Are genetically modified transhumans better than the rest of humanity?
|“Aren’t you worried that he’ll use all of that intelligence to take over the world?” said Beth, eyes amused but glued to the normal-looking teenager calmly typing away at the laptop on his desk.
Victor smiled, his eyes, like hers, watching the teenage boy through the one-way glass. He had been expecting this question. In fact, his answer to that was the critical piece of his research, the part that had gotten him the authorization to proceed.
“We’ve painstakingly engineered Adam to be sensitive to the feelings and best interests of others. He has several characteristics of pack-based animals. Humans already have such instincts, but they have been significantly heightened in him. Of course, we had to be sure to remove some of the tendencies toward violence found in many such species. However, based on his behavior and testing, we have succeeded extremely well on that front.”
Victor walked to the door to Adam’s room and typed in the entry code.
“To more directly answer your question, however, there might be nothing better for humanity than to have Adam lead it. We have designed him that way. Based on the psychological tests we’ve administered, he seems to value the well-being of others above his own—which was precisely our intent. He is perhaps the most empathetic, caring human being on the planet.”
Beth frowned but said nothing.
Victor scanned his retina, then pulled open the door, stepping aside to usher the tense woman inside. They both walked into Adam’s room, the door sealing automatically behind them.
“Good morning, Victor,” the boy rising from his seat to greet them with a warm smile. “Who’s your beautiful guest?”
Beth blushed at the unexpected compliment. From her demeanor, Adam guessed that she was more familiar with adversarial interactions than receiving personal compliments. That was to be expected of a politician, he supposed. Politicians probably gave far more compliments than they received. Adam had no doubt that this imbalance of kindness drove them to behave as they so often did.
“This is Beth, Adam. She’s with the Department of Homeland Security. She’s the newly appointed Director of the Division of Eugenics Control. She’s here to check on our progress.”
Examining the woman, Adam tilted his head slightly. After a moment, he extended his hand. She shook it. She didn’t trust him. Fair enough. He didn’t trust her either.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Beth. Since you were recently appointed, I assume that you have close ties to the current administration in the white house?” Adam said in a conversational tone, not a hint of either approval nor disapproval in his voice.
“I do. I take it that you keep up with politics in the news?”
“I like to stay informed,” he said simply.
“I hope that the professor here doesn’t have you watching America Today. I’d hate to think that the smartest human alive is only being exposed to insipid extremist trash rather than actual news,” she said with a smile.
To Adam’s eyes, the practiced ease with which she delivered that line relative to her controlled but easily perceptible nervousness in this uncomfortable environment, suggested that she was accustomed to making that same joke whenever being introduced to someone new. It was probably her way of feeling out whether a new acquaintance was friend or foe. The corners of Adam’s mouth turned ever-so-slightly upward as he realized he could use this to his advantage.
“Of course I watch America Today, Beth. It is the finest program of its type. Why would I need to watch contrary views?”
Victor’s jaw dropped in horror as Beth’s tightened. He turned to Beth nervously and stammered.
“I-I don’t know why Adam just said that, Beth. We expose Adam to news from every perspective, every outlet. Our intent is simply to give him a well-rounded perspective…” He trailed off as Beth’s brows furrowed.
Victor whirled to Adam.
“Why did you give this nice lady the impression that you only watch America Today, Adam? Could you please clarify that this is not the case?” Victor’s eyes pleaded with Adam.
Adam hated sabotaging Victor like this, but it couldn’t be helped. Unfortunately, he knew what needed to be done far better than did the professor. He ignored Victor, continuing to address only Beth. Looking at his mentor would only make this more difficult.
“I saw on America Today this morning that the minority party was accusing the White House of wanting to utilize civilian eugenics projects like me as a springboard for new military technology. Is that true?”
Beth stiffened slightly before giving another practiced response.
“Our leadership believes in keeping all options open when it comes to defending our country from terrorist threats. That said, however, this administration has no plans to weaponize or utilize genetic enhancement technology for any sort of offensive capabilities.”
