The End of Homo Sapiens

The End of Homo Sapiens
THIS BOOK BEGAN BY PRESENTING HISTORY as the next stage in the continuum of physics to chemistry to biology. Sapiens are subject to the same physical forces, chemical reactions and natural-selection processes that govern all living beings. Natural selection may have provided Homo sapiens with a much larger playing field than it has given to any other organism, but the field has still had its boundaries. The implication has been that, no matter what their efforts and achievements, Sapiens are incapable of breaking free of their biologically determined limits.
But at the dawn of the twenty-first century, this is no longer true: Homo sapiens is transcending those limits. It is now beginning to break the laws of natural selection, replacing them with the laws of intelligent design.
For close to 4 billion years, every single organism on the planet evolved subject to natural selection. Not even one was designed by an intelligent creator. The giraffe, for example, got its long neck thanks to competition between archaic giraffes rather than to the whims of a super-intelligent being. Proto-giraffes who had longer necks had access to more food and consequently produced more offspring than did those with shorter necks. Nobody, certainly not the giraffes, said, ‘A long neck would enable giraffes to munch leaves off the treetops. Let’s extend it.’ The beauty of Darwin’s theory is that it does not need to assume an intelligent designer to explain how giraffes ended up with long necks.
For billions of years, intelligent design was not even an option, because there was no intelligence which could design things. Microorganisms, which until quite recently were the only living things around, are capable of amazing feats. A microorganism belonging to one species can incorporate genetic codes from a completely different species into its cell and thereby gain new capabilities, such as resistance to antibiotics. Yet, as best we know, microorganisms have no consciousness, no aims in life, and no ability to plan ahead.
At some stage organisms such as giraffes, dolphins, chimpanzees and Neanderthals evolved consciousness and the ability to plan ahead. But even if a Neanderthal fantasised about fowls so fat and slow-moving that he could just scoop them up whenever he was hungry, he had no way of turning that fantasy into reality. He had to hunt the birds that had been naturally selected.
The first crack in the old regime appeared about 10,000 years ago, during the Agricultural Revolution. Sapiens who dreamed of fat, slow-moving chickens discovered that if they mated the fattest hen with the slowest cock, some of their offspring would be both fat and slow. If you mated those offspring with each other, you could produce a line of fat, slow birds. It was a race of chickens unknown to nature, produced by the intelligent design not of a god but of a human.
Still, compared to an all-powerful deity, Homo sapiens had limited design skills. Sapiens could use selective breeding to detour around and accelerate the natural-selection processes that normally affected chickens, but they could not introduce completely new characteristics that were absent from the genetic pool of wild chickens. In a way, the relationship between Homo sapiens and chickens was similar to many other symbiotic relationships that have so often arisen on their own in nature. Sapiens exerted peculiar selective pressures on chickens that caused the fat and slow ones to proliferate, just as pollinating bees select flowers, causing the bright colourful ones to proliferate.
Today, the 4-billion-year-old regime of natural selection is facing a completely different challenge. In laboratories throughout the world, scientists are engineering living beings. They break the laws of natural selection with impunity, unbridled even by an organisms original characteristics. Eduardo Kac, a Brazilian bio-artist, decided in 2000 to create a new work of art: a fluorescent green rabbit. Kac contacted a French laboratory and offered it a fee to engineer a radiant bunny according to his specifications. The French scientists took a run-of-the-mill white rabbit embryo, implanted in its DNA a gene taken from a green fluorescent jellyfish, and voilà! One green fluorescent rabbit for le monsieur. Kac named the rabbit Alba.
It is impossible to explain the existence of Alba through the laws of natural selection. She is the product of intelligent design. She is also a harbinger of things to come. If the potential Alba signifies is realised in full – and if humankind doesn’t annihilate itself meanwhile – the Scientific Revolution might prove itself far greater than a mere historical revolution. It may turn out to be the most important biological revolution since the appearance of life on earth. After 4 billion years of natural selection, Alba stands at the dawn of a new cosmic era, in which life will be ruled by intelligent design. If this happens, the whole of human history up to that point might, with hindsight, be reinterpreted as a process of experimentation and apprenticeship that revolutionised the game of life. Such a process should be understood from a cosmic perspective of billions of years, rather than from a human perspective of millennia.
Biologists the world over are locked in battle with the intelligent-design movement, which opposes the teaching of Darwinian evolution in schools and claims that biological complexity proves there must be a creator who thought out all biological details in advance. The biologists are right about the past, but the proponents of intelligent design might, ironically, be right about the future.
At the time of writing, the replacement of natural selection by intelligent design could happen in any of three ways: through biological engineering, cyborg engineering (cyborgs are beings that combine organic with non-organic parts) or the engineering of inorganic life.
Of Mice and Men
Biological engineering is deliberate human intervention on the biological level (e.g. implanting a gene) aimed at modifying an organisms shape, capabilities, needs or desires, in order to realize some preconceived cultural idea, such as the artistic predilections of Eduardo Kac.
There is nothing new about biological engineering, per se. People have been using it for millennia in order to reshape themselves and other organisms. A simple example is castration. Humans have been castrating bulls for perhaps 10,000 years in order to create oxen. Oxen are less aggressive, and are thus easier to train to pull ploughs. Humans also castrated their own young males to create soprano singers with enchanting voices and eunuchs who could safely be entrusted with overseeing the sultans harem.
But recent advances in our understanding of how organisms work, down to the cellular and nuclear levels, have opened up previously unimaginable possibilities. For instance, we can today not merely castrate a man, but also change his sex through surgical and hormonal treatments. But that’s not all. Consider the surprise, disgust and consternation that ensued when, in 1996, the following photograph appeared in newspapers and on television:
46. A mouse on whose back scientists grew an ‘ear’ made of cattle cartilage cells. It is an eerie echo of the lion-man statue from the Stadel Cave. Thirty thousand years ago, humans were already fantasising about combining different species. Today, they can actually produce such chimeras.
No, Photoshop was not involved. It’s an untouched photo of a real mouse on whose back scientists implanted cattle cartilage cells. The scientists were able to control the growth of the new tissue, shaping it in this case into something that looks like a human ear. The process may soon enable scientists to manufacture artificial ears, which could then be implanted in humans.1
Even more remarkable wonders can be performed with genetic engineering, which is why it raises a host of ethical, political and ideological issues. And it’s not just pious monotheists who object that man should not usurp God’s role. Many confirmed atheists are no less shocked by the idea that scientists are stepping into nature’s shoes. Animal-rights activists decry the suffering caused to lab animals in genetic engineering experiments, and to the farmyard animals that are engineered in complete disregard of their needs and desires. Human-rights activists are afraid that genetic engineering might be used to create supermen who will make serfs of the rest of us. Jeremiahs offer apocalyptic visions of bio-dictatorships that will clone fearless soldiers and obedient workers. The prevailing feeling is that too many opportunities are opening too quickly and that our ability to modify genes is outpacing our capacity for making wise and far-sighted use of the skill.
