That kind of muddled thinking is what leads to the concept of group rights, separate from and in opposition to individual rights.

              • Bullshit.

                I’ve seen the effects of it, multiple times over my military career. The really frustrating thing is that the truly long-lived phenomenon is generally observed in the truly dysfunctional organizations, while “excellence” is a most ephemeral thing.

                I’ve was assigned to the same unit multiple times over my career. What was prevalent the first time was there in the second experience, and still there in the third. What was different was the set of personnel assigned, and the unit “personality” remained unchanged throughout, despite the Army having moved the unit multiple times. What was bizarre to me was to see officers and senior enlisted I’d worked with elsewhere, and known as fully competent, capable sorts, take on the dysfunctional behavioral traits that unit was known for.

                The only way this stuff becomes changed is if the organization is shut down permanently, but even then… There’s a life after death, because a lot of former members of the shut-down organization linger on at those assignments, or seek to return to that post, and then carry over the organizational “meta-cargo” into new organizations. Occasionally, you will see organization personalities “merge”, as when one unit has its post assignment changed, and then members of a unit formerly assigned to that post seek duty there again, and bring with them whatever elements they carried over.

                The whole thing is hard to believe, while you’re going through it, but you can identify clear indicators that there is something going on, beyond the individual people involved. You put significant numbers of people together for periods of time, working on projects towards specific goals, and there’s going to be something grow up among them that is a separate creature, entirely. It’s not quite mob mentality, and it’s not quite “subculture”, but it exists, and leaves its stamp on whatever that organization does, and on the people that make it up.

                Describe it as an “organizational gestalt”, a “zeitgeist”, or what have you, it does exist. And, it’s a poorly understood phenomenon that hasn’t seen anywhere near the study it should.

                • You do contradict yourself. Even you explain how a group culture cannot and does not persist without individual carriers to transmit it.

                  There are group dynamics, yes. People behave differently in groups than they do alone, they influence each other in weird and variable ways that can’t always be predicted in advance. Emergent behaviors can be fascinating.

                  But again, there is nothing about any group that is *separate* and *distinct* from the sum of the parts. Everything is done to, by, for, from, etc etc individuals. Your gestalt is individuals influencing one another.

                  Human are self aware, but none of your cells are.

                  If you analogize people as cells in some greater ‘thing’, there is nothing special happening on the ‘thing’ level, no awareness that the ‘thing’ has that the individual ‘cells’ (the people) do not. Not without, as I said before, something magical. Current trope is generally ‘psionics’.

                  • You’ve never really been a part of anything greater than yourself, have you?

                    You’re talking psionic mystic bullshit, and I’m talking observed human behavior that I’ve both observed and participated in. Group dynamics and behavior don’t need some fairy dust waved over them to make them real, and they are a fact of life, in every organization I’ve ever been around.

                    Once upon a time, a particular DA-civilian ran shop on the Fort Lewis Logistics Center was a nightmare of petty, penny-ante bureaucratic bullshit to deal with–Mostly because one of the leaders that ran the place back when I first dealt with those a-holes during the mid-1980s was of that particular mien. He retired before my second tour at that base, and that particular shop remained as he’d run it some five years later in the early ’90s. Now, understand: All of the people that worked there from my first exposure were long gone, by the end of my second assignment to that base. The shop remained the same pestilential nightmare of poor customer service and overall incompetence. It got so bad that by the time I came back to the base for my third assignment in the early 2000s, that shop had basically been cleaned out a third time, due to various scandals. There was still continuity, but all the key players had changed. It was still the same, even after having gotten the attention of major key players on the logistics side of the house. And, interestingly, some of the folks who worked there were people I knew from other assignments that had come in to work in that shop. Nothing changed, and those folks that I had known from before started acting right in line with the reputation of the shop.

                    The organization is an entity, an organism, and it behaves as such. Killing the dysfunction means shutting it down, completely, and starting over fresh with new people. It’s a collective culture thing that gets transmitted like a damn mental/behavioral virus, and has nothing to do with anything metaphysical at all–It’s simple human behavior in the collective. And, damn few people really ever acknowledge that fact. It’s why Comcast will probably never really “fix” customer service–Piss-poor customer service is a Comcast “thing”, and fixing that will require somehow rewiring the whole damn corporation.

