Future Ethics — The Past

The future is already here in many ways, bringing us ethical challenges that make for fantastic stories and gripping conflicts, both now and in the distant future. Some of those issues have been explored in blockbusters such as Jurassic Park, which speculates about a present in which science has outstripped present progress. Bringing back the dinosaurs seems like a brilliant idea—right up until someone leaves the gate open.

At present, we’re already discussing bringing back creatures lost to us, such as the Passenger Pigeon. With some genetic sleight-of-hand, we can reclaim that lost species and head into the future with our post-apocalyptic mail needs met. We could conceivably be looking at a future in which massive land mammals such as the Wooly Mammoth are revived and farmed for meat, or the great Rhea is brought back as different kind of beast of burden (and a source of family-sized egg muffins for breakfast).

What do we bring back, though, and what do we leave lost to the sands of time? Recent climate change and fuel mining have revived a 30-thousand-year-old virus. Fortunately for us, it’s too large to affect us, so large it can be seen with a microscope. Will the future involve virus brokers and traders in ye olde Shakespeare genes—a dash of the Bard, a hint of Yo Yo Ma, and a generous helping of Stephen Hawking in my next child, please—as well as superluminal travel and colonies among the stars? Will colonists on distant worlds reminiscent of Earth’s ancient past herd dinosaurs instead of cattle?

Should we revive more lost viruses or bacteria? Whether we should or not—will we? There will always be someone willing to do the unthinkable for a payout or for fame or revenge. Perhaps the space cops of the twenty-third century will be hunting down rogue geneticists and confiscating contraband cat genes as well as defending us against any alien threat.

Until next time,
–Anah & Dianne

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