Could we even make intelligent trees?UPLIFT: To increase the intelligence and help develop a culture of a previously non- or near-intelligent species. [From the Uplift novels by David Brin]
PROVOLVE: The enhancement of biological intelligence, especially in a subsapient or presapient animal, augmenting it to sapient grade; by means of gengineering, cyborgization, and/or bioborgization; a splice intelligence; any biont in that way enhanced [John Dollan] more
We know that interfering in alien civilizations would be a bad idea, it’s called the prime directive. But should this include civilizations we created? Uplifting animals, enhancing animal or alien minds. Uplifting is the notion of genetically altering existing species such as dolphins or dogs to have the intelligence and physiology necessary to use tehcnology and help us improve civilization. This concept goes back a long way in time, as long as we’ve been anthromorphising our pets. We see stories about it as far back as 1896 with HG well’s the island of Doctor Moreau, but the term uplifting and biological uplifting we get from physicist and sci fi author David Brin and his series the Uplift Saga. The notion that you could take an already intelligent animal and give it a bigger brain or modify it to have hands or opposible thumbs, is not terribly new. But what Brin did that was different but he used it as a different take on the star trek prime directive. In the new planet of the Apes series, humans test an alzheimers drug on chimps and end up enhancing their intelligence, which raises the ethical question of whether it’s right or long to bring these beings into the world. There is 3 types of uplifting, tehcnolopgical uplifiting, just giving them technology, physiological uplifting, modifying them to have better tool use capability, and neurtological uplifting, giving them bigger brains. W ehave the option to do all three with our dolphins, giving them a better brain and hands for tool use, and then giving them technology. Lets say we give the octopods bigger brains and our marine scientists work with them to develop language and basic technology over a few generations. Is it now unethical to give them advice and more science and technology? By the same reasoning if we gave chimps, pigs, dogs, or dolphins bigger brains back here on earth, are we bound to not interfere in their emerging civilization. Should we be giving them their own palce to develop independantly? Should we simply be integrating them into our own civilization instead? So that chimps are living in the house next door, sending their kids to school with yours, playing on the little league baseball team, voting in elections, and going to city council meetings to complain about local ordinance and taxes? How far did you uplift them? Just a little smarter to be able to do some takss? What, if any righs would a slightly uplifted chimp have if it could never get to be smnarter than say a 10 year old, what, if any responsibilities do we have to them? Or are they for human level even better at some mental tasks and want to go to college and practice dentistry or become professors, or become ordainted into the clergy or run for public office. It’s a little different with the dolphins, we’d expect them to have theior own seperate civilization in the sea, but the prime directive notion itself seems completely out the wiondow. Not everyone agrees with the non-interference polcy suggested by the prime directive. For those who do, there is always that cutoff for when they are advanced enougn for contact and general notions for what qualifies as interference.. We often discuss the cutoff for civilizations in terms of them being advanced enough to make contact. But at what point is the reverse true? When are they so primative that something like the prime directive doesn’t apply? Are chimps and dolphins too primitive for us to worry about? Its unlikely that any 2 people are going to agree where those cutoffs should be and what qualifies as exceptions or interference. Yet that is not the full dillema, lets imagine for the moment we could give dolphins hands and voiceboxes able to speak human languages and the brains to use the,. First off, most of us would not want a set of fins or tentacles no matter how handy they were. So it’s debatable if the dolphins or octiuupy would want hands either, they might not like the notion of being mutant freaks. We tend to think of dolphins as nice and friendly critters, they don tend to act nice around humans but they can be pretty cruel. so can other hominids and primates we consider uplifting, so you could be unleashing monsters. Also there are other behavioral traits we’d find unacceptable to deal with. That raises the quesiton if its okay ton tweak their minds for more than just shear intelligence, which is a pretty ambiguous term itself. But an alternative case way down on the intelligence scale, ants or inects. Ants are brutal, not only do they demonstrably conduct wars, but they also kill their own hivemates, actively killing members who are past their usefulness. If we were uplifting them individually, giant ants would be rather hiorrifyingin their outlook on life, you’d have to mae alterations to make sure you didn’t create something that you didn’t want to sweep over the galaxy colonizing everything. That’s a thing to remember too, humans breed very slowly, uplift a species that uses the fast breeding low survival rate strategy and they’ll outnumber you very quickly. Do we really want an uplift species with that kind of advantage and competition with us, and for that matter, is