The End of History

uk 75

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Back in 1991 after the successful conclusion of the Gulf War it seemed for a brief moment that the West's political and economic system was going to be the blueprint for a peaceful and prosperous world.
Twenty years later that hope seems naive at best.
NATO has survived but along with the UN and the EU it is battered and bruised.
For the first time since the 1930s the initiative has shifted from the Western Democracies.
China now competes globally with the US in a way unimaginable in 1991.
From Russia to Turkey, Brazil to India strong male leaders support hard line nationalist even religious based policies.
By contrast Western countries are nervous and unsure of themselves. Peaceful New Zealand thanks to Covid is now a hermit Kingdom until 2022.
The climate catastrophe ought in the twenty years since 1991 have given new impetus to international co-operation. Instead countries vie to protect their economies while urging others to make sacrifices.
In some ways this has proved to be the End of History. Not in the optimistic glow of 1991 but in an all too familiar reversion to a world we tried to leave in 1945.
 

Dilandu

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"End of the history" concept was from the very beginning nothing more than an attempt to pose Western-style capitalist democracy as some kind of "ultimate stage" of mankind social and political development. It was flawed from very beginning, but Americans loved it, because it told them that their dominance is ensured forever, nothing need to be done to support it, and soon the whole world with all its strange and scary peoples, that are so hard to understood, would drop its strange and scary ways, and turns into one big, happy, easy to understood global America. And free market run unhindered would easily and without efforts put everything in places, creating everlasting prosperity, so no one would feel any particular urge to challenge the rich elites. No dissent, no differences, no doubts - forever. Very attractive model... completely idiotic, of course. History hates "forever empires". They are anti-enthropycal.
 

Orionblamblam

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"End of the history" concept was from the very beginning nothing more than an attempt to pose Western-style capitalist democracy as some kind of "ultimate stage" of mankind social and political development.

Not quite:

A name that is commonly linked to the concept of the end of history in contemporary discourse is Francis Fukuyama. Fukuyama brought the term back to the forefront with his essay The End of History? that was published months before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In this essay, which he later expanded upon in his book The End of History and the Last Man in 1992, Fukuyama builds on the knowledge of Hegel, Marx and Kojève. The essay centers around the idea that now that its two most important competitors, fascism and communism, have been defeated, there should no longer be any serious competition for liberal democracy and the market economy.[8]

In his theory, Fukuyama distinguishes between the material or real world and the world of ideas or consciousness. He believes that in the realm of ideas liberalism has proven to be triumphant, meaning that even though a successful liberal democracy and market economy have not yet been established everywhere, there are no longer any ideological competitors for these systems. This would mean that any fundamental contradiction in human life can be worked out within the context of modern liberalism and would not need an alternative political-economic structure to be resolved. Now that the end of history is reached, Fukuyama believes that international relations would be primarily concerned with economic matters and no longer with politics or strategy, thus reducing the chances of a large scale international violent conflict.

Fukuyama concludes that the end of history will be a sad time, because the potential of ideological struggles that people were prepared to risk their lives for has now been replaced with the prospect of "economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands."[9] This does not mean that Fukuyama believes that a modern liberal democracy is the perfect political system, but rather that he does not think another political structure can provide citizens with the levels of wealth and personal liberties that a liberal democracy can.[10]
 

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I'm not seeing many references here. As the 20th Century was coming to a close, a think tank called Project for the New American Century was founded in 1997. The title says it all. The most powerful country on earth had to keep that power and made plans regarding how to do that. Since antiquity, you had to be better armed than your enemies. You had to have a presence in key areas for defense and rapid deployment. If you lacked the manpower then you needed weapon systems to make up for it. Advanced systems.

China is a big threat now because it was funded by American business dollars. The price of oil is based on the dollar. Communist China? Peking? Anyone remember? Now it is a money-making machine for American business because labor is paid less and they are not employees.
 

uk 75

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In the same way as the UK and US are tied together in more ways (mainly to do with London and New York) than most people realise, China and the US are now inextricably linked across the Pacific.
Money talks louder than Politics. As History is largely focussed on clashes of ideas and politics maybe it is nearly over.
 

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Not so fast. My maxim is that military technology is at least 10 years farther than what is known by the public. Yes, the U.S. and England are in a special relationship, with London and New York as the focus. War has always been about land and resources. The U.S. has known since the early 1950s that a nuclear war is not winnable. So the current thinking calls for 'low-intensity conflicts.' Anything short of nuclear war.
 

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Fukuyama followed up a few years later with a book called Our Posthuman Future:

... he qualified his original "end of history" thesis, arguing that since biotechnology increasingly allows humans to control their own evolution, it may allow humans to alter human nature, thereby putting liberal democracy at risk. One possible outcome could be that an altered human nature could end in radical inequality. He is a fierce enemy of transhumanism, an intellectual movement asserting that posthumanity is a desirable goal. (Wikipedia)

A kind of admission that his Last Man is rather like the Dali painting, 'Sleep'. Knock away its crutches and it'll fall down. Also circular reasoning: 'it can't be allowed to happen because then I'd be wrong!' We can't know what the needs and priorities of a posthuman nature would be. Hari Seldon he ain't.
 