The result is that we’re at present using only a fraction of the potential of genetic engineering. Most of the organisms now being engineered are those with the weakest political lobbies – plants, fungi, bacteria and insects. For example, lines of E. coli, a bacterium that lives symbiotically in the human gut (and which makes headlines when it gets out of the gut and causes deadly infections), have been genetically engineered to produce biofuel.2 E. coli and several species of fungi have also been engineered to produce insulin, thereby lowering the cost of diabetes treatment.3 A gene extracted from an Arctic fish has been inserted into potatoes, making the plants more frost-resistant.4
A few mammals have also been subject to genetic engineering. Every year the dairy industry suffers billions of dollars in damages due to mastitis, a disease that strikes dairy-cow udders. Scientists are currently experimenting with genetically engineered cows whose milk contains lysostaphin, a biochemical that attacks the bacteria responsible for the disease.5The pork industry, which has suffered from falling sales because consumers are wary of the unhealthy fats in ham and bacon, has hopes for a still-experimental line of pigs implanted with genetic material from a worm. The new genes cause the pigs to turn bad omega 6 fatty acid into its healthy cousin, omega 3.6
The next generation of genetic engineering will make pigs with good fat look like child’s play. Geneticists have managed not merely to extend sixfold the average life expectancy of worms, but also to engineer genius mice that display much-improved memory and learning skills.7 Voles are small, stout rodents resembling mice, and most varieties of voles are promiscuous. But there is one species in which boy and girl voles form lasting and monogamous relationships. Geneticists claim to have isolated the genes responsible for vole monogamy. If the addition of a gene can turn a vole Don Juan into a loyal and loving husband, are we far off from being able to genetically engineer not only the individual abilities of rodents (and humans), but also their social structures?8
The Return of the Neanderthals
But geneticists do not only want to transform living lineages. They aim to revive extinct creatures as well. And not just dinosaurs, as in Jurassic Park. A team of Russian, Japanese and Korean scientists has recently mapped the genome of ancient mammoths, found frozen in the Siberian ice. They now plan to take a fertilised egg-cell of a present-day elephant, replace the elephantine DNA with a reconstructed mammoth DNA, and implant the egg in the womb of an elephant. After about twenty-two months, they expect the first mammoth in 5,000 years to be born.9
But why stop at mammoths? Professor George Church of Harvard University recently suggested that, with the completion of the Neanderthal Genome Project, we can now implant reconstructed Neanderthal DNA into a Sapiens ovum, thus producing the first Neanderthal child in 30,000 years. Church claimed that he could do the job for a paltry $30 million. Several women have already volunteered to serve as surrogate mothers.10
What do we need Neanderthals for? Some argue that if we could study live Neanderthals, we could answer some of the most nagging questions about the origins and uniqueness of Homo sapiens. By comparing a Neanderthal to a Homo sapiens brain, and mapping out where their structures differ, perhaps we could identify what biological change produced consciousness as we experience it. There’s an ethical reason, too – some have argued that if Homo sapiens was responsible for the extinction of the Neanderthals, it has a moral duty to resurrect them. And having some Neanderthals around might be useful. Lots of industrialists would be glad to pay one Neanderthal to do the menial work of two Sapiens.
But why stop even at Neanderthals? Why not go back to God’s drawing board and design a better Sapiens? The abilities, needs and desires of Homo sapiens have a genetic basis, and the Sapiens genome is no more complex than that of voles and mice. (The mouse genome contains about 2.5 billion nucleobases, the Sapiens genome about 2.9 billion bases – meaning the latter is only 14 per cent larger.)11 In the medium range – perhaps in a few decades – genetic engineering and other forms of biological engineering might enable us to make far-reaching alterations not only to our physiology, immune system and life expectancy, but also to our intellectual and emotional capacities. If genetic engineering can create genius mice, why not genius humans? If it can create monogamous voles, why not humans hard-wired to remain faithful to their partners?
The Cognitive Revolution that turned Homo sapiensfrom an insignificant ape into the master of the world did not require any noticeable change in physiology or even in the size and external shape of the Sapiens brain. It apparently involved no more than a few small changes to internal brain structure. Perhaps another small change would be enough to ignite a Second Cognitive Revolution, create a completely new type of consciousness, and transform Homo sapiens into something altogether different.
True, we still don’t have the acumen to achieve this, but there seems to be no insurmountable technical barrier preventing us from producing superhumans. The main obstacles are the ethical and political objections that have slowed down research on humans. And no matter how convincing the ethical arguments may be, it is hard to see how they can hold back the next step for long, especially if what is at stake is the possibility of prolonging human life indefinitely, conquering incurable diseases, and upgrading our cognitive and emotional abilities.
What would happen, for example, if we developed a cure for Alzheimer’s disease that, as a side benefit, could dramatically improve the memories of healthy people? Would anyone be able to halt the relevant research? And when the cure is developed, could any law enforcement agency limit it to Alzheimer’s patients and prevent healthy people from using it to acquire super-memories?
It’s unclear whether bioengineering could really resurrect the Neanderthals, but it would very likely bring down the curtain on Homo sapiens. Tinkering with our genes won’t necessarily kill us. But we might fiddle with Homo sapiens to such an extent that we would no longer be Homo sapiens.
