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Old 02-14-2018, 01:18 PM   #1
L.J.Steele
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

The powers that be in my Space game have posed a question to my doctor. Given that we have the ability to genetically engineer the colonists' children, and indeed must carefully watch the genetics to avoid inbreeding, how do we minimize or avoid racial tensions down the line?

For background: the characters are recent colonists who fled from a destroyed world -- TL10/11 equivalent. The colonists include humans, a handful of members of two other sentient species from the old world, and a minority of volitional AIs. We've found two intelligent species on our new home -- psionic human-sized insects at about our TL, but sideways using Psi and advanced genetic engineering instead of computers and machines (currently neutral towards us); and a hunter-gather level human-sized bird species (currently vaguely allied with us). There's a third intelligence, nature unknown, that's bio-engineering about 20% of our newborns, to adapt them to the planet. (Reflective hair to reduce UV issues from this system's star.) So far, the adaptation is dominant in animal testing. (It also seems to have beneficially bio-engineered both native sentient species and some of the animals and plants.)

Concerns are:
Those adapted by the planet and those not adapted -- we're at a TL where we could prevent the adaption and could use nanites to prevent skin cancer and cataracts from the UV. Right now, parents are being given a choice to let the adaption happen or not, or to prevent it.

Psis vs. non-psi. We've got a dozen or so psis (including my doctor). Psi is recessive, so not enough individuals to maintain a reasonable percentage of psis in the populace without genetic engineering.

Engineered v. natural DNA combinations. We've got the tech for minor engineering -- cosmetic changes, correcting some inherited disadvantages (bad sight, for example), and another PC scientist who's looking at much more extensive changes. A separate group of colonists on the other habitable planet (no significant land) are looking at engineering their entire population with gills. Right now, the plan for our colony is a have one/get one policy -- if you have a child, you must accept at least one other child (within a reasonable time) from the gene bank we brought with us (an artificial womb tech available). Implied that folks have some choices in sources from the gene bank, but the goal is genetic diversity.

So, any thoughts on what my doctor could recommend to the powers that be for social structures to keep us one big happy colony as we grow without splitting into genetic-based factions a few generations down the line?
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Old 02-14-2018, 02:16 PM   #2
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

Quote:
Originally Posted by L.J.Steele View Post
The powers that be in my Space game have posed a question to my doctor. Given that we have the ability to genetically engineer the colonists' children, and indeed must carefully watch the genetics to avoid inbreeding, how do we minimize or avoid racial tensions down the line?
I'm not sure it's worth distinguishing between racial tensions and other types of tensions. Groups of humans are prone to forming cliques based on a perceived similarity, and then the cliques come into conflict, but racial similarity is hardly the only way this can happen (from the situation you describe, I would bet on political and philosophical divisions before racial divisions).
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Originally Posted by L.J.Steele View Post
Concerns are:
Those adapted by the planet and those not adapted -- we're at a TL where we could prevent the adaption and could use nanites to prevent skin cancer and cataracts from the UV. Right now, parents are being given a choice to let the adaption happen or not, or to prevent it.
Block it. For everyone. Mysterious creatures of unknown motives mucking around in people's genetics without their permission is not a good plan. If the third intelligence actually shows up, starts talking to people, and asks permission, you can rethink that.
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Originally Posted by L.J.Steele View Post
Psis vs. non-psi. We've got a dozen or so psis (including my doctor). Psi is recessive, so not enough individuals to maintain a reasonable percentage of psis in the populace without genetic engineering.
Depends how useful psi is, and what costs it imposes. If psis are just better than other people, there's no good reason not to engineer it into everyone, other than issues of permission (on a game level, if you want psi to be permanently rare, don't make it recessive, make it something like a repeating group where having too many copies causes problems).
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:29 PM   #3
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

Humans are herd animals and instinctively form "us vs them" distinctions.

If it wasn't skin color it would be religion, socioeconomic class, hair color, what school you attended, what football club you prefer....
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:33 PM   #4
trechriron
 
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

I feel like some general social engineering would be in order. I agree with the above poster. An unknown species genetically altering people without permission is terrifying. Why is everyone OK with this?

Some ideas;

1) The colony could prevent any further influence by the unknown species, paint the affected as victims and cast some aspersions on the "interlopers". Common enemies can quickly tie different people together. Government propaganda could showcase the altered people as pitiable, safe and a beneficial asset to the colony. Mustering defenses and mechanisms of preventing future contact would serve as unifying activities.

2) A simple "This is our last world! Let us build a bright future. Together!" meme would do well. Everyone has a common problem. The old world is no longer an option to retreat to. Either we all make it here, or collapse under internecine fighting and tribalism. Early education, propaganda, marketing and media can all support this meme across all demographic categories.

