"I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect on humanity."
edgar allan poe
ps. eat me, emerson!
well, i share poe's pessimism on this, but the flat formulation is too strong. human exertion has had and will have many appreciable effects on humanity; think about longevity since poe's time, for example, though of course things can regress too. but what emerson and poe are talking about is human moral perfectibility. here i do not think that we have seen any significant improvement since we clawed like swamp thing up from the primordial ooze; nor do i expect to.
perhaps you are now thinking to yourself: well, perhaps we could work on the genome, or hit singularity, and be much much better than we are right now. what i might note is that the people futzing with the genes or the medications or the information technology will be us. these projects, to whatever extent they are pursued or pursuable, will be pursued by people who themselves are vain and venal, self-deluded, self-seeking, megalomaniacal, obsessive, thick as bricks, and hosts for the imp of the perverse.
say they come to believe that they know what morality consists in and impose it through genomics or software. (1) they'll turn out to have been wrong about the content of morality; (2) the actual implementation of this, as any human system, will benefit some and harm others, and perhaps exponentially increase human hierarchy. i myself regard that hierarchy as central to our evil; (3) implementation will be chaotic, flawed, back-and-forth, cowardly; for god's sake you'll have politicians involved and shit; (4) the unintended consequences will swamp the intended effects, leaving us extinct or at least profoundly puzzled and irritated.