Bionic Life
There is another new technology which could change the laws of life: cyborg engineering. Cyborgs are beings which combine organic and inorganic parts, such as a human with bionic hands. In a sense, nearly all of us are bionic these days, since our natural senses and functions are supplemented by devices such as eyeglasses, pacemakers, orthotics, and even computers and mobile phones (which relieve our brains of some of their data storage and processing burdens). We stand poised on the brink of becoming true cyborgs, of having inorganic features that are inseparable from our bodies, features that modify our abilities, desires, personalities and identities.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a US military research agency, is developing cyborgs out of insects. The idea is to implant electronic chips, detectors and processors in the body of a fly or cockroach, which will enable either a human or an automatic operator to control the insect’s movements remotely and to absorb and transmit information. Such a fly could be sitting on the wall at enemy headquarters, eavesdrop on the most secret conversations, and if it isn’t caught first by a spider, could inform us exactly what the enemy is planning.12 In 2006 the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center reported its intention to develop cyborg sharks, declaring, ‘NUWC is developing a fish tag whose goal is behaviour control of host animals via neural implants.’ The developers hope to identify underwater electromagnetic fields made by submarines and mines, by exploiting the natural magnetic detecting capabilities of sharks, which are superior to those of any man-made detectors.13
Sapiens, too, are being turned into cyborgs. The newest generation of hearing aids are sometimes referred to as ‘bionic ears’. The device consists of an implant that absorbs sound through a microphone located in the outer part of the ear. The implant filters the sounds, identifies human voices, and translates them into electric signals that are sent directly to the central auditory nerve and from there to the brain.14
Retina Implant, a government-sponsored German company, is developing a retinal prosthesis that may allow blind people to gain partial vision. It involves implanting a small microchip inside the patient’s eye. Photocells absorb light falling on the eye and transform it into electrical energy, which stimulates the intact nerve cells in the retina. The nervous impulses from these cells stimulate the brain, where they are translated into sight. At present the technology allows patients to orientate themselves in space, identify letters, and even recognise faces.15
Jesse Sullivan, an American electrician, lost both arms up to the shoulder in a 2001 accident. Today he uses two bionic arms, courtesy of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The special feature of Jesse’s new arms is that they are operated by thought alone. Neural signals arriving from Jesse’s brain are translated by micro-computers into electrical commands, and the arms move. When Jesse wants to raise his arm, he does what any normal person unconsciously does – and the arm rises. These arms can perform a much more limited range of movements than organic arms, but they enable Jesse to carry out simple daily functions. A similar bionic arm has recently been outfitted for Claudia Mitchell, an American soldier who lost her arm in a motorcycle accident. Scientists believe that we will soon have bionic arms that will not only move when willed to move, but will also be able to transmit signals back to the brain, thereby enabling amputees to regain even the sensation of touch!16
47. Jesse Sullivan and Claudia Mitchell holding hands. The amazing thing about their bionic arms is that they are operated by thought.
At present these bionic arms are a poor replacement for our organic originals, but they have the potential for unlimited development. Bionic arms, for example, can be made far more powerful than their organic kin, making even a boxing champion feel like a weakling. Moreover, bionic arms have the advantage that they can be replaced every few years, or detached from the body and operated at a distance.
Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina have recently demonstrated this with rhesus monkeys whose brains have been implanted with electrodes. The electrodes gather signals from the brain and transmit them to external devices. The monkeys have been trained to control detached bionic arms and legs through thought alone. One monkey, named Aurora, learned to thought-control a detached bionic arm while simultaneously moving her two organic arms. Like some Hindu goddess, Aurora now has three arms, and her arms can be located in different rooms – or even cities. She can sit in her North Carolina lab, scratch her back with one hand, scratch her head with a second hand, and simultaneously steal a banana in New York (although the ability to eat a purloined fruit at a distance remains a dream). Another rhesus monkey, Idoya, won world fame in 2008 when she thought-controlled a pair of bionic legs in Kyoto, Japan, from her North Carolina chair. The legs were twenty times Idoya’s weight.17
Locked-in syndrome is a condition in which a person loses all or nearly all her ability to move any part of her body, while her cognitive abilities remain intact. Patients suffering from the syndrome have up till now been able to communicate with the outside world only through small eye movements. However, a few patients have had brain-signal-gathering electrodes implanted in their brains. Efforts are being made to translate such signals not merely into movements but also into words. If the experiments succeed, locked-in patients could finally speak directly with the outside world, and we might eventually be able to use the technology to read other peoples minds.18
Yet of all the projects currently under development, the most revolutionary is the attempt to devise a direct two-way brain-computer interface that will allow computers to read the electrical signals of a human brain, simultaneously transmitting signals that the brain can read in turn. What if such interfaces are used to directly link a brain to the Internet, or to directly link several brains to each other, thereby creating a sort of Inter-brain-net? What might happen to human memory, human consciousness and human identity if the brain has direct access to a collective memory bank? In such a situation, one cyborg could, for example, retrieve the memories of another – not hear about them, not read about them in an autobiography, not imagine them, but directly remember them as if they were his own. Or her own. What happens to concepts such as the self and gender identity when minds become collective? How could you know thyself or follow your dream if the dream is not in your mind but in some collective reservoir of aspirations?
Such a cyborg would no longer be human, or even organic. It would be something completely different. It would be so fundamentally another kind of being that we cannot even grasp the philosophical, psychological or political implications.
Another Life
The third way to change the laws of life is to engineer completely inorganic beings. The most obvious examples are computer programs and computer viruses that can undergo independent evolution.
The field of genetic programming is today one of the most interesting spots in the computer science world. It tries to emulate the methods of genetic evolution. Many programmers dream of creating a program that could learn and evolve completely independently of its creator. In this case, the programmer would be a primum mobile, a first mover, but his creation would be free to evolve in directions neither its maker nor any other human could ever have envisaged.
A prototype for such a program already exists – it’s called a computer virus. As it spreads through the Internet, the virus replicates itself millions upon millions of times, all the while being chased by predatory antivirus programs and competing with other viruses for a place in cyberspace. One day when the virus replicates itself a mistake occurs – a computerised mutation. Perhaps the mutation occurs because the human engineer programmed the virus to make occasional random replication mistakes. Perhaps the mutation was due to a random error. If, by chance, the modified virus is better at evading antivirus programs without losing its ability to invade other computers, it will spread through cyberspace. If so, the mutants will survive and reproduce. As time goes by, cyberspace would be full of new viruses that nobody engineered, and that undergo non-organic evolution.
Are these living creatures? It depends on what you mean by ‘living creatures’. They have certainly been produced by a new evolutionary process, completely independent of the laws and limitations of organic evolution.
Imagine another possibility – suppose you could back up your brain to a portable hard drive and then run it on your laptop. Would your laptop be able to think and feel just like a Sapiens? If so, would it be you or someone else? What if computer programmers could create an entirely new but digital mind, composed of computer code, complete with a sense of self, consciousness and memory? If you ran the program on your computer, would it be a person? If you deleted it could you be charged with murder?
We might soon have the answer to such questions. The Human Brain Project, founded in 2005, hopes to recreate a complete human brain inside a computer, with electronic circuits in the computer emulating neural networks in the brain. The projects director has claimed that, if funded properly, within a decade or two we could have an artificial human brain inside a computer that could talk and behave very much as a human does. If successful, that would mean that after 4 billion years of milling around inside the small world of organic compounds, life will suddenly break out into the vastness of the inorganic realm, ready to take up shapes beyond our wildest dreams. Not all scholars agree that the mind works in a manner analogous to today’s digital computers – and if it doesn’t, present-day computers would not be able to simulate it. Yet it would be foolish to categorically dismiss the possibility before giving it a try. In 2013 the project received a grant of €1 billion from the European Union.19
The Singularity
Presently, only a tiny fraction of these new opportunities have been realised. Yet the world of 2014 is already a world in which culture is releasing itself from the shackles of biology. Our ability to engineer not merely the world around us, but above all the world inside our bodies and minds, is developing at breakneck speed. More and more spheres of activity are being shaken out of their complacent ways. Lawyers need to rethink issues of privacy and identity; governments are faced with rethinking matters of health care and equality; sports associations and educational institutions need to redefine fair play and achievement; pension funds and labour markets should readjust to a world in which sixty might be the new thirty. They must all deal with the conundrums of bioengineering, cyborgs and inorganic life.