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edwest2

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I'm not sure where to start. Post-human or transhumanism is a dead end. Let's say they could grow wings on a person. There would be no innate instinct to control them. Also, to work effectively, muscles would need to be added along with veins and nerves. It might look interesting but practical? No.

Racial inequality? What nonsense. The fear is that enhanced humans might displace average people. If they are smarter and stronger than most, etc.

Alter human nature? More nonsense. Alter it to what? Or is that just another way of saying brainwashing?
 

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Hubris is hubris, whether someone proclaiming a 1,000 year Empire, the triumph of a pet doctrine or the end of history itself (whatever the hell that means, had Fukuyama been an historian he might have steered away from such catchphrases, might sound cool on a grant application but its intellectual bollocks) and hubris is always going to get pricked or shattered in the end.
 

Rhinocrates

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I'm not sure where to start. Post-human or transhumanism is a dead end. Let's say they could grow wings on a person. There would be no innate instinct to control them. Also, to work effectively, muscles would need to be added along with veins and nerves. It might look interesting but practical? No.

Racial inequality? What nonsense. The fear is that enhanced humans might displace average people. If they are smarter and stronger than most, etc.

Alter human nature? More nonsense. Alter it to what? Or is that just another way of saying brainwashing?
Some people are likely to pursue the equivalent of things like wings but as you say, that'd be a dead end. In the real world it's more likely to be the accumulation of incremental changes - metabolic enhancements and tailored microbiomes to allow, say, more efficient digestion or some savant-like abilities, or playing about with epigenetics.

Evolution can be defined as a change in the frequency of particular genes in a population. If there are changes in the proportion of people with abilities that currently just a few have, then the average of societal demands and dynamics will shift. We're already anticipating major changes in the developed world due to ageing populations and declining fertility in the developed world.

'Into what?" Exactly - I don't know. 'Brainwashing' is a narrow interpretation.
 

riggerrob

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Good point Dear Rhinocrates,
It all depends upon which angle you see things.
Back during the Cold War, I served in the Canadian Armed Forces, but soon tired of their simplified explanations. So I started studying military history. For a while it was fun to study who won which battle, but it still sounded like an incomplete explanation.
Now I see battles as tipping points. A series of forces developed increasing pressure until one side collapsed.

For example, Western economies, stock markets, airlines, etc. were all over-inflated in the days leading up to 9/11. So 9/11 was just a tipping point. The Western world's economy was going to suffer a recession or economic down-turn and 9/11 was just the last straw.
Far more goes on behind the scenes than the general public is ever allowed to see.

In another example, World War 1 did not kill the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Rather, the empire was slowly losing power in the years leading up to the war. A Serbian assassin merely provided the tipping point that plunged all of Europe into World War.
 

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I will restrain from making lame jokes about Francis (Fuckyourmama... forget that one)
 

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Humanoid form is the result of hazard and millions of random mutations and may be shaped by the evolutionary pressures of the cruel nature that tries to kill us from the first day of life and in the end succeeds.

In 2017, Swiss scientists discovered that the brain uses other dimensions where time does not exist, or where time goes by at different speed, to solve complex problems. It was possibly a desperate measure of evolution to prevent humanity from extinction half a million years ago.

Nor can we lift a ton of weight, fly, run at 100 mph, breath underwater, or see Uranus, the heat, or the bacteria... but we have found a way to build machines that do it for us.

In the fourteenth century child’s mortality was fifty percent, but the evolution for reasons of survival has stopped in the twentieth century, social protection policies, welfare state, advanced medicine and abundance of food has stopped the process.

Perhaps biological intelligence is just a transient phenomenon in evolution. A very advanced society can achieve immortality by transferring the personality and memory of its individuals to eternally self-repairable quantum devices.
 

edwest2

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Transferred intelligence? Highly unlikely and highly undesirable. Human beings are social creatures and our bodies are more than a mobile carrier of the brain.

To quote the great philosopher, Woody Allen: "I want to achieve immortality by not dying."
 
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Orionblamblam

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I'm not sure where to start. Post-human or transhumanism is a dead end. Let's say they could grow wings on a person. There would be no innate instinct to control them. Also, to work effectively, muscles would need to be added along with veins and nerves. It might look interesting but practical? No.


Not necessarily. You assume that a set of wings, or a prehensile tail, or a second [REDACTED] would be non-functional because there'd be no nervous system connection to the brain. I'm pretty sure that that would be exactly the sort of thing that the people working on such things would work on. the first generation or two of such things might be simple non-functional additions... but that would not be the case forever.

There are people who are born without (or later lose), say, eyes. There would be an obvious incentive to grow them eyes, and to hook said eyes into the brain to make them work. Such things seem *really* hard. Hard is not impossible. And the moment you can grow functional eyes for someone born without them, you can grow *extra* eyes for someone who wants them on the back of their head, or who wants a second set higher up the forehead that see deeper into the IR, etc. And if you can give someone functional eyes, then a functional tail becomes a real possibility. And those are a *snap* compared to a second pancreas. And probably also compared to engineered immortality and eternal youth.

Racial inequality? What nonsense. The fear is that enhanced humans might displace average people. If they are smarter and stronger than most, etc.