                    This stuff gets baked into the gestalt, the continuum of the circumstances the organization has. And, once it gets going, it takes on a life of its own. There were recognizable features from a unit I first dealt with at Fort Ord ten years later after they were transferred to Fort Lewis, and those features and “personality” of the organization were still recognizably the same when I retired some twenty years after first dealing with them.

                    Call it what you will, but the sum is greater than mere parts that go into it, for good or ill. People and organizations are not mere numbers; they have an identity and a “personality” that goes beyond the individual members. This is something that the US military is horrible at, and even the UK, with its greater reliance on the regimental system isn’t always too wise about these things. And, if you know what to look for, lots of this stuff exists in every organizational endeavor conducted by humans–The school district I attended for high school still has many of the same foibles and other little organizational tics that were present when I went to high school there, and despite numerous amalgamations, reorganizations, and renamings, the place is still recognizably the same. People don’t even remember why the hell they do things the way they do, but the organizational memory is still there, despite vastly changed circumstances, and they’re still doing things the way they were forced to thirty-plus years ago because the buildings weren’t designed properly for this climate. You ask “Why are you doing that…?”, and nobody can tell you why, just that they’ve always done it that way.

                    Hell, here’s a perfect example: Back in the thirties-forties, there was a major school bus accident going up the highway to the pass. After that, they banned school buses from taking that route, because it was unsafe. Right up until this last year, that ban remained in effect, and nobody really knew or even remembered why, they just knew that you didn’t run school buses on that road. Ever. This, despite nearly 75 years of road improvements and better buses. The organization just remembered that “You don’t run buses on X…”, and it remained that way until someone started asking questions a few years back.

                    It doesn’t take metaphysics for this stuff to happen. It’s just people acting together in groups, over time, creating an entity that is a creature all its own, and which takes on characteristics of its participants and leaders, maintaining those things even after the influential parties are long buried.

                    • Interesting thoughts, Kirk.

                      The persistence of organizational dysfunction is one reason that the private sector tends to be more efficient than the public sector: corporations can and do bankrupt and disappear completely. Even when this does not happen, lines of business within a company may be shut down and the organizations working on them be eliminated.

                    • You still continue to miss the point. Group dynamics is about how people interact in groups. Individual people. What exactly does a group have, that isn’t the sum total of the individuals and their own characteristics and interactions?

                      I have, and apparently I wasn’t as mystical about it as you. Seriously.

                      I’ve been part of and captained sports teams, I’ve worker for companies ranging from the very small to global corporate business unit swarm. (It’s interesting when you work for a very small company for several years, leave, then visit several years later and see them doing things and realize “they got that from *me*”.) And never have I observed anything other than individuals and their interactions.

                      Yes, individuals influence each other when they interact. Those interactions influence other INDIVIDUALS. Force individuals to interact with each other repeatedly over time, and those influences can be surprisingly large.

                      Let’s look at this:

                      >The organization is an entity, an organism, and it behaves as such. Killing >the dysfunction means shutting it down, completely, and starting over >fresh with new people.

                      As I keep telling you, any ‘organization’ is just an expression of the states and interactions of the individuals that make it up. There is no special sauce on the organizational level that is distinct from what is in the heads and hearts of one or more *individuals*. Corporate culture is real, as is institutional knowledge, but the vectors are individuals. If this were not the case, your example WOULD NOT WORK. Even you say, you start over with fresh people, the old is gone.

                      Have you ever worked for an organization and there was some system, some piece of equipment, that still worked but everyone knew ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ because nobody understood it, most especially how to fix it?

                      How would you say that is possible? That widget belongs to your group, if anyone in the world should know anything about it it’s your group. It should be part of your culture. How could you now know? Easily. Because all institutional knowledge is, is the knowledge in the heads of the individuals who are part of the institution. The particular individuals with a certain bit of knowledge leave without passing it on, *poof* that bit of ‘institutional knowledge’ is gone forever.

                      As I keep saying, as you keep failing to understand….

                      Yes, when people interact with each other they influence each other. Which means group dynamics is a thing. But everything to do with group dynamics, has to do with the way individuals influence each other. Individuals are what matters, the unit of measure, the only thing with agency.

                      There is no collective knowledge, will, desire, *anything*, that is separate and distinct from the knowledge, will, desire, etc of the individuals that make up that group. Anything else is unsane reification.

              • “There is no corporate culture that remains after simultaneous 100% turnover.” It is almost never 100% simultaneous. And even if it were, the culture leaves a legacy of organizational forms and processes that will greatly influence the new inhabitants. A company that is organized on a strictly functional basis, for example, will tend to have a very different culture from one that is organized on a business0unit basis.