Mapping the first human genome required fifteen years and $3 billion. Today you can map a person’s DNA within a few weeks and at the cost of a few hundred dollars.20 The era of personalized medicine – medicine that matches treatment to DNA – has begun. The family doctor could soon tell you with greater certainty that you face high risks of liver cancer, whereas you needn’t worry too much about heart attacks. She could determine that a popular medication that helps 92 per cent of people is useless to you, and you should instead take another pill, fatal to many people but just right for you. The road to near-perfect medicine stands before us.
However, with improvements in medical knowledge will come new ethical conundrums. Ethicists and legal experts are already wrestling with the thorny issue of privacy as it relates to DNA. Would insurance companies be entitled to ask for our DNA scans and to raise premiums if they discover a genetic tendency to reckless behaviour? Would we be required to fax our DNA, rather than our CV, to potential employers? Could an employer favour a candidate because his DNA looks better? Or could we sue in such cases for ‘genetic discrimination’? Could a company that develops a new creature or a new organ register a patent on its DNA sequences? It is obvious that one can own a particular chicken, but can one own an entire species?
Such dilemmas are dwarfed by the ethical, social and political implications of the Gilgamesh Project and of our potential new abilities to create superhumans. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, government medical programmes throughout the world, national health insurance programmes and national constitutions worldwide recognise that a humane society ought to give all its members fair medical treatment and keep them in relatively good health. That was all well and good as long as medicine was chiefly concerned with preventing illness and healing the sick. What might happen once medicine becomes preoccupied with enhancing human abilities? Would all humans be entitled to such enhanced abilities, or would there be a new superhuman elite?
Our late modern world prides itself on recognising, for the first time in history, the basic equality of all humans, yet it might be poised to create the most unequal of all societies. Throughout history, the upper classes always claimed to be smarter, stronger and generally better than the underclass. They were usually deluding themselves. A baby born to a poor peasant family was likely to be as intelligent as the crown prince. With the help of new medical capabilities, the pretensions of the upper classes might soon become an objective reality.
This is not science fiction. Most science-fiction plots describe a world in which Sapiens – identical to us – enjoy superior technology such as light-speed spaceships and laser guns. The ethical and political dilemmas central to these plots are taken from our own world, and they merely recreate our emotional and social tensions against a futuristic backdrop. Yet the real potential of future technologies is to change Homo sapiens itself, including our emotions and desires, and not merely our vehicles and weapons. What is a spaceship compared to an eternally young cyborg who does not breed and has no sexuality, who can share thoughts directly with other beings, whose abilities to focus and remember are a thousand times greater than our own, and who is never angry or sad, but has emotions and desires that we cannot begin to imagine?
Science fiction rarely describes such a future, because an accurate description is by definition incomprehensible. Producing a film about the life of some super-cyborg is akin to producing Hamlet for an audience of Neanderthals. Indeed, the future masters of the world will probably be more different from us than we are from Neanderthals. Whereas we and the Neanderthals are at least human, our inheritors will be godlike.
Physicists define the Big Bang as a singularity. It is a point at which all the known laws of nature did not exist. Time too did not exist. It is thus meaningless to say that anything existed ‘before’ the Big Bang. We may be fast approaching a new singularity, when all the concepts that give meaning to our world – me, you, men, women, love and hate – will become irrelevant. Anything happening beyond that point is meaningless to us.
The Frankenstein Prophecy
In 1818 Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, the story of a scientist who creates an artificial being that goes out of control and wreaks havoc. In the last two centuries, the same story has been told over and over again in countless versions. It has become a central pillar of our new scientific mythology. At first sight, the Frankenstein story appears to warn us that if we try to play God and engineer life we will be punished severely. Yet the story has a deeper meaning.
The Frankenstein myth confronts Homo sapienswith the fact that the last days are fast approaching. Unless some nuclear or ecological catastrophe intervenes, so goes the story, the pace of technological development will soon lead to the replacement of Homo sapiens by completely different beings who possess not only different physiques, but also very different cognitive and emotional worlds. This is something most Sapiens find extremely disconcerting. We like to believe that in the future people just like us will travel from planet to planet in fast spaceships. We don’t like to contemplate the possibility that in the future, beings with emotions and identities like ours will no longer exist, and our place will be taken by alien life forms whose abilities dwarf our own.
We somehow find comfort in the idea that Dr Frankenstein created a terrible monster, whom we had to destroy in order to save ourselves. We like to tell the story that way because it implies that we are the best of all beings, that there never was and never will be something better than us. Any attempt to improve us will inevitably fail, because even if our bodies might be improved, you cannot touch the human spirit.
We would have a hard time swallowing the fact that scientists could engineer spirits as well as bodies, and that future Dr Frankensteins could therefore create something truly superior to us, something that will look at us as condescendingly as we look at the Neanderthals.
We cannot be certain whether today’s Frankensteins will indeed fulfil this prophecy. The future is unknown, and it would be surprising if the forecasts of the last few pages were realised in full. History teaches us that what seems to be just around the corner may never materialise due to unforeseen barriers, and that other unimagined scenarios will in fact come to pass. When the nuclear age erupted in the 1940S, many forecasts were made about the future nuclear world of the year 2000. When sputnik and Apollo 11 fired the imagination of the world, everyone began predicting that by the end of the century, people would be living in space colonies on Mars and Pluto. Few of these forecasts came true. On the other hand, nobody foresaw the Internet.
So don’t go out just yet to buy liability insurance to indemnify you against lawsuits filed by digital beings. The above fantasies – or nightmares – are just stimulants for your imagination. What we should take seriously is the idea that the next stage of history will include not only technological and organisational transformations, but also fundamental transformations in human consciousness and identity. And these could be transformations so fundamental that they will call the very term ‘human’ into question. How long do we have? No one really knows. As already mentioned, some say that by 2050 a few humans will already be a-mortal. Less radical forecasts speak of the next century, or the next millennium. Yet from the perspective of 70,000 years of Sapiens history, what are a few millennia?
If the curtain is indeed about to drop on Sapiens history, we members of one of its final generations should devote some time to answering one last question: what do we want to become? This question, sometimes known as the Human Enhancement question, dwarfs the debates that currently preoccupy politicians, philosophers, scholars and ordinary people. After all, today’s debate between today’s religions, ideologies, nations and classes will in all likelihood disappear along with Homo sapiens. If our successors indeed function on a different level of consciousness (or perhaps possess something beyond consciousness that we cannot even conceive), it seems doubtful that Christianity or Islam will be of interest to them, that their social organisation could be Communist or capitalist, or that their genders could be male or female.