it ethical to level the playing ground for a k-type to beat the r-type, advvantages that you couldd keep the uplifted species our equal or inferior. However, we o have an alternative where animals like animals are concerned, we often refer to ants as a hivemind. An alternative to uplifting a single organism to intellignece, might be doing that for it’s hive, tweaking them so that they did act as a single human level intelligence, a big networked hive intelligence composed of thousands or millions of subintelligent organisms, something we arguably are ourselves, we’d have the same option for a planet that only has algae or fungi on it, creating colony minds out of those. A hive mind made of ants inst an ant any more than you are a neuron or a white blood cells. We don’t know uf they’d have any of the attitudes or tendancies of the basic organism they are composed of. We mentioned this option not because it’s kind of fascinating, but also because of the enforcement issues with trying to keep a planet safe from interference. It is hard to maintaina aquarantine for centuries, imagine trying to do it for billions of years while the naissant single cell life on that planet treks its way up to sentience. That’s one of the reasons given for why you need the early cutoff when it is okay to colonize or interfere with other planets. But once you get the ball rolling by uplifting one species, pandora’s box is open for good or ill.You uoplift chimpanzees, then lemurs, then cats, dogs, etc. Just here on earth you’ve got issue about what todo about all the unaltered species, and what the uplifted ones want to do aboutnthem too. If you uplift 1000 primates, how will theyn regard their old species, they might want to get all of them uplifted, want nothing to do with them, or even want them wiped out. Also a lot of folks might just want a smarter cat or dog, but not a human intelligent one. Is it ethical to uplift someone but not all the way to your level. It doesn’t sound bad to want a smarter dog or cat, or one modified for basic speech. But there is a nagging background concern that you might end up creating a slave race. You now have a species who owes its existence to you coming by and tinkering with them. They might come to resernt our interference. What if the uplifted chimps go uplifting other species as well? Even if you didn’t want to uplift, it would be very hard to prevent anyone doing it at some point, and oncen it’s done you either have to accept that new species or just exterminate them. They aren’t likely to share your views on uplifting. It’s not hard to imagine folks wanting to be the person who wanted to create a whole new civilization.
Uplifting the idea that a species could be biologically or technologically augmented to be nearly or as intelligent as yourself. Sentience may be a very rare and precious thing in this universe, why would we not want to uplift a our ethical responsibility? What if you came across an agressive speecies, you know in a given enough time, could threaten your heegemony, especially if aggressivness seems a likely trait. You might ask if having them develop is a good idea? A warlike species arising and necessitating warfare, should you tweak them to be nicer genetically speaking? Is it a moral imperative that you do so for the good of the future galaxy. Would you consider it more ethical to do the opposite of uplifting, called downshifting, where you might alter that species to be less intelligent and less able to develop such weapons because that might be better and more ethical than wiping them out before they become a threat. Dumbing things down may seem rather mean, but you’d have no problem doing this if you’re a posthuman postbiological machine civilization, that sees life as just another type of biochemical machine, you might even see it as altruistic to do this since ignorance is bliss
Uplifting, the name for when you take an animal and give it human intelligence. “Uplifting” is a concept that dates back to HG Well’s “The Islands of Doctor Moreau”, is the transformation of animals into human-level intelligence. Tends to assume the reverse case. For better eyes that can see additional colors, we need to tinker with the brain also, but for a better mind on a cat, dog, or dolhpin, we might need to tinker with the physical form too. Giving them different vocal chords, or more nimble toes that can grasp tools. We’d also tinker with the reproductive system too, since a lot of animals reproduce much more quickly than us, and with intelligence and tool use comes a lower chance of natural death, these days a euphemism for old age. In nature a natural death means as ending up as someone’s dinner before you’ve reproduced. Humans take more time to develop means we need more parental care for development. You will be need to be thinking a lot of other things you’d need to accompany with that, like longer lives, tool using hands, slower reproductive rates with single births not litters, and slower maturation rates.. So you CAN use it to make your pets smarter, but maybe make entire new pets like the cute critter form the gremlins movie, or real life pokemon. What people might do to themselves doesn’t interest me all that much in terms of pondering the ethics. I do not care if someone wants to get their body tweaked genetically oso they are 10 feat tall with a giant heart to support all that mass. It could also be used to switch genders, or be neither gender, for real this time. Or if you like getting fur, scales, feathers, a third eye, or an extra pair of arms this could be awesome, scary or disgusting.