3) Crime and Punishment. Harsh punishments against "those who would endanger the future and prosperity of the colony" could help enforce the meme. Maybe exile in a rocket to the depths of space. "Don't want to make it here with us? Fine. Make it out there. Alone."
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:18 PM   #5
L.J.Steele
 
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

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Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
I feel like some general social engineering would be in order. I agree with the above poster. An unknown species genetically altering people without permission is terrifying. Why is everyone OK with this?
Darned if I or my PC know. We first figured out something was wrong when a PC sudden developed a much reduced need for sleep (he'd been running on stims for months during an emergency). That PC is thrilled about the adaption, as it lets him sleep less and earn tons more downtime study hours. (He did have to pay the points to buy the advantage). The other PCs are curiously blasť about it -- perhaps because it seems beneficial.

Mice studies on the substance (a silicone prion of sorts) let us know the scope of the problem, as did the first generation of babies -- 20% of which were born with either less sleep (exhausted parents aren't thrilled) or fine translucent body hair that reflects UV. The gov't put out a gag order to medical while we tried to figure it out. 2 years later, we have more clues, but no answers yet.

The scary part of this run is that the prion is only the second or third most scary thing we've faced.

Just in the past run argued the gov't into informing prospective parents of what we know and offering a choice to let it happen or not, or to prevent it.

Probably can't realistically isolate, and don't really want to.

I'm thinking that it is human nature to form cliques and group into us v. them. The serious problems, I think, come from ignorance of the "other" (who often speaks a different language or is otherwise isolated) and a fear that the "other" is somehow getting unfair benefits. First recommendation is for the gov't to start being as open as possible with the whole colony and have a solid tradition of truthfulness and public trust. Combine that with deliberate efforts at community building, mixing different groups together, and that might help.

For Psi, it's a point system. Psi is expensive and, to be honest, at TL10/11, the tech is nearly as good or even better for most purposes. Psi is mostly faster and can be more subtle. My psi doc is a bit obsessed with psi genetics mostly because the other sentient race is naturally psi and she wants to make sure we have a reasonable number of folks in each generation who know and understand how psi works. (And a few that can detect and counter it.)
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Old 02-15-2018, 08:46 AM   #6
lwcamp
 
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

You're using bio-engineering, so bio-engineer away the trait for intolerance. Make everyone naturally feel inclusive, tolerant, loving toward their neighbors, and accepting of other's differences.

For an ironic twist, those displaying intolerance can be shunned.

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Old 02-15-2018, 09:29 AM   #7
Anaraxes
 
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

Why would the "powers that be" ask the question of a genetic engineer / doctor? It's a political question, not a scientific or technical one, and a doctor* isn't an expert in that field. PhD's don't grant sociological, political, or diplomatic acumen in all questions related to the field of study.

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* not to be confused with The Doctor
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Old 02-15-2018, 02:25 PM   #8
L.J.Steele
 
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
Why would the "powers that be" ask the question of a genetic engineer / doctor? It's a political question, not a scientific or technical one, and a doctor* isn't an expert in that field. PhD's don't grant sociological, political, or diplomatic acumen in all questions related to the field of study.

--
* not to be confused with The Doctor
Probably because we're the PCs and my doctor and the PC bio-engineering specialist are likely to be on the forefront of the tech, so could have some control over the Pandora's Box. Hopefully there are also NPC sociologists on the job.
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Old 02-15-2018, 10:33 PM   #9
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

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Originally Posted by lwcamp View Post
You're using bio-engineering, so bio-engineer away the trait for intolerance. Make everyone naturally feel inclusive, tolerant, loving toward their neighbors, and accepting of other's differences.

For an ironic twist, those displaying intolerance can be shunned.

Luke
The trouble is that tolerance or its lack are not so much single traits as whole complexes of traits, some of them good traits in some contexts. You could mess with the genes to reduce a tendency toward in-group-ness and maybe reduce racial/ethnic/family tensions...but also accidentally mess up social and familial cohesion generally, for ex.
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Old 02-15-2018, 11:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Avoiding Intollerance in a Post-BioEngineering Setting

Removing a species' us vs. them and cliquishness mentality would also remove its desire to be a "team player" and significant amounts of social cohesion. That would not be good long term, IMO.
Mob mentality is the dark side to fundamental aspects of necessary "herd" behavior, again IMO.

I think a better way to decrease intolerance is by having ways in which such upset or disenfranchised individuals could affect their surroundings without always feeling like they're being bullied by the majority.
How to do with that without such effect being more intolerance... I'm at a loss to imagine.
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