Sunday, October 18, 2015

Factionalism and the Genetic Grand Transition

As a reminder, factionalism is a term used in this blog to refer to any division of the citizens in an alien civilization into groups which compete against one another. They can be geographically based, genetics based, economics based, native language based, caste based, belief based, or any other division. Factions are likely to be the natural state of any alien species that begins to live in cities, based on geography at first. They should eventually coalesce, and this post discusses how.

Factions inhibit the advance of technology across the board, and concentrate it on areas that are useful in improving the relative standing of individual factions. This can lead to some obvious pitfalls. First, one way to improve relative standing is to attack another faction, or to attempt to conquer or control another faction. Larger spans of control, if they are successfully managed, can be a positive feedback effect that provides more options and capability for further enlargement of one faction’s span of control over other factions. Second, leaving some areas of technology untouched or with minimal advances can result in a society that is unbalanced, resulting in excessive resource usage or some other damaging effect.

The genetics grand transition is when genetic engineering is used to improve the genome of a civilization. There are some phases into which this gradual transition can be divided. One is when genetic selection is used for a new generation of aliens. Another is when industrial gestation is developed, and reproduction is gradually transferred from biological means to industrial means. A third is when the genome is added to by the invention and introduction of novel non-evolved genes. This last phase may involve speciation as well.

Genes used for the new generation would be selected for the improvement of the gene pool in many aspects, including intelligence, strength, longevity, immune performance, size and proportion, attractiveness, athletic capability, resistance to injury, healing rate, food tolerances, and many others. There are probably many other capabilities related to the efficiency and stabilization of individual organs, but the performance of organs are not yet well quantified by scientists here on Earth, making it a bit hard to discuss. For example, there could be genetic improvements related to the alien equivalent of a liver, in which the organ’s ability to remove toxins and purify internal liquids is improved.

The interaction of factionalism and the genetics grand transition should be obvious. Factionalism is based on the differences between groups, and many of those depend on some denomination of differences in traits that are genetically controlled. If genetic improvements osmose into all factions, and are adopted, these differences are likely to diminish and in some cases disappear. If one faction vilifies another faction as being non-intelligent, this difference will be abated by the introduction of intelligence genes into both factions, producing equal results. If one faction considers itself superior because of some talents, genetically determined, these also could become equalized.

Obviously geography is not going to go away with the grand transition for genetics, but just consider how difficult it is to maintain factionalism based on geography when the citizens in both geographic areas are pretty much identical. What is the basis for those seeking to maintain factionalism to call upon their followers to wish harm to those of the other faction? History could be used, but history diminishes with time, measured in generations.

Another factor relates to a single attribute, intelligence. As intelligence increases in all members of new generations, they will gradually gain the ability to use that intelligence to question such claims. Intelligence, as has been pointed out, is not memory or speed in doing routine computations, but is closely related to creative and critical thinking. This ability becoming universal does not bode well for demagogues or others seeking to maintain factional opinions among the body of citizens. Thus, two very serious factors will undermine factionalism, and the unification that was discussed in another post is likely to be gradually introduced.

Any trend in society can be opposed, and the trend to unification can be opposed. It can be opposed by those in charge of one faction by developing memes for factionalism and making sure they are taught in the curriculum used for all young members of their faction. Memes are like glue, they stick in the brain of those taught them, and are hard to remove. The difficulty that schemers with this plan face is that other factions may not be doing the same thing. If there are several factions on the planet, and only one is stressing the continuation of factionalism, the best memes possible may erode from the edges and the interest of the last remaining stronghold of factionalism might decline. Once the decline starts, if the curriculum is modified accordingly, a spiral starts toward unification.

Another tactic to delay unification trends is the exacerbation of factionalism and a descent into attacks and even war. Frequent war would reinforce factionalism, by inducing a fear of the effects of war. One response to war is a withdrawal from contact with other factions, although if it is a faction that prefers unification that wins, and the holdout for factionalism that loses, the trend to unification will be reinforced.

Disinformation might be used in an alien civilization that does not have free communication between factions. If the hierarchy of the faction that is attempting to maintain factionalism, and therefore its own span of control and inherent advantages, and they use disinformation to do it, the technique may be successful as long as technology does not spawn some simple means of communications between factions. Unfortunately, that would mean stopping technological development or limiting its implementation, both of which might be very hard to do.

Thus, factionalism based on geographical divisions becomes harder to maintain as time, and therefore technological progress, continues. The more obvious tactics have counters to them, some natural, and some chosen by aliens in the other factions. This does not mean that factionalism does not have the possibility of slowing progress or even stopping it. Besides through the mechanism of destruction in war, there are other means by which geographic factionalism might perchance continue to plague a planet.

Some other types of factionalism are harder to envision remaining through the genetic grand transition. Caste divisions obvious collapse, unless genetic improvements are somehow rationed to only certain castes, or the grand transition is distorted to be used to maintain the divisions by an enforced decision to choose the genetic endowment of different castes to be different, and perpetuate castes. Factionalism based on language or belief should crumble with more communication, as unification seeps into these areas as well. Factionalism based on economics only could be expected to be maintained if the intelligence enhancement portion of the genetics grand transition is somehow sidelined.

It should be clear at this point that factionalism is put under great pressure by the genetics grand transition, and that it is likely that it will give way to unification as time passes. The grand transition might take several generations to complete, and this might also be a good time scale for unification to occur. While there are tactics to delay the demise of factionalism, none of them seem immune to this pressure. Thus, there is no reason to assume that factionalism is the principal cause of the lack of aliens in our marketplaces.

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