Huh? Germ line gene therapy is, IIRC, illegal in the US and UK, probably elsewhere in the West. in China? I imagine that if the Chinese government figures out how to make genetic "super soldiers" (realistic ones... bigger, stronger, smarter, healthier, heal quicker, perfect eyesight, better immune systems, some radiation resistance, etc.) , they're not exactly going to hold back. The nation that starts cranking out truly successful genetic "supermen," if those supermen can successfully pass on their genes, will have an edge over those nations that don't. And this will also apply to those people who can afford to have this sort of thing done for their kids. If rich folk can make sure their babies will live for two hundreds years in perfect health and no senility, they are going to rack up a *lot* of wealth. So if there is any wealth inequality when it comes to race, you'll end up with racial disparities in the race for genetic superiority.


Alter human nature? More nonsense. Alter it to what? Or is that just another way of saying brainwashing?

Sounds fair. Again... "Chinese supersolider." Do you imagine that such genetic tinkering will *not* involve at least trying to tweak the Obey Authority Genes?
 

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The goal since antiquity has been to beat your enemy however you can. I've studied the super-soldier and various problems cannot be overcome. From baby to functional adult/person with sufficient functional military capabilities. Stronger or faster, they can't be stupid. They would have to be trained. However, if such a team were found in the field, they would be targeted first. There is no match between enhanced brains and brawn and high explosives.

Behavior modification? Old hat. Even if they obey all the time, that does not mean they will always make good decisions in the field or die because obeying orders overrides self-preservation.
 

edwest2

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The goal since antiquity has been to beat your enemy however you can. I've studied the super-soldier and various problems cannot be overcome.

"Cannot be overcome." The people who say that tend to be briefly real surprised when the opposition overcomes.

It would surprise you then to know that among military planners in the U.S. there are those that plan response scenarios for any, even remotely possible future development.
 

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"Cannot be overcome." The people who say that tend to be briefly real surprised when the opposition overcomes.

It would surprise you then to know that among military planners in the U.S. there are those that plan response scenarios for any, even remotely possible future development.

Ummm... One of these statements is not like the other.
 

zen

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Chinese supersoldier?
Maybe to correct the preponderance of overweight little emperors who live all their lives near sea level?
Who proved not so super at altitude against a volunteer army of professionals?

Transhumans.....unless we're talking extra brains to subdivide tasks from a central consciousness, everything else is going to be outperformed by machines.
 

Orionblamblam

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Chinese supersoldier?
Maybe to correct the preponderance of overweight little emperors who live all their lives near sea level?

Indeed so. I suggest not an army of superheroes, but an army of prime specimens. Sailors, for example, who don't shut down entire aircraft carriers just because they've all caught the latest flu variant, soldiers who can fight in the swamps and shrug off malaria, fight in the tundra with little worry of hypothermia. This should be relatively straightforward.

Transhumans.....unless we're talking extra brains to subdivide tasks from a central consciousness, everything else is going to be outperformed by machines.

Indeed, just as Reapers outperformed Taliban. See how *that* worked out.
 

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The "End of History" originates in the Romantic rebellion against rationalism. Romantics saw history as having an innate goal or purpose. The past is the "seed " that has the future flower for its purpose. History is the process of growth and development--culture--that inevitably brings that future into being, thus ending history. This teleological theory of history is known as historicism, and reached its high point with G.W.F. Hegel. Hegel decided that history had ended in his time and that the Prussian bureaucracy--with the professoriat at its forefront, of course--was the foreordained incarnation towards which all history, civilization, philosophy, and religion had been striving. It was, in effect, God emerging from time. Marx agreed except for substituting the world proletariat for the bureaucracy. Hitler agreed but substituted himself.

The most obvious problem with all of this is the assumption that time has a purpose. Histories do, because they are stories written after the fact for a purpose (the English words "story" and "history" make a distinction not found in other European languages). When Arminius was slaughtering Varus and his legions in swamp near Kalkriese, no one thought that the days marked Rome's furthest expanse to the north and thus the defining moment for a future Europe. That idea did not come to full flower until 1875, when Kaiser Wilhelm I of the newly unified German Empire dedicated a monument to ... the wrong man (Herman) ... at the wrong place (the Osning Hills near Detmold). That's history for you.
 

zen

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Indeed so. I suggest not an army of superheroes, but an army of prime specimens. Sailors, for example, who don't shut down entire aircraft carriers just because they've all caught the latest flu variant, soldiers who can fight in the swamps and shrug off malaria, fight in the tundra with little worry of hypothermia. This should be relatively straightforward.
I think you can engineer for high altitude OR swamps. But I doubt both are sustainable, due to environmental usage being the chief driver for the body.
Use it or loose it, as every skilled sports person learns.

Though resistance to certain illnesses is something achievable.


Indeed, just as Reapers outperformed Taliban. See how *that* worked out.
Not really what I was talking about.
 

Orionblamblam

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I think you can engineer for high altitude OR swamps. But I doubt both are sustainable, due to environmental usage being the chief driver for the body.

And yet individual humans *can* acclimate themselves to both. Not easily, of course, and not universally. But with some engineering...