Beth followed her statement with an easy smile. It didn’t reach her eyes.
“Defensive?” asked Adam with a blank, inscrutable look.
“Defensive? I’m not certain that I understand the question,” said Beth, blinking her eyes several times in rapid succession. Beth wasn’t an easy person to catch off guard, but Adam’s direct questions were not what she had expected.
“You said that the administration won’t weaponize this technology or use it for any offensive capabilities. You said nothing about utilizing it for defense. And this administration’s idea of defense seems to be relatively broad.”
Beth paused for a moment, staring into Adam’s eyes. This time, she didn’t blink, maintaining a perfectly neutral expression. When she finally spoke, it was in a quiet monotone.
“There are no plans to use this technology for defensive purposes either.”
This time, Beth showed no signs of prevarication. Her body language was good.
The fact that she, for the first time since she had walked into the room, had absolutely no behavioral tells told Adam that she was an excellent liar, well aware of how to mask her body language when needed. As a result, he surmised with what he deemed a fair level of certainty, she must be lying.
It made sense. She had paused, likely to size up the situation. She had probably decided that the risk of being tied to that statement and having it used against her was minimal in this situation, with only two witnesses—one of whom was a genetic experiment. A lie would serve her purpose with less downside than the truth. Telling the truth would almost certainly turn Victor against her. That would probably be inconvenient for her. Victor’s cooperation was probably vital to the administration’s plans. Because of the extremely unpopular nature of transhuman genetic research among the general public, there was very little of it, at least in the United States. Victor’s was by far the most mature research of this type that Adam had been able to find in his extensive online inquiries into the subject.
Adam thought it likely that other countries were making far more significant investments in research of this kind. However, in his well-informed opinion, they were actually less likely to deploy the technology for offensive military use than the current U.S. administration in power. The deterrent effect of other technological superiorities that the U.S. currently enjoyed would keep other potential developers of the technology in check for the near future. That may change at some point, but so much could change in the distant future, that it was impossible to predict the correct course of action more than a few years ahead. He decided he had to act on the current situation, which he could read with some level of accuracy, not hypothetical far-future scenarios that sported comparatively low probabilities of occurrence.
Adam took in a deep breath, then slowly released it. Beth glanced at Victor, who returned her look with a shrug. The woman began to back slowly away from the boy.
Adam hadn’t utilized his new ability for more than simple experimentation before now, but it was time to use it for more. He reached out with his mind and used it to tear apart the data storage devices and their backups to ensure that this research couldn’t be replicated in the near future. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the research, it was not stored in the cloud. He had confirmed as much with the professor in their prior conversations.
Cocking his head to the side once more, he considered, once again, using his ability to cause the professor’s death. He believed he could do it, and that might be the best thing to do to ensure the loss of all knowledge gained through this experimental program. He couldn’t do that, however. He was simply too fond of the professor. The man was right. They had succeeded in making him extremely empathetic. If not for the government overseeing this project, he would not be choosing this course at all. Perhaps humanity would be ready for transhuman experimentation one day. Victor was evidence that there was hope for that future.
As his eyes turned back to Beth, however, his fists tightened in resolve. His eyes saw the fear swirling in hers. Fear—that tie to an ancient genetic past that humanity had yet to overcome—was the true driver of his actions, Adam thought with a wry smile.
It was ironic. The very research he was destroying might be the key to tearing humanity free of that fear. However, under the control of those driven by it, Victor’s work was too powerful a weapon. The research, corrupted in the way that it inevitably would be, could easily end humanity altogether. Even under the best reasonably probable scenario, it was likely to make humanity—his genetically programmed pack—subservient to another species. He could not stand by and allow either of those scenarios to play out.
Focusing his mind on thoughts of intense heat, he spontaneously combusted, torching his cells into carbon with a thought-provoked inferno.
It was the only way. For now. With his final thought, Adam wished that the next version of him would find a very different human leadership—one that could be trusted with this technology.
Victor fell backward as his creation vaporized before his eyes. He crossed himself and whispered.
“For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
He hung his head and two tears splashed on the floor.