Monday, May 30, 2011

A path from here to Utopia*

Utopia means "no place" in Greek. The guy who invented the word, Thomas Moore, was beheaded by his government. This gives you a sense of how things went for the idea. Every time humans tried to socially engineer a "heaven on earth", things went terribly wrong.

But technology can do much better at bringing about revolution. For example, the birth control pill freed women. I don't mean it physically freed them: that revolution happened the old fashioned way, much earlier. But it freed their minds from the tyranny of unplanned families and allowed them to demand equality.

The pill freed women from the prison of biology.

What if there was a pill that could change your race?

You pop in it one night, and the next morning (or in a few weeks) you experience life as a red-haired Irish person. Or a blonde Pacific Islander. Or a tall Ethiopian.

You'd still look similar: your face would appear the same I mean. But you'd have some difficulty recognizing friends who switched ethnicity without telling you..."I totally missed my friend Ali as he walked past me the other day. I guess he picked Korean for this week."

If the racepill came out, it would be expensive at first. The rich and famous everywhere would get to look different all the time. In parts of the world with serious colonial hangovers (like my country), the well-off would turn as white as the trees in Cambridge in January.

Eventually, middle-classes in rich countries would get the pill, and race would cease to have meaning in those societies.

Maybe a big philanthropic foundation would use their millions to make tons of these pills available to the world's poorest.

In food aid bags.

TV images of starving children in Africa and burning war fields in Asia would look less like far removed tragedies of strangers and more like tangible nightmares for the kids on our street.

Maybe the coffers of the world would open up. Immigration rules might change, since the only way to differentiate people from around the world would be their skill-set. Their resume. Their minds.

Hows that for a path between here and Utopia?

* PS: If you google "a pill to change your race" you get tons of hits. I think a lot of people have had the same idea, but I haven't seen any books or articles on this.

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