Humans and chimpanzees are closely related to each other and share almost 98.9% of their DNA. Does that mean that mating betwen these 2 species will produce some hybrid like humanzee or something? And kind of gross. But there might be some reasons for it. There are many physical and chemical barriers for humans and chimps to have babies, apart from not being attracted to each other, geographically sperpated, but also human sperms swill lose their way in the female chimpanzee reproductive tract. The egg releases chemical signals that provides direction to the srem. Since the chimp egg will not be signaling to human sperm, the sperm will fail to find the egg in the first place. But lets assume that the human sperm is don in vitro. The egg cell will not allow any random cell to fertilize it the Zona Pellucida has a glycoprotein coating around the gegg. If the sperm don’t have the correct receptor, they cannot get in and therefore cannot fertilize the egg. But wait, what if we microoinject human sperms inside the chimp egg using electrical stimulation. But thanks to # of chromosomes, even microinjecting won’t work. We human s have 23 pairs of chromosomes for total 46. A human sperm and egg each have 23 chromosomes, when they combine a zygoten is combined which has total 46 chromosomes. As we all know human sperm contains 23 chromosomes, but a chimp egg contains 24 chromosomes, when they combine we’llk get a hybrid cell with 47 chromosomes.When the cell duoplicates the number becomes 94 as it doubles. The problem is the microtubule proteins in chimpanzees precisely look for 48 chromosomes, if they find any missing chromosomes, they terminate the cell’s existence. Since the microtbules cannot find the missing chromoseomes, it orders the cell to kill itself through Apoptosis, or cellular suicide. Hybridization is only possible if 2 animals have similar genetic structure and are within 1-2 chromosomes of one another. For example a femae horase and male donkey can interbreed to get a mule. A male lion and female tiger can get a liger. ttThere is even speculation that suggest we are ALREADY a hybrid species. Modern humans interbred with neanderthals, so europeans and east asians have 1-4% of their DNA from Neanderthals.
Humanzees have been done and some say it could be done again. It’s been done because we all have a little bit of neanderthal in us, the average asian and european is 1-4 percent neanderthal, so in effect we are all interspecies hybrids. That dna has become so engraind in our species that it’s part of what makes us human, but could it happen again? Is it possible to interbreed humans and our nearest relatives, chimpanzees. This is deeply immoral though, the creation of a potentially sentient orgaism likely with many genetic disorders who is the only member of his or her species so we can study i is bad and wrong and teh definition of evil. But it is a fascinating thing to discuss as long as we’re not thinking about doing it. While humans and chimps do share a lot of DNA, they do have one more pair of chromosomes than humans, but different numbers of chromosomes isn’t an absolute barrier to interbreeding. There are some species where individuals within the species have diffeent numbers of chromosomes and they manage just fine, a condition called chromosomal polymorphism, in fact, in 2010 a perfectly normal fertile chinese man was discovered to only have 22 chromoskme pairs. The difference between a human and a chimp is roughly the difference between a horse and a zebra, called a zebroid, which happen all the time. When geneticists create these name mashups, they put the father first in the portmanteau and the mother secone, so if it’s a male chimp and female human its a chuman, a male humand and female chimp makes a humanzee. After the last common ancestor of humand and chimps 7 milion years ago, there was interbreeding between human and chimp lineages for 1.2 million years. The lineages were livng in the same geographic region. In the 1920s a soviet biologist named Ilya Ivanov implanted his own sperm into a number of apes including chimpanzees and orangutans, even more creepily he attempted to inseminate female volunteers with ape semen. Ivanov’s never resulted in a pregnancy of anykind and eventually his research came under scrutity and the government freaked out and exiled him to siberia where he died a couple years later.
Could we even make intelligent trees?