Future History: Genetic Engineering

In the future history of our world that will underlie the “Game of Life” sub-series of my Shine Cycle, most of the “trends” I have mentioned so far are prompted by patterns I see in the present and the past and think likely to continue in the future. Today’s topic is one that I include primarily because of the needs of the story I feel called to tell—a story I briefly introduced a few weeks ago.

For the purposes of my Shine Cycle, I posit that researchers continue to investigate the idea of “genetic engineering,” and that (and here is where I go beyond what I think likely) they eventually become fairly successful.

Even so, the research proceeds slowly and intermittently, making only gradual and incremental leaps in any given decade. It is disrupted by wars, recessions, and the like, and is beginning to accelerate to unprecedented speed at the time that The Invasion begins.

One of the major disruptions was caused by the Third World War (which I will discuss in a future post). After that war, an international treaty banned the testing and use of weapons based on nanotechnology. This, the earlier (even present-day) near-universal opposition (at least in public rhetoric) to “bioweapons,” and an emphasis before, during, and after the war on countermeasures and defenses against pathogens (perhaps there was a plague not long before the war?) led to a near-taboo on and near-universal avoidance of genetic engineering in areas directly related to “bioweapons” as they have traditionally been understood. Another factor was that in the areas that lost least in that war, the “military-industrial complex” suffered crushing political and thus economic losses, so there was no funding for such research anyway.

With pathogens out of favor, a few major areas of research remained. The first was the adaptation of useful life-forms to more extreme, or different, environments. This is at first an area for mere curiosity, but it becomes vital when colonies, intended to be permanent, are established first on the Moon and then in an orbiting station. One “early” success is the creation, in the decade following the launch of that space station, is the development of a rabbit that is quite at home in a zero-gravity environment. A couple of decades later attempts to adapt simple organisms to a Mars-like environment begin to show promise.

A second area of research, at first developing much more slowly than environmental adaptation, is “biological computing.” That doesn’t come into the stories I feel called to tell, so I don’t have much to say about it.

A third area of research is into “interesting” hybrids, trying to combine features of unlike life-forms, and eventually trying to produce shifting between phenotypes. At first this latter line of research shows no success, then scientists begin to be able to produce uncontrolled shifting (to disastrous effect, as you might imagine), and then at last creatures that shift only when some stimulus is applied. At the time of The Invasion, they are finally beginning to produce “at-will” transformations.

That period is, in fact, a time when all of the areas of research are finally being turned back toward military applications, with something of an arms race in (non-pathogenic) genetic engineering: governments that can afford it begin funding the development of technology that could give them “super-soldiers.” This “arms race” is, however, somewhat disrupted by the aftermath of the arrival of an invader to steal the results produced by Project Lycanthrope …

Do you have any thoughts?

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