And yet the great debates of history are important because at least the first generation of these gods would be shaped by the cultural ideas of their human designers. Would they be created in the image of capitalism, of Islam, or of feminism? The answer to this question might send them careening in entirely different directions.
Most people prefer not to think about it. Even the field of bioethics prefers to address another question, ‘What is it forbidden to do?’ Is it acceptable to carry out genetic experiments on living human beings? On aborted fetuses? On stem cells? Is it ethical to clone sheep? And chimpanzees? And what about humans? All of these are important questions, but it is naïve to imagine that we might simply hit the brakes and stop the scientific projects that are upgrading Homo sapiens into a different kind of being. For these projects are inextricably meshed together with the Gilgamesh Project. Ask scientists why they study the genome, or try to connect a brain to a computer, or try to create a mind inside a computer. Nine out of ten times you’ll get the same standard answer: we are doing it to cure diseases and save human lives. Even though the implications of creating a mind inside a computer are far more dramatic than curing psychiatric illnesses, this is the standard justification given, because nobody can argue with it. This is why the Gilgamesh Project is the flagship of science. It serves to justify everything science does. Dr Frankenstein piggybacks on the shoulders of Gilgamesh. Since it is impossible to stop Gilgamesh, it is also impossible to stop Dr Frankenstein.
The only thing we can try to do is to influence the direction scientists are taking. Since we might soon be able to engineer our desires too, perhaps the real question facing us is not ‘What do we want to become?’, but ‘What do we want to want?’ Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven’t given it enough thought.

The Animal that Became a God
SEVENTY THOUSAND YEARS AGO, HOMO sapiens was still an insignificant animal minding its own business in a corner of Africa. In the following millennia it transformed itself into the master of the entire planet and the terror of the ecosystem. Today it stands on the verge of becoming a god, poised to acquire not only eternal youth, but also the divine abilities of creation and destruction.
Unfortunately, the Sapiens regime on earth has so far produced little that we can be proud of. We have mastered our surroundings, increased food production, built cities, established empires and created far-flung trade networks. But did we decrease the amount of suffering in the world? Time and again, massive increases in human power did not necessarily improve the well-being of individual Sapiens, and usually caused immense misery to other animals.
In the last few decades we have at last made some real progress as far as the human condition is concerned, with the reduction of famine, plague and war. Yet the situation of other animals is deteriorating more rapidly than ever before, and the improvement in the lot of humanity is too recent and fragile to be certain of.
Moreover, despite the astonishing things that humans are capable of doing, we remain unsure of our goals and we seem to be as discontented as ever. We have advanced from canoes to galleys to steamships to space shuttles – but nobody knows where we’re going. We are more powerful than ever before, but have very little idea what to do with all that power. Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever. Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.
Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?

1 An Animal of No Significance
 Ann Gibbons, ‘Food for Thought: Did the First Cooked Meals Help Fuel the Dramatic Evolutionary Expansion of the Human Brain?’, Science 316:5831 (2007), 1,558–60.
2 The Tree of Knowledge
 Robin Dunbar, Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).
 Frans de Waal, Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000); Frans de Waal, Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005); Michael L. Wilson and Richard W. Wrangham, ‘Intergroup Relations in Chimpanzees’, Annual Review of Anthropology 32 (2003), 363–92; M. McFarland Symington, ‘Fission-Fusion Social Organization in Ateles and Pan, International Journal of Primatology 11:1 (1990), 49; Colin A. Chapman and Lauren J. Chapman, ‘Determinants of Groups Size in Primates: The Importance of Travel Costs’, in On the Move: How and Why Animals Travel in Groups, ed. Sue Boinsky and Paul A. Garber (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 26.
 Dunbar, Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language, 69–79; Leslie C. Aiello and R. I. M. Dunbar, ‘Neocortex Size, Group Size, and the Evolution of Language’, Current Anthropology 34:2 (1993), 189. For criticism of this approach see: Christopher McCarthy et al., ‘Comparing Two Methods for Estimating Network Size’, Human Organization 60:1 (2001), 32; R. A. Hill and R. I. M. Dunbar, ‘Social Network Size in Humans’, Human Nature 14:1 (2003), 65.
 Yvette Taborin, ‘Shells of the French Aurignacian and Perigordian’, in Before Lascaux: The Complete Record of the Early Upper Paleolithic, ed. Heidi Knecht, Anne Pike-Tay and Randall White (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1993), 211–28.
 G. R. Summerhayes, ‘Application of PIXE-PIGME to Archaeological Analysis of Changing Patterns of Obsidian Use in West New Britain, Papua New Guinea’, in Archaeological Obsidian Studies: Method and Theory, ed. Steven M. Shackley (New York: Plenum Press, 1998), 129–58.
3 A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve
 Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (New York: Harper, 2010); S. Beckerman and P. Valentine (eds.), Cultures of Multiple Fathers. The Theory and Practice of Partible Paternity in Lowland South America(Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002).
 Noel G. Butlin, Economics and the Dreamtime: A Hypothetical History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 98–101; Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2002), 15; William Howell Edwards, An Introduction to Aboriginal Societies (Wentworth Falls, NSW: Social Science Press, 1988), 52.
 Fekri A. Hassan, Demographic Archaeology (New York: Academic Press, 1981), 196–9; Lewis Robert Binford, Constructing Frames of Reference: An Analytical Method for Archaeological Theory Building Using Hunter-Gatherer and Environmental Data Sets(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 143.
 Brian Hare, The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think (Dutton: Penguin Group, 2013).
 Christopher B. Ruff, Erik Trinkaus and Trenton W. Holliday, ‘Body Mass and Encephalization in Pleistocene Homo’, Nature 387 (1997), 173–6; M. Henneberg and M. Steyn, ‘Trends in Cranial Capacity and Cranial Index in Subsaharan Africa During the Holocene’, American Journal of Human Biology 5:4 (1993): 473–9; Drew H. Bailey and David C. Geary, ‘Hominid Brain Evolution: Testing Climatic, Ecological and Social Competition Models’, Human Nature 20 (2009): 67–79; Daniel J. Wescott and Richard L. Jantz, ‘Assessing Craniofacial Secular Change in American Blacks and Whites Using Geometric Morphometry’, in Modern Morphometrics in Physical Anthropology: Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects, ed. Dennis E. Slice (New York: Plenum Publishers, 2005), 231–45.
 Nicholas G. Blurton Jones et al., ‘Antiquity of Postreproductive Life: Are There Modern Impacts on Hunter-Gatherer Postreproductive Life Spans?’, American Journal of Human Biology 14 (2002), 184–205.
 Kim Hill and A. Magdalena Hurtado, Aché Life History: The Ecology and Demography of a Foraging People (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1996), 164, 236.
 Ibid., 78.
