The programme advanced through time to the present age, noting some things about today's society that I have mentioned in previous posts. The one theme that caught my ear was that through our advances we have steadily turned the odds of our survival as a species in our favour. From developing community, tools, then language and writing we have enabled our species to retain and advance our knowledge through the more efficient sharing of ideas. Most recently we have the internet and computers, which don't actually achieve anything new, except to speed up our (cultural, technological) evolution further still. As our advances in medical technology have improved, we have reversed the theory of natural selection. People born with genetic defects in the Stone age would most likely not have survived. Nowadays they are living on as a direct result of medical assistance now available. This trend of reversing natural selection has occured without thought - it is merely human nature to try to promote our own survival.
Genetic modifications were mentioned next in the programme as the next medical advancement available to us. With genetic advancement we will be able to screen for genetic conditions and with it re-simulate the effects of natural selection that we reversed previously. For this reason and this reason alone I am now in no doubt as to the need for us as a species to proceed with genetic programmes. Sure, there are still ethical and moral questions as to exactly how to proceed, and additionally for whom these treatments will be available. But as was pointed out in the documentary, the evolution of talking was possible only through the lowering of the larynx, which now means that we are at far greater risk of choking to death (apparently about 200 people every year in Britain). But as an evolutionary (and therefore survival) concept, talking is worth the additional risk of dying for.
The programme then went on to extrapolate the possible future outcomes of genetic research, including doubled longevity with no visible ageing, increased intelligence, tailored looks etc. Possible, but potentially more difficult for society at present to accept, with even more ethical and moral questions than the screening suggestion above.
One point the programme did make was that a researcher from the future looking back at the human species as it is today would see a larger difference between the genetically modified humans of the future than the apes our current species has evolved from in the past (which are only 1% different genetically speaking). I think the point of this comparison was to try to give the audience a bit of perspective.
It occured to me that a lot of the extrapolations portrayed in the documentary are present as science-fiction or science-fantasy in films. Many of the things portrayed as 'fantastic' or even 'magical' in past films have turned out to be true. One could therefore theorise that films are a very important cultural device to help humans adjust to this new increased pace of change by introducing new ideas in an unthreatening way. To strengthen this hypothesis I point out that I feel the most successful films (IMHO) are those which are immediately relatable to in terms of societal or cultural references within the film, but which introduce a new idea or ideas which allow the human mind to latch on and assimilate.
Of course there are plenty of other genres of films and even other mediums of distribution, but I do feel the 'core' is in that which I described above. One could almost go off on a tangent and argue that distribution of such films is an important and necessary tool of cultural advancement.. but I digress.
Coming back to earth, in more ways than one, the programme finished and the BBC news at 10 came on. The headlines tonight happened to be a story on scientists successfully cloning a human embryo. Fascinating, and what a coincidence. I can't imagine it could really have been planned. Anyway it spurred me to write this post.
Anyway, the other stories included the Greenland's ice deposits melting at a vastly increased rate than expected due to global warming and pressure for Britain to build more wind farms for renewable energy.
I certainly did feel privvy to momentous events happening right now in the world and wanted to write down my thoughts.
Anyway, kissycat1000 has been asleep on the other sofa now for a good 45 minutes and I'm tired, so I think we should get some good old down to earth sleep. Good thing I don't have to be in work until 2pm tomorrow :) Shame the weather is going to be crap.. ah well. :)