              • I loved the Leadership and Management courses.
                Corporate culture is an emergent phenomenon.
                Keep the people, but change the physical environment, and it will change somewhat to adapt to the physical constraints while remaining very close to the original culture.
                Replace one or two people, and the culture will impose itself on the new, while changing very little itself.
                Keep the physical environment, while completely replacing the people, and you’ll see a lot of the previous adaptations take place in the new population.

                • That’s also why I’m not too worried about Donald Trump totally destroying America. He’s only one change in the government, the system and people in it impose their own constraints on his behavior and influence. Of course we elected a radical precisely because we needed one to drive even a minute change in the government.

        • Mmmm… I beg to differ, on that. I think there is room for individuality inside “the collective”, depending on how it is implemented.

          Borg-like subsumption into the mass is one thing, but things don’t necessarily need to proceed in that manner–And, likely, won’t.

          Consider the metaphor of watching a mob on the field of a football stadium after a victory, and then compare it to the choreographed coordination of the half-time marching band. Is the coordinated precision and direction of that marching band entirely alien to the human condition? No, it is not–And, that coordination is something we are going to take as a model for how to proceed in that direction. It won’t be “social insects”, it will be homo networkia, possibly through implant technology.

          I’ve thought about this a good deal, in context of working together. Imagine, if you will, being able to operate heavy equipment as a part of a team where you were able to “borrow” the point of view through the man on the ground trying to place a girder, and how much more efficient and effective a team like that would be, as well as safer. Networked humans are going to be so much more efficient at things that it’s not even funny, and the advantages of doing things that way are going to be so paradigm-shattering as to be transcendent. Likely, the process is going to start with relatively simple applications, like communications, shared sensory inputs, and the like. Simple coordination alone will give the users a considerable “edge” in daily life-tasks, and we are going to have to work through the implications of it all. You can see a nascent precursor effect with current smartphones–The people who have taken them up, and made them work for them? Much more efficient and capable than those who haven’t. And, to be quite honest, the vast majority of us are using these things as mere toys, instead of the adjunct to our minds they are capable of being.

          Homo networkia is going to be a thing. Question is, when and how. I don’t think it’s going to mean the end of individuality, either, because that’s not how humans roll. Well, most of us–The more effective users of this technology are going to be highly individualistic, yet capable of acting within the limits of that individuality as a part of the collective. It won’t be any more alien to the human condition than it is for us to take part in a marching band, or a military formation marching in step to take coordinated action.

          • We’re social animals, but our social interactions seem to be devolving back into tribalism, and talking and playing on those devices more than getting work done.

            They’re an extension of the communications and arts we evolved over a couple of million years. A useful addition to the tool chest. Nothing more.

            • Symptomatic of the limited amount of time we have had these things, really. How long did it take us before we could truly say we had truly adapted to and realized the potential of the printing press?

              Give it time, and more sophistication. Personal computers are only now beginning to approach the beginning stages of what many imagined and envisioned many years ago, and we still are not using them to the full potential they promise.

      • From 1959 :

      • Holy State or Holy King–
        Or Holy People’s Will–
        Have no truck with the senseless thing.
        Order the guns and kill!

    • Socialism works in one and only one state: voluntary association, particularly one based on a commonly accepted belief system.

      A group of people go set up a commune, it can work there. For a while. It usually fails when personalities clash, or a new generation arises (inevitably, some part of that new generation isn’t as committed to the belief system and the community breaks down). Or, of course, everyone else finds out that guy has been cheating the system.
      In other words, it breaks down when someone no longer is voluntarily associated. Worded differently, “individuals”.

  28. I really can’t see the themes in my own work. Maybe it is because I am still trying to work through some things. Although I think one of my themes may be that a person can survive and thrive in the worst conditions.

  29. madrocketsci

    Rant from one of my many fragments of fiction:

    “Only human?! ONLY human?! You must have some dismally narrow view of what a human is to be so unconcerned about throwing an adjective like ‘ONLY’ at him. You might say that Earth is ONLY a planet, that life is ‘ONLY’ a chemical film on its surface. That the universe is ‘ONLY’ an infinite state machine. Only human? Only a being capable of *understanding* – so paltry a thing that! You could be a GOD. All the forces of nature are yours to command, if only you take the time to comprehend them! So focused on how ‘difficult’ it is? On magnitude and degree, to the point where you miss the quality and kind!”