 Vincenzo Formicola and Alexandra P. Buzhilova, ‘Double Child Burial from Sunghir (Russia): Pathology and Inferences for Upper Paleolithic Funerary Practices’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology124:3 (2004), 189–98; Giacomo Giacobini, ‘Richness and Diversity of Burial Rituals in the Upper Paleolithic’, Diogenes 54:2 (2007), 19–39.
10  I. J. N. Thorpe, ‘Anthropology, Archaeology and the Origin of Warfare’, World Archaeology 35:1 (2003), 145–65; Raymond C. Kelly, Warless Societies and the Origin of War (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000); Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Lawrence H. Keeley, War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); Slavomil Vend, ‘Stone Age Warfare’, in Ancient Warfare: Archaeological Perspectives, ed. John Carman and Anthony Harding (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999), 57–73.
4 The Flood
 James F. O’Connel and Jim Allen, ‘Pre-LGM Sahul (Pleistocene Australia – New Guinea) and the Archaeology of Early Modern Humans’, in Rethinking the Human Revolution: New Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origin and Dispersal of Modern Humans, ed. Paul Mellars, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Katie Boyle (Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2007), 395–410; James F. O’Connel and Jim Allen, ‘When Did Humans First Arrive in Greater Australia and Why is it Important to Know?’, Evolutionary Anthropology 6:4 (1998), 132–46; James F. O’Connel and Jim Allen, ‘Dating the Colonization of Sahul (Pleistocene Australia – New Guinea): A Review of Recent Research’, Journal of Radiological Science 31:6 (2004), 835–53; Jon M. Erlandson, ‘Anatomically Modern Humans, Maritime Voyaging and the Pleistocene Colonization of the Americas’, in The First Americans: The Pleistocene Colonization of the New World, ed. Nina G. Jablonski (San Francisco: University of California Press, 2002), 59–60, 63–4; Jon M. Erlandson and Torben C. Rick, ‘Archaeology Meets Marine Ecology: The Antiquity of Maritime Cultures and Human Impacts on Marine Fisheries and Ecosystems’, Annual Review of Marine Science 2 (2010), 231–51; Atholl Anderson, ‘Slow Boats from China: Issues in the Prehistory of Indo-China Seafaring’, Modern Quaternary Research in Southeast Asia 16 (2000), 13–50; Robert G. Bednarik, ‘Maritime Navigation in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic’, Earth and Planetary Sciences 328 (1999), 559–60; Robert G. Bednarik, ‘Seafaring in the Pleistocene’, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 13:1 (2003), 41–66.
 Timothy F. Flannery, The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and Peoples (Port Melbourne: Reed Books Australia, 1994); Anthony D. Barnosky et al., ‘Assessing the Causes of Late Pleistocene Extinctions on the Continents’, Science 306:5693 (2004): 70–5; Barry W. Brook and David M. J. S. Bowman, ‘The Uncertain Blitzkrieg of Pleistocene Megafauna’, Journal of Biogeography 31:4 (2004), 517–23; Gifford H. Miller et al., ‘Ecosystem Collapse in Pleistocene Australia and a Human Role in Megafaunal Extinction’, Science309:5732 (2005), 287–90; Richard G. Roberts et al., ‘New Ages for the Last Australian Megafauna: Continent Wide Extinction about 46,000 Years Ago’, Science 292:5523 (2001), 1,888–92.
 Stephen Wroe and Judith Field, ‘A Review of Evidence for a Human Role in the Extinction of Australian Megafauna and an Alternative Explanation’, Quaternary Science Reviews 25:21–2 (2006), 2,692–703; Barry W. Brook et al., ‘Would the Australian Megafauna Have Become Extinct if Humans Had Never Colonised the Continent? Comments on “A Review of the Evidence for a Human Role in the Extinction of Australian Megafauna and an Alternative Explanation” by S. Wroe and J. Field’, Quaternary Science Reviews 26:3–4 (2007), 560–4; Chris S. M. Turney et al., ‘Late-Surviving Megafauna in Tasmania, Australia, Implicate Human Involvement in their Extinction’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105:34 (2008), 12,150–3.
 John Alroy, ‘A Multispecies Overkill Simulation of the End-Pleistocene Megafaunal Mass Extinction, Science, 292:5523 (2001), 1,893–6; O’Connel and Allen, ‘Pre-LGM Sahul’, 400–1.
 L. H. Keeley, ‘Proto-Agricultural Practices Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Survey’, in Last Hunters, First Farmers: New Perspectives on the Prehistoric Transition to Agriculture, ed. T. Douglas Price and Anne Birgitte Gebauer (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1995), 243–72; R. Jones, ‘Firestick Farming’, Australian Natural History 16 (1969), 224–8.
 David J. Meitzer, First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).
 Paul L. Koch and Anthony D. Barnosky, ‘Late Quaternary Extinctions: State of the Debate’, Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 37 (2006), 215–50; Anthony D. Barnosky et al., ‘Assessing the Causes of Late Pleistocene Extinctions on the Continents’, 70–5.
5 History’s Biggest Fraud
 The map is based mainly on: Peter Bellwood, First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005).
 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997).
 Gat, War in Human Civilization, 130–1; Robert S. Walker and Drew H. Bailey, ‘Body Counts in Lowland South American Violence’, Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013), 29–34.
 Katherine A. Spielmann, ‘A Review: Dietary Restriction on Hunter-Gatherer Women and the Implications for Fertility and Infant Mortality’, Human Ecology 17:3 (1989), 321–45. See also: Bruce Winterhalder and Eric Alder Smith, ‘Analyzing Adaptive Strategies: Human Behavioral Ecology at Twenty-Five’, Evolutionary Anthropology 9:2 (2000), 51–72.
 Alain Bideau, Bertrand Desjardins and Hector Perez-Brignoli (eds.), Infant and Child Mortality in the Past (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997); Edward Anthony Wrigley et al., English Population History from Family Reconstitution, 1580–1837 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 295–6, 303.
 Manfred Heun et al., ‘Site of Einkorn Wheat Domestication Identified by DNA Fingerprints’, Science 278:5341 (1997), 1,312–14.
 Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (New York: Lantern Books, 2002), 9–10; Peter J. Ucko and G. W. Dimbleby (eds.), The Domestication and Exploitation of Plants and Animals (London: Duckworth, 1969), 259.
 Avi Pinkas (ed.), Farmyard Animals in Israel – Research, Humanism and Activity (Rishon Le-Ziyyon: The Association for Farmyard Animals, 2009 [Hebrew]), 169–99; “Milk Production – the Cow’ [Hebrew], The Dairy Council, accessed 22 March 2012,
 Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969); E. C. Amoroso and P. A. Jewell, ‘The Exploitation of the Milk-Ejection Reflex by Primitive People’, in Man and Cattle: Proceedings of the Symposium on Domestication at the Royal Anthropological Institute, 24–26 May 1960, ed. A. E. Mourant and F. E. Zeuner (London: The Royal Anthropological Institute, 1963), 129–34.