There might be genetic optimums for general utility. An Inuit might not work so great in a steaming jungle; a Masai might be kinda awful in the arctic. But the English... them fellers conquered just about the whole planet, or at least bits of it in every climate. From the hottest, lowest parts of India to the highest coldest parts of... well, India.
 

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No doubt the people who lugged Stonehenge from Wales to Wiltshire thought they had reached the pinnacle of human evolution. Human political and sociological ideas are not history, they shape how we view history and how we act to create history but they only effect those people who come into contact with them. The Aztecs didn't give a hoot about Genghis Khan or Christianity or Islam or any of the Eurasian cultures - they didn't even know they existed to feature in their world view.

As to posthumanity, what's the big deal? Either homo sapiens will shape their own evolution (and already indirectly have as a consequence of our own actions) or nature will do it for us. No complex organism or species is ever going to remain in stasis forever. We're the last of the Homo genus and have seen off all the others, doubtless there will be others after us. That is as it should be, we're not the last word in the evolution of the Homo genus (we still don't fully understand how or why we supplanted the Neanderthals and Denisovans), though we are its last chance to keep that line of evolution open.
 

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Romanticism gave us the idea that humanity is shaped by purpose. So it seems natural to think about shaping ourselves to better fit our own purposes. But all scientific discovery since the Enlightenment has shown us the opposite.

A friend of mine worked for decades researching pharmaceutical using genetically engineered E. Coli bacteria. When he started, there was a lot of worry about the potential for creating super pathogens should the organisms escape the lab--an insulin-producing germ, for instance, that could cause insulin shock in infected patients. But, it turned out this was nowhere near being a problem, because human-engineered organisms were lousy organisms--they could barely be kept alive in the lab, much, less thrive in the wild. Human modifications invariably disrupted naturally selected genetic functions about which we knew--and still know--almost nothing.

I was around (just) when Watson and Crick discovered the role of DNA. I was educated in the New Synthesis: Darwinian evolution by natural selection, Mendelian genetics, and DNA plus protein synthesis. Professors and authors were all confident that we at last understood how it all worked: one gene for every characteristic and some combination of four simple nucleotide bases for each gene. All the extra DNA that didn't map to obvious characteristics had to be noise, junk left around by evolution.

The descendants of these old notions drove the Human Genome Project and continue to drive pharmaceutical and genetic "therapy" research right up to the present day--even though almost everything discovered by genetics research since has proven them to be, at best, highly misleading. To the extent that single genes are identifiable, they seldom seem responsible for single characteristics. Multiple genes overlay each other and interact to control rates and development, expression or suppression of characteristics, etc.

Which brings us back to Romanticism. The idea that humans can improve on our genetics rests on the idea that our genes have a purpose and that that purpose aligns with our purposes. If you understand the purpose of a thing, you can improve upon it, refine it, re-engineer it. But, since the Enlightenment, biological science has consistently shown the opposite to be true. Evolution is the product of random accidents, not design or gradual improvement. Some stray cosmic ray randomly punches a hole in a gene sequence and creates a short circuit. Most of the time, this messes up millions of years of working biochemistry and the organism dies out without reproducing its modified genes. But just sometimes, due to some later accident, a "damaged" organism proves better able to survive under the resulting changed conditions and passes on its reworked genetic sequence.

Our current form is thus the result of millions of years of accidents that worked out in such a way that we are still alive. No more and no less. We have won a long sequence of genetic and environmental crap shoots. We are on a roll. But not because we are smart and not because we have discovered a system for predicting each throw of the dice. We have just been lucky. Given that reality, I doubt that we can successfully engineer our genetics.
 
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iverson

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[And yet individual humans *can* acclimate themselves to both. Not easily, of course, and not universally. But with some engineering...

There might be genetic optimums for general utility. An Inuit might not work so great in a steaming jungle; a Masai might be kinda awful in the arctic. But the English... them fellers conquered just about the whole planet, or at least bits of it in every climate. From the hottest, lowest parts of India to the highest coldest parts of... well, India.

In fact, our hypothetical Inuit, our Masai, our Englishman, and this American lying on his couch are genetically identical to all intents and purposes. Flatlanders that visit us in Colorado sometimes get altitude sickness at first, due to the lower atmospheric pressure up here. But, since our genetics are pretty much the same, their physiologies acclimate. Human specialization for different regions is mainly a matter of technology and education. Dress a Masai in the right parka and Mukluks and explain the local terrain and fauna, and he'll do fine. Give any of them a space suit and a nylon coverall, and he'll be ready for the International Space Station.

The Romantics interpreted superficial differences in appearance and cultural practice as profound differences in the seed that would grow and flower into culture, thus realizing the destiny of a people, nation, or race. This was very useful if you were an Austrian autocrat explaining why Franco-American republicanism wouldn't work for the Poles or the Hungarians. It was even more useful if you were a European colonialist or an American slave owner. Power was your racial destiny and theirs was subjugation. But it was not true. In reality, the supposed "races" are so intertwined as to be effectively indistinguishable genetically. I've read that if you were to take any two dark-skinned men and any two pale-skinned men off any street in America and compared their genes, each pale-skinned gentleman would be more likely to be closely related to a dark-skinned gentleman than to a pale skinned one--and vice versa.
 

zen

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Last I read there was hints of even deeper weirdness.

