Genetic Enhancement

By M Jarvis

Empty streets stand clean and quiet. The cloudless sky is clear, and the climate breathes in deep sighs of satisfaction – grateful to no longer be persecuted by a selfish version of humanity. In the centre of the town a gated park is home to what was once a chalky path cradling a crumbling fountain. Originally maintained by jaunty walks and rushed morning commutes, the path has deteriorated into chaotic shrubland: weeds fighting with chalk. In the same way, the fountain, once the site of newspaper stands, waffle trucks and morning yoga is now a memorial – tribute to a fallen, far more complicated, generation.

Such a population had lived alongside the inevitable of death, every action a gamble as to how best to spend their remaining time. More devastatingly though, they had lost people; innumerable friends and family taken by a battery of incurable illnesses. The introduction of multivitamins in 1943 marked the first successful attempt to increase life expectancy. Indeed, lives extended by an average of 20 years between 1945 and 2022 in the United States, testament to the view that a humanly engineered lengthier lifespan was both possible and desirable. It was these figures that became the slogan of banners advertising the GMM (Genetically Modified Movement), founded in 2074. As with anything, the original aims of the project were simple – to prevent the inheritance of debilitating and life-limiting conditions. Slowly though, pressure from parents to inhibit the passing on of other traits increased and what was morally justifiable became blurred. Indeed, ethnic diversity in newborns decreased, in an effort to prevent children suffering at the hands of an inherently racist society. Similarly, boys born per year was almost double that of girls, since if sexist attitudes prevented job prospects, it seemed counterproductive to desire a girl. Newborns were also bred to have lower blood pressure, meaning exercise for health reasons alone quickly became redundant. In fact, over time, food itself become superfluous, this superior population relying instead on a carefully calibrated formula of calories, delivered in a singular purple pill (to be taken once a day).

Initially, the increased flexibility this allowed was met with a renewed desire to learn – children once burnt out by a school system that did not cater to their style of learning reclaiming natural curiosity. Regardless, the realisation that working did not lead to a vocation, since naturally clever humans did not need teachers, naturally healthy humans did not need doctors, naturally moral humans did not drop litter; meant that enthusiasm quickly fizzled out.

Now, in my world, humans are most at home in white-washed labs. Made incapable of love in order to avoid the pain innate in loss they no longer seek to connect with one another. Equally, they do not worship, recognising instead that science is the closest they will ever get to a God. In fact, grossly aware that their lives are devoid of any bigger purpose, but unable to feel sadness, they are driven by a single instinct – that it is their duty to live longer than their predecessors.

My world is boring. Less selfish, destructive, jealous, weak, sad, than their predecessors but so much less beautiful.

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