In his recent book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, Al Gore predicts we will soon experience dramatic social upheaval, brought about by technological change. Most remaining manufacturing jobs will be outsourced or automated by intelligent robots, creating vast unemployment. Without middle class jobs, there will be no consumer demand for goods, plunging the economy into depression.
In fact, the tipping point has already been reached. Most people in America pay no taxes, because they are either underemployed, disabled, or elderly. Yet, as a emerging majority, this group will wield immense political power. In return for their votes (to the triumphant Democratic party) they will demand (successfully) that income inequality be addressed by ever-higher taxes on the "rich", which is a euphemism for "meritocrats", i.e. those born with natural talents and intelligence that allows them to fill the few remaining jobs. (Every manufacturing robot still needs a designer, for now.)
In the future, the supersmart will be in high demand, creating powerful incentives for human enhancement. Gore predicts that we humans will "seize active control over [our own] evolution," [p. xiv] starting in China, then, after a period of indignant denial, in America as well:
- The prospective ability to pick traits like...intelligence to create "designer babies" may be highly appealing to some parents. [p.208]
- [Quoting Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg and Marcy Darnovsky] the beginning of the age of active trait selection is now upon us...[troubling scenarios like] "who deserves to be born?" [p.209]
- [Quoting Dr. David Eagleman] "If you are a carrier of a particular set of genes, the probability that you will commit a violent crime is four times as high as it would be if you lacked those genes...The overwhelming majority of prisoners carry these genes; 98.1 percent of death-row inmates do." [p.251 - by "these genes" he means the entire Y chromosome!]
- [China's BGI] has been seeking to identify which genes are involved in determining intelligence. It is conducting a complete genomic analysis of 2,000 Chinese schoolchildren (1,000 prodigies from the nation's best schools, and 1,000 children considered of average intelligence) and matching the results with their achievements in school. [p.235]
- [Quoting Richard Hayes] the widespread use of trait selection could lead to..."a techno-eugenic rat race." [p.209]
This mirrors one of the topics in the annual Edge question: "What do we have to worry about?" The answer is, genetic inequality.