10  Johannes Nicolaisen, Ecology and Culture of the Pastoral Tuareg (Copenhagen: National Museum, 1963), 63.
6 Building Pyramids
 Angus Maddison, The World Economy, vol. 2 (Paris: Development Centre of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, 2006), 636; ‘Historical Estimates of World Population’, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed 10 December 2010,
 Robert B. Mark, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2002), 24.
 Raymond Westbrook, ‘Old Babylonian Period’, in A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, vol. 1, ed. Raymond Westbrook (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 361–430; Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 2nd edn (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 71–142; M. E. J. Richardson, Hammurabi’s Laws: Text, Translation and Glossary (London: T & T Clark International, 2000).
 Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia, 76.
 Ibid., 121.
 Ibid., 122–3.
 Ibid., 133–3.
 Constance Brittaine Bouchard, Strong of Body, Brave and Noble: Chivalry and Society in Medieval France(New York: Cornell University Press, 1998), 99; Mary Martin McLaughlin, ‘Survivors and Surrogates: Children and Parents from the Ninth to Thirteenth Centuries’, in Medieval Families: Perspectives on Marriage, Household and Children, ed. Carol Neel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 81 n.; Lise E. Hull, Britain’s Medieval Castles (Westport: Praeger, 2006), 144.
7 Memory Overload
 Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995), 63; Hans J. Nissen, Peter Damerow and Robert K. Englung, Archaic Bookkeeping: Writing and Techniques of Economic Administration in the Ancient Near East (Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), 36.
 Marcia and Robert Ascher, Mathematics of the Incas – Code of the Quipu (New York: Dover Publications, 1981).
 Gary Urton, Signs of the Inka Khipu (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003); Galen Brokaw, A History of the Khipu (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
 Stephen D. Houston (ed.), The First Writing: Script Invention as History and Process (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 222.
8 There is No Justice in History
 Sheldon Pollock, ‘Axialism and Empire’, in Axial Civilizations and World History, ed. Johann P. Arnason, S. N. Eisenstadt and Björn Wittrock (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 397–451.
 Harold M. Tanner, China: A History (Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 2009), 34.
 Ramesh Chandra, Identity and Genesis of Caste System in India (Delhi: Kalpaz Publications, 2005); Michael Bamshad et al., ‘Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Population’, Genome Research11 (2001): 904–1,004; Susan Bayly, Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
 Houston, First Writing, 196.
 The secretary general, United Nations, Report of the Secretary General on the In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence Against Women, delivered to the General Assembly, UN Doc. A/16/122/Add.1 (6 July 2006), 89.
 Sue Blundell, Women in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995). 113–2.9.131–3.
10 The Scent of Money
 Francisco López de Gómara, Historia de la Conquista de Mexico, vol. 1, ed. D. Joaquin Ramirez Cabanes (Mexico City: Editorial Pedro Robredo, 1943), 106.
 Andrew M. Watson, ‘Back to Gold – and Silver’, Economic History Review 20:1 (1967), 11–12; Jasim Alubudi, Repertorio Bibliográfico del Islam (Madrid: Vision Libros, 2003), 194.
 Watson, ‘Back to Gold – and Silver’, 17–18.
 David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years(Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2011).
 Glyn Davies, A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994), 15.
 Szymon Laks, Music of Another World, trans. Chester A. Kisiel (Evanston, Ill.: North-western University Press, 1989), 88–9. The Auschwitz ‘market’ was restricted to certain classes of prisoners and conditions changed dramatically across time.
 Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money (New York: The Penguin Press, 2008), 4.
 For information on barley money I have relied on an unpublished PhD thesis: Refael Benvenisti, ‘Economic Institutions of Ancient Assyrian Trade in the Twentieth to Eighteenth Centuries BC’ (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, unpublished PhD thesis, 2011). See also Norman Yoffee, ‘The Economy of Ancient Western Asia’, in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 1, ed. J. M. Sasson (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1995), 1,387–99; R. K. Englund, ‘Proto-Cuneiform Account-Books and Journals’, in Creating Economic Order: Record-keeping, Standardization and the Development of Accounting in the Ancient Near East, ed. Michael Hudson and Cornelia Wunsch (Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2004), 21–46; Marvin A. Powell, ‘A Contribution to the History of Money in Mesopotamia Prior to the Invention of Coinage’, in Festschrift Lubor Matouš, ed. B. Hruška and G. Komoróczy (Budapest: Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem, 1978), 211–43; Marvin A. Powell, ‘Money in Mesopotamia’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 39:3 (1996), 224–42; John F. Robertson, ‘The Social and Economic Organization of Ancient Mesopotamian Temples’, in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 1, ed. Sasson, 443–500; M. Silver, ‘Modern Ancients’, in Commerce and Monetary Systems in the Ancient World: Means of Transmission and Cultural Interaction, ed. R. Rollinger and U. Christoph (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2004), 65–87; Daniel C. Snell, ‘Methods of Exchange and Coinage in Ancient Western Asia’, in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 1, ed. Sasson, 1,487–97.
11 Imperial Visions
 Nahum Megged, The Aztecs (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1999 [Hebrew]), 103.
 Tacitus, Agricola, ch. 30 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958), 220–1.
 A. Fienup-Riordan, The Nelson Island Eskimo: Social Structure and Ritual Distribution (Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Press, 1983), 10.
 Yuri Pines, ‘Nation States, Globalization and a United Empire – the Chinese Experience (third to fifth centuries BC)’, Historia 15 (1995), 54 [Hebrew].
 Alexander Yakobson, ‘Us and Them: Empire, Memory and Identity in Claudius’ Speech on Bringing Gauls into the Roman Senate’, in On Memory: An Interdisciplinary Approach, ed. Doron Mendels (Oxford: Peter Land, 2007), 23–4.
12 The Law of Religion
 W. H. C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2008), 536–7.
 Robert Jean Knecht, The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France1483–1610 (London: Fontana Press, 1996), 424.
 Marie Harm and Hermann Wiehle, Lebenskunde fuer Mittelschulen – Fuenfter Teil. Klasse 5 fuer Jungen(Halle: Hermann Schroedel Verlag, 1942), 152–7.
13 The Secret of Success
 Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
14 The Discovery of Ignorance
 David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 344–5; Angus Maddison, The World Economy, vol. 2 (Paris: Development Centre of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, 2001), 636; ‘Historical Estimates of World Population’, US Census Bureau, accessed 10 December 2010,
 Maddison, The World Economy, vol. 1, 261.
 ‘Gross Domestic Product 2009’, the World Bank, Data and Statistics, accessed 10 December 2010,
 Christian, Maps of Time, 141.
 The largest contemporary cargo ship can carry about 100,000 tons. In 1470 all the world’s fleets could together carry no more than 320,000 tons. By 1570 total global tonnage was up to 730,000 tons (Maddison, The World Economy, vol. 1, 97).
 The world’s largest bank – the Royal Bank of Scotland – has reported in 2007 deposits worth $1.3 trillion. That’s five times the annual global production in 1500. See ‘Annual Report and Accounts 2008’, the Royal Bank of Scotland, 35, accessed 10 December 2010,}0}278481/eb7a003a-5c9b-41ef-bad3–81fb98a6c823/RBS_GRA_2008_09_03_09.pdf.
 Ferguson, Ascent of Money, 185–98.
 Maddison, The World Economy, vol. 1, 31; Wrigley, English Population History, 295; Christian, Maps of Time, 450, 452; ‘World Health Statistic Report 2009’, 35–45, World Health Organization, accessed 10 December 2010
 Wrigley, English Population History, 296.
10  ‘England, Interim Life Tables, 1980–82 to 2007–09’, Office for National Statistics, accessed 22 March 2012–61850.
11  Michael Prestwich, Edward I (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 125–6.
12  Jennie B. Dorman et al., ‘The age-1 and daf-2Genes Function in a Common Pathway to Control the Lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans’, Genetics 141:4 (1995), 1,399–406; Koen Houthoofd et al., ‘Life Extension via Dietary Restriction is Independent of the Ins/IGF-1 Signalling Pathway in Caenorhabditis elegans’, Experimental Gerontology 38:9 (2003), 947–54.
13  Shawn M. Douglas, Ido Bachelet and George M. Church, ‘A Logic-Gated Nanorobot for Targeted Transport of Molecular Payloads’, Science 335:6070 (2012): 831–4; Dan Peer et al., ‘Nanocarriers As An Emerging Platform for Cancer Therapy’, Nature Nanotechnology 2 (2007): 751–60; Dan Peer et al., ‘Systemic Leukocyte-Directed siRNA Delivery Revealing Cyclin Di as an Anti-Inflammatory Target’, Science 319:5863 (2008): 627–30.
15 The Marriage of Science and Empire
 Stephen R. Bown, Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2004); Kenneth John Carpenter, The History of Scurvy and Vitamin C (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).
2 James Cook, The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific, as Told by Selections of his Own Journals 1768–1779, ed. Archibald Grenfell Price (New York: Dover Publications, 1971), 16–17; Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 5; J. C. Beaglehole, ed., The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 588.
 Mark, Origins of the Modern World, 81.
 Christian, Maps of Time, 436.
 John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405 (London: Allen Lane, 2007), 239.
6 Soli Shahvar, ‘Railroads i. The First Railroad Built and Operated in Persia’, in the Online Edition of Encyclopaedia Iranica, last modified 7 April 2008,; Charles Issawi, ‘The Iranian Economy 1925–1975: Fifty Years of Economic Development’, in Iran under the Pahlavis, ed. George Lenczowski (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978), 156.
 Mark, Origins of the Modern World, 46.
 Kirkpatrick Sale, Christopher Columbus and the Conquest of Paradise (London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2006), 7–13.
 Edward M. Spiers, The Army and Society: 1819–1914(London: Longman, 1980), 121; Robin Moore, ‘Imperial India, 1858–1914’, in The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Nineteenth Century, vol. 3, ed. Andrew Porter (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 442.
10  Vinita Damodaran, ‘Famine in Bengal: A Comparison of the 1770 Famine in Bengal and the 1897 Famine in Chotanagpur’, The Medieval History Journal 10:1–2 (2007), 151.
16 The Capitalist Creed
 Maddison, World Economy, vol. 1, 261, 264; ‘Gross National Income Per Capita 2009, Atlas Method and PPP’, the World Bank, accessed 10 December 2010,
 The mathematics of my bakery example are not as accurate as they could be. Since banks are allowed to loan $10 for every dollar they keep in their possession, of every million dollars deposited in the bank, the bank can loan out to entrepreneurs only about $909,000 while keeping $91,000 in its vaults. But to make life easier for the readers I preferred to work with round numbers. Besides, banks do not always follow the rules.
 Carl Trocki, OpiumEmpire and the Global Political Economy (New York: Routledge, 1999), 91.
 Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History (London: Zed Books, 2002), 22.
17 The Wheels of Industry
 Mark, Origins of the Modern World, 109.
2 Nathan S. Lewis and Daniel G. Nocera, ‘Powering the Planet: Chemical Challenges in Solar Energy Utilization’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:43 (2006), 15,731.
 Kazuhisa Miyamoto (ed.), ‘Renewable Biological Systems for Alternative Sustainable Energy Production, FAO Agricultural Services Bulletin 128 (Osaka: Osaka University, 1997), Chapter 2.1.1, accessed 10 December 2010,; James Barber, ‘Biological Solar Energy’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 365:1853 (2007), 1007.
4 ‘International Energy Outlook 2010’, US Energy Information Administration, 9, accessed 10 December 2010,
5 S. Venetsky, ‘ “Silver” from Clay’, Metallurgist 13:7 (1969), 451; Fred Aftalion, A History of the International Chemical Industry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991), 64; A. J. Downs, Chemistry of Aluminium, GalliumIndium and Thallium (Glasgow: Blackie Academic & Professional, 1993), 15.
6 Jan Willem Erisman et al., ‘How a Century of Ammonia Synthesis Changed the World’, Nature Geoscience 1 (2008), 637.
7 G. J. Benson and B. E. Rollin (eds.), The Well-being of Farm Animals: Challenges and Solutions (Ames, IA: Blackwell, 2004); M. C. Appleby, J. A. Mench and B. O. Hughes, Poultry Behaviour and Welfare (Wallingford: CABI Publishing, 2004); J. Webster, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005); C. Druce and P. Lymbery, Outlawed in Europe: How America is Falling Behind Europe in Farm Animal Welfare (New York: Archimedean Press, 2002).
8 Harry Harlow and Robert Zimmermann, ‘Affectional Responses in the Infant Monkey’, Science 130:3373 (1959), 421–32; Harry Harlow, ‘The Nature of Love’, American Psychologist 13 (1958), 673–85; Laurens D. Young et al., ‘Early stress and later response to separation in rhesus monkeys’, American Journal of Psychiatry 130:4 (1973), 400–5; K. D. Broad, J. P. Curley and E. B. Keverne, ‘Mother-infant bonding and the evolution of mammalian social relationships’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B361:1476 (2006), 2,199–214; Florent Pittet et al., ‘Effects of maternal experience on fearfulness and maternal behaviour in a precocial bird’, Animal Behaviour (March 2013), In Press – available online at:
9 ‘National Institute of Food and Agriculture’, United States Department of Agriculture, accessed 10 December 2010,
18 A Permanent Revolution
 Vaclav Smil, The Earth’