    Of course the speaker in question is a transhumanist, from a rather mad tribe. But she has some points. I’m rather sick of fiction that depicts men as helpless broken things: Pawns of fate or instinct. I’m sick of fiction that depicts no-one as clean and no-one as competent, or men as bundles of animal impulses held in check only by tactical constraint.

    The Transcends in my fiction think similarly, and are rather proactive in trying to make themselves what they *can* be and prune what they *are*. It sometimes ends horribly, but it doesn’t *have* to.

    PS – if this thing duplicates, I’m having a bit of trouble posting. Sorry.

    • I know this is VERY late, but thank you. For this was the inspiration for my rant, er, post, that appeared not long after this one. Grammercy.

  30. “And why should people who haven’t been raised as humans, cherished because they’re humans and no more, love or respect humanity? They won’t/don’t.”

    Humans wouldn’t. But a Post Human? The thing about a post-human isn’t that they do what we do, only faster/better/cheaper. A post-human isn’t a human anymore. Self deception might be a human thing, they might not tolerate it the way we do. They might decide they want us.

    After all, who else is there around to talk to?

    • But why would they be post human? What is post human? they’re of human flesh, etc…

      • Because they deliver mail? 😛

        • Humans… genetically mixed with… Postum?

          Uhmm….

          And my kind’s formation is…. dubious?
          Like some human said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

          Not sure I want to see much more, though.

          • Not sure I want to see much more, though.
            Your momma told you not to come.

            (The previous line triggered a song response, and it couldn’t stop before encountering the quoted line. 🙂 )

      • I was thinking about that. A post human is to us as we are to a dog. In my book, the conversation goes like this:

        Ever notice how the dog always winds the chain around the tree? They never figure out to go the other way around the tree and unwind it. Never ever. They just don’t get it about the chain. We have to go unwind it for them.

        So if you took a dog, and changed him so he could understand the chain, and unwind it himself… is he still a dog? No, not really. Because he can do things dogs can’t do. He’s post-canine.

        A “superman” is going to be someone that sees all the chains we have wound up, that we can’t see. Someone who perceives and acts on things we have no knowledge of.

        My point is, we love dogs. We don’t care that they don’t understand the chain. We keep them around because they’re awesome, and because they can do things humans can’t do. They love us back, they take care of us in their own doggy way. But they probably find us puzzling and annoying.

        That’s how post-humans will be.

  31. I think we will create transhumans, and it is very important when we do so that we imbue them with an awareness of what it is to be human in the good sense. Because if we do not treat them with love and caring and teach them morality, then they will hate and not care and behave immorally towards us.

    • we imbue [transhumans] with an awareness of what it is to be human in the good sense.

      Hell, we aren’t even doing that with regular humans, these days. Instead we have been feeding our feral young with lies of entitlement and privilege and the bestiality of the species.

      • Indeed. One of the things that seriously worries me is that we are coming close to being able to create various sorts of transhuman beings, and have deliberately abandoned the Enlightenment philosophies which might have enabled their productive integration into society. Sarah’s Darkship stories are in a sense all about it, because her semi-transhuman characters CAN fit in without hurting others — but the Good Men are a classic feudal culture with totalitarian socialist ideological underpinnings, and can’t even fit in among THEMSELVES without repeatedly murdering their (artificially-created) offspring.

  32. The hardest part of being a parent is finally letting go of your child; to watch them soar or fall on their own, without you controlling their choices. Your part was deciding to have them in the first place, to provide for them, to care for them, to comfort them when they needed it, to develop them, to help them grow. The empty nest syndrome is real. It’s that discomfort we feel when that purpose in life is no needed and we have to find a new purpose, or drift aimlessly and wither away.

    • The hardest part of being a parent is not strangling a-holes who presume to tell you what is the hardest part of being a parent.

      I had no trouble letting the Daughtorial Unit go, as it had been planned for from her arrival. Frankly, it was harder not blowing up at officious bureaucrats who thought they knew my daughter better than I did.

  33. Is there a new address to send possible guest posts? If so, I have managed to miss/forget it (ox slow, yes). If not, then you should have something of potential (NOT certain – ox not that slow!) lurking in your inbox, inspired by (credit where it is due) madrocketsci.

  34. Pingback: Letter from a Minotaur: “Only Human” | The Elegant Ungulate