Electrons moving up and down the DNA chain, like signals in a computer.
 

Orionblamblam

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In fact, our hypothetical Inuit, our Masai, our Englishman, and this American lying on his couch are genetically identical to all intents and purposes.

And yet if you breed two Masai, the offspring will be recognizably Masai. Same with Inuit, Irish, Japanese, Etc. It has become fashionable to discount genetics because the difference between groups is so small. And yet those tiny differences make the difference between a tall, thin Masai and a short, stubby Kalihari bushman. Or indeed between a Homo Sapiens and a Neanderthal or a chimpanzee who share the vast majority of our genes.

Tall and thin is a great strategy for survival in a hot climate (maximizing surface area to volume), rotund is best in cold (minimizing surface area to volume). These shapes are driven in large part by genetics.
 

iverson

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In fact, our hypothetical Inuit, our Masai, our Englishman, and this American lying on his couch are genetically identical to all intents and purposes.

And yet if you breed two Masai, the offspring will be recognizably Masai. Same with Inuit, Irish, Japanese, Etc. It has become fashionable to discount genetics because the difference between groups is so small. And yet those tiny differences make the difference between a tall, thin Masai and a short, stubby Kalihari bushman. Or indeed between a Homo Sapiens and a Neanderthal or a chimpanzee who share the vast majority of our genes.

Tall and thin is a great strategy for survival in a hot climate (maximizing surface area to volume), rotund is best in cold (minimizing surface area to volume). These shapes are driven in large part by genetics.

There are several common fallacies here.

[1] The offspring of two Masai will only be recognizable as such to someone culturally prepared to view "Masai" characteristics as Masai. To others they may just look African or even just human. The differences between "tall, thin Masai" and "short, stubby Kalihari bushman" seem important to the extent that we make them so. You find tall and thin, short and rotund individuals in varying proportions in population groups across the globe. So the idea that these are "bred-in", defining characteristics of particular societies is unconvincing-. Race and culture matter a lot to us only because we live in the post-Romantic, post-colonial period. They are artifacts of that period, human creations rather than biological causes.

Some years ago, I was teaching a required Western Civilization course on Roman and medieval literature. One student was very resentful of having to study "old, dead, white, men". So, some while later, he expressed his gratification when I mentioned that the next book on the syllabus was by an African, St. Augustine of Hippo. It was good to see that we were studying at least one Black man, he intoned. Unfortunately, I had to point out that, while I had no idea what Augustine's skin tones might be, he was definitely not Black. Or White. In the 4th and 5th centuries, Black and White had not yet been invented. The Roman's considered lots of differences between people significant. But skin color was not one of them.

The perception and significance of what counts as different is cultural. Just as most of us still equate Scandinavian origin with blond hair, and blue eyes, even though the incidence of these characteristics is only slightly higher among Scandinavians: most members of Scandinavian populations are brown-eyed brunettes, like the rest of us.

[2] The differences between human populations are small, not because they are important (at least in evolutionary terms), but because they are not. With a few narrow exceptions, human genetic differences are mere random fluctuations around a mean. The human gene pool is too thoroughly mixed to allow for significant differences, which is why we are still a single species after all these milennia. Generation after generation, we tend to recognize one another as attractive, beddable, and human. We interbreed and keep things mixed up. Even Cro Magnons, Denisovans, and Neanderthals are no longer seem to be the different species that we once took them for. All of us looked beddable to all the rest of us.

[3] Deciding which physical characteristics provide survival advantages is a non-trivial task. Characteristics arise randomly in a random environment. So determining causality when matching accident to accident is complicated.

First, deciding what is or is not advantageous is not easy. The effect on survival of thin or fat may have nothing to do with climate and everything to do with food supply--fat people tend to survive famines, so skinny people tend to put on weight when they can. On the other hand, fat people tend to have more heart attacks and strokes and are not at their best when chased by hyenas, leopards, or angry human neighbors. Those that inherit two copies of the sickle-cell anemia gene suffer and die young. But those that carry only one copy have resistance to malaria and are thus more likely to live long enough to breed.

Second, natural selection has nothing to do with survival of the individual as such. It's reproduction--the survival of the genes--that matters. Natural selection may select for things that undermine the survival of the individual if they increase the survival of most of the individual's genes. For example, many animals lay huge numbers of eggs and hatch out vast numbers of tiny offspring, any one of which stands little chance of escaping predators and growing to reproductive age. But the numbers are so large that predators seem to have difficulty catching all of them, ensuring the survival of their collective genome. The sickle-cell gene subjects a quarter of those that carry it to crippling pain and death, but makes it likely that half of the carriers will live long enough to breed and keep the sickle cell gene going for another generation.

Third, much of the way we think about advantage goes back to the Romantic teleology mentioned above. We tend to think that genes are "for" something: they have a purpose and that purpose is us. Not so. The sickle cell gene is not "for" resisting malaria. It just happens that the malaria protozoan has a harder time infecting the red blood cells of people that have the gene for malformed red blood cells. In crude statistical terms, if 25% of a carrier population tends to die from the gene, 25% tends to die from malaria (because they lack the gene), and 50% tends to survive both sickle-cell disease and malaria, the sickle-cell gene is likely to become prevalent in the population's gene pool as time goes forward, all else being equal. If something changes--a malaria cure, extinction of the mosquito--then the risk of death by sickle cell might become disadvantageous enough to select against the gene over time. On the other hand, climate change may increase the prevalence of the gene. Today, the sickle-cell gene is most common among populations in Africa and central Europe, where malaria was once or still is endemic. But, with climate change, malaria and its carriers may spread to what were hitherto the temperate zones, creating selective pressures that could raise the prevalence of the gene in the broader human population.
 

Orionblamblam

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[1] The offspring of two Masai will only be recognizable as such to someone culturally prepared to view "Masai" characteristics as Masai. To others they may just look African or even just human.

Do you honestly think that, say, some 12th century Pacific Islander who, when presented with a group of mixed humans made up of ten Masai, ten Bushmen, ten Vikings, ten Aztecs, and ten Mongols wouldn't be able to separate them into the separate groups with a pretty fair rate of success?

The human gene pool is too thoroughly mixed to allow for significant differences,

Depends on how you define "significant." If milk is an important fraction of your nutrition, being lactose tolerant will be important to you. If you are in a region rife with malaria, being resistant to it will be kinda important to you.

[3] Deciding which physical characteristics provide survival advantages is a non-trivial task.

Sure. But heart disease and diabetes and cancer and a lot of other maladies are often genetically based, and can be attributed to distinct genetic flaws in an individual that can be passed down. If you could edit them out (reliably, and without meaningful risks to the individual and his/her progeny, something that can only be achieved with practice), you'd have to wonder why you *wouldn't.*


Today, the sickle-cell gene is most common among populations in Africa and central Europe, where malaria was once or still is endemic.

Indeed, yes, thus pointing out that genetic differences between groups *are* there and can be important.
 

iverson

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[1] The offspring of two Masai will only be recognizable as such to someone culturally prepared to view "Masai" characteristics as Masai. To others they may just look African or even just human.
Do you honestly think that, say, some 12th century Pacific Islander who, when presented with a group of mixed humans made up of ten Masai, ten Bushmen, ten Vikings, ten Aztecs, and ten Mongols wouldn't be able to separate them into the separate groups with a pretty fair rate of success?
[/QUOTE]

What do you mean by "success"? You mean, of course, that your Pacific islander would divide people up the in the same way that YOU would, using the criteria and he groups that YOU take for granted. I think that unlikely.

So, yes, I do honestly think that our islander would group people differently than you would. The historical evidence is, moreover, on my side.

In the 12th century, the groups you specified did not exist and the people you want to put in each would not group themselves that way, much less anyone else. For one thing, “viking” described a job, not a people. A translation faithful to the times would be “doing business”, which sometimes meant trading, sometimes settling, and sometimes looting.

I already mentioned that the Romans did not makes the distinctions that we do. Citizen and barbarian, yes. But you just have to look at enough busts of the notable Romans to note the, to us, "obviously" sub-Saharan features of quite a few of the citizens.

The peoples that succeeded Rome likewise failed to distinguish one another on racial and nationalistic lines. For them, only family ties and personal loyalty to comrades and chiefs mattered. The one-time distinction between “Asiatic” Huns, Alans, and Mongols on the one hand and “Germanic” Goths, Vandals, Franks, and Burgundians on the other existed only in the minds of 19th-century Romantics who were in the process of inventing race and nationality themselves. Archeological and literary evidence both show that the Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Burgundians were what we would call multi-ethnic groups.

When my Danish ancestors went viking to Jerusalem and first encountered sub-Saharan Africans on the cost of Spain, they matter of factly mentioned meeting "blue men" (blue meaning "darker" than they were used to). Since "viking" was a job, not a so-called race or nationality (neither of which yet existed as concepts), some of those blue men might well have joined up and become vikings themselves--as Irish, Germans, and Russians certainly did. The word "Russian," in fact, derives from "Rus", a word that probably means "Swede" or, "loosely, "Viking" and named a multi-ethnic medieval kingdom.

To the medieval German knight-poet Wolfram von Eschenbach, Christianity and Christendom were what mattered. In Parzifal, Muslims are black but turn white when they convert and become part of Christendom. In the 15th- to early 16th-century Mediterranean, on the other hand, most dark-skinned Africans encountered by Europeans were Ethiopian Christians, liberated from slavery in Muslim galleys. In Rome, one of them is memorialized alongside a European slave in a mosaic created to commemorate the founding of the Catholic Trinitarian order. The Trinitarians were founded to raise money and ransom enslaved Christians.

The human gene pool is too thoroughly mixed to allow for significant differences,

Depends on how you define "significant." If milk is an important fraction of your nutrition, being lactose tolerant will be important to you. If you are in a region rife with malaria, being resistant to it will be kinda important to you.
No. It won't be important to you. You will never know one way or another.

Natural selection simply does not work the way you assume. It has nothing to do with what is important to the individual or with the distinctive individual characteristics that make you you (at least in the Romantic imagination). Natural selection is all about statistical distributions of genes in populations across time. In this context, you and I and everyone else that has ever lived are just randomly assembled mechanisms for propagating genes. Mechanisms that work well enough under whatever conditions are current at a given time pass on their genes, which continue to use derived mechanisms. Sickle cell disease is a case in point:

* If one has two unmutated copies of the gene AND IF one lives in a malaria-free area, the probability of passing on genes to descendants is highest (for these conditions).
* If one has two unmutated copies of the gene AND IF one lives in an area where malaria is endemic, the probability of passing on genes to descendants is lower (due to malaria risk).
* If one has two mutated copies of a gene, one develops sickle-cell disease . The probability of passing on genes to descendants is lower, regardless of where one lives.
* If one has one mutated and one unmutated copy of the gene AND IF one lives in an area where malaria is endemic, you are more likely to pass on genes to descendants.
* If one has one mutated and one unmutated copy of the gene BUT lives in a malaria-free area, you are likely to pass on genes to descendants. But your descendants are also a little less likely to pass those genes any further (due to the risk of sickle-cell).

The above means that the present-day distribution of genes in the human population as a whole reflects conditions that affected gene transmission in the past. Anyone anywhere can still get malaria--the sickle cell variant does not guarantee that any individual will not get it and die from it. It just means that there is a statistically greater likelihood that the sickle-cell variant of the gene will survive in populations where large numbers of people were exposed to malaria at particular times in the past.

[3] Deciding which physical characteristics provide survival advantages is a non-trivial task.

Sure. But heart disease and diabetes and cancer and a lot of other maladies are often genetically based, and can be attributed to distinct genetic flaws in an individual that can be passed down. If you could edit them out (reliably, and without meaningful risks to the individual and his/her progeny, something that can only be achieved with practice), you'd have to wonder why you *wouldn't.*
[/QUOTE]
You presume a degree of knowledge that does not exist in real life. As far as I know, are few if any "distinct genetic flaws", nor is it easy to determine when "heart disease and diabetes and cancer" are genetic. Several cancers are, for example, known to be caused by viruses, chemicals, or radiation. Diseases like sickle cell, where the genetics re well established, are the exception, not the rule. EVen then, we know little more than roughly where the mutant gene is located on the chromosomes--like knowing the city but not the house address.

The sickle-cell mutation shows, moreover, the dangers of unintended consequences. If we develop a cure for malaria (malaria drugs are rapidly losing their effectiveness), eradicating the sickle-cell gene might be justified in that it eliminates unnecessary suffering . But, in the absence of a cure, is it OK to eradicate the one mitigating factor protecting much of a population? And what if we at some point find out that the sickle-cell variant gene does other important things? Or that it is not, in fact, involved in sickle-cell disease at all, but merely near to some other gene?

With rare exceptions, the kind of genetic modification that gets glibly discussed is like giving a chimpanzee a hammer and having him tune your Ferrari.He may know what HE is doing, but he almost certainly does not know what the pieces under the hood are doing.

Today, the sickle-cell gene is most common among populations in Africa and central Europe, where malaria was once or still is endemic.
Indeed, yes, thus pointing out that genetic differences between groups *are* there and can be important.

But there are no genetic differences between distinct groups. You are assuming that one set of characteristics defines one "group" in a population. But in fact, all characteristics are statistically distributed across all groups to varying degrees. No one characteristic or set of characteristics of uniquely characterizes a single population.

There is no necessary correlation between the sickle cell mutation and malaria. The sickle-cell mutation is not found in all malarial or formerly malarial regions on earth. Nor is it the only genetic disease of the blood that seems to reduce the prevalence malaria in populations. Malaria was found in most of the wet areas of the earth at one time or other. Yet the sickle-cell mutation is most common among Africans and some South Asians. But it is not as common among African-Americans.

This is why it is important to understand the significance of the fact that all of us are so nearly genetically identical and why what differences there are statistically relatively unimportant. Natural selection has systematically filtered variations in the genome for eons. Most variations either failed to establish themselves in the genome (their carriers did not reproduce) or became the norm--and thus were no longer variations.
 
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Orionblamblam

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In the 12th century, the groups you specified did not exist ...

I'm sure historians will be fascinated by your treatise on how Mongols are a modern invention.


The peoples that succeeded Rome likewise failed to distinguish one another on racial and nationalistic lines.

Easy to do when most of everybody will never get more than 20 miles from home in their lives. Of course some that do, say, going on a Crusade, will come back with yarns about "Moors" and such, but, hey, we can ignore such crazed ravings.

Natural selection simply does not work the way you assume.

Genetic engineering *does.* Which is the entire point of this discussion.

Rest of the post trimmed because I can't even with people who look at the great diversity of humanity and see nothing but a beige undifferentiated mass.


Bonus round: as far back as Ancient Egypt people recognized that people were different based on physical characteristics. This is not surprising... humans typically aren't idiots and we can differentiate between colors and shades and sizes and weights... not just of the breeds of dogs and sheep and goats, but of humans as well.

Egyptian_races.jpg

From Wiki:

The most famous part of the Book of Gates today refers to the different races of humanity known to the Egyptians, dividing them up into four categories that are now conventionally labelled "Reth" (Egyptians), "Aamu" (Asiatics), "Nehesu" (Nubians), and "Themehu" (Libyans). These are depicted in procession entering the next world.[2]
 
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shin_getter

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A measurement of genetics by most observed characteristics like skin and skeleton structure is terrible. While there is correlation the signal to noise is bad, especially in times of rapid gene pool change

~When sequencing the person gives accuracy down to base pairs, much more efficient sorting can be achieved. The secrets of heritability have frustrated, but it is not infinite, especially relative to the life cycle of stellar environments. It is only a matter of time that it gets cracked and society will have to adapt to a new reality.

What is most likely is whatever culture that comes out the event would consider 21th century people as hopelessly evil and stupid, failing to comprehend obvious truth and justice that is necessary for those societies to function. Such is the fate of being born early. Just because a trend will likely take longer than your lives to play out doesn't mean it won't happen....
----
For a more 'modern' game with genetics: how many SNP modification for comfortable checking of BIPOC boxes in university admissions and scholarships? (direct modification on key performance figures is too hard for current gen science and tech) Part of fascination with the current zeitgeist wonders whether the game will evolve to lawyer - technology complex, like Formula 1, but with children, in the contest for elite status. The class implication is interesting, as are ethical frame maneuvers.

And there can only be endless fireworks when determinants of human sexuality gets figured out. Sadly, I am again born too early to see it played out as even great insight could not break through societal momentum for non-specialists to get a clear view of in time, and empirical validation is the maximally opposed by one or all factions.

There is just so much things from now and 10^106 years...end of history lol
 

Hood

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Easy to do when most of everybody will never get more than 20 miles from home in their lives. Of course some that do, say, going on a Crusade, will come back with yarns about "Moors" and such, but, hey, we can ignore such crazed ravings.
Actually mobility was far greater than we give credit in the pre-mechanised world.
The existence of such large empires that spanned Europe and the Middle East (like the Romans achieved), or the Viking influence which spread as far south as Turkey via the Russian rivers and even the Newfoundland coast briefly.

Roman troops moved about a fair bit. Slaves were brought and traded (Roman and Viking), even some of the 'Germanic' tribes (who were from the far east of Eurasia) who recognised Rome's authority and entered the Army as mercenaries ended up across the Empire.
The initial 'Germanics' that we would classify today, came from the east and were pushed west as newer eastern migrants pushed in, people like the Angles ended up traversing the Baltic coast, settling in Denmark then found themselves needed more land and settling in Britain. Goths, Vandals et al all soon set about tramping West and taking over whatever remained of the Roman Empire.
In the Crusades literally hundreds of thousands of western Europeans marched East from Barons to peasants (an estimated 100,000 for Pope Urban's people's crusade alone; about 0.05% of the world's population equivalent which is equivalent to 3 million people today). Most of the latter group were lance and sword fodder and a lot didn't even make it through Hungary and Byzantine Greece without pissing off the locals, getting in fights, dying of starvation etc.

Many people who were transplanted never went back to their place of birth, got killed in battle and especially those who were slaves or found an easier life somewhere else with more fertile ground or better economic conditions. Sure some average never went very far, but many people did.
 

Orionblamblam

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Sure some average never went very far, but many people did.

"Many" was still a minority. Traders and warriors traveled... but the farmers, the serfs, the Little people were often bound to the land with little ability or reason to go as far as the horizon.

This may be a situation that returns... as people become increasingly bound to dense urban areas, stripped of individual means of long distance transport and restricted to short-range public transportation, we might again see a time when most people spend the bulk of their lives in their insular little burgs like New York or LA. If they travel, it'll be by means of trains or planes where they don;t actually experience the landscape of cultures between A and B, but just spend a bit of time in a box.
 

Justo Miranda

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Sure some average never went very far, but many people did.

"Many" was still a minority. Traders and warriors traveled... but the farmers, the serfs, the Little people were often bound to the land with little ability or reason to go as far as the horizon.

This may be a situation that returns... as people become increasingly bound to dense urban areas, stripped of individual means of long distance transport and restricted to short-range public transportation, we might again see a time when most people spend the bulk of their lives in their insular little burgs like New York or LA. If they travel, it'll be by means of trains or planes where they don;t actually experience the landscape of cultures between A and B, but just spend a bit of time in a box.
That is the same situation that Europe was in in the early Middle Ages when the deterioration of Roman roads confined the population within a few miles of the castles by turning them into serfs of the land that was owned by the castle. The Church of Rome never had so much power and nothing would please him more than to return to those dark ages.
 

shin_getter

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Globalized communications have made distance an orthogonal factor with respect to culture though, even if people don't travel. This is a change that is not fully understood: when not only the elite is part of the global culture, but everyone.

Globalized communication result in a far more powerful sorting mechanism under modernity compared to geology. Geology apply population level pressure and have light sorting effects. Modern information echo chambers select directly for intellectual capability, interest, personality, life strategy, politics, and socialization.... a far more powerful system. Tell me you most visited URLs and I can tell you who you are~

People that think history is about nations lack imagination. Look at population level identity and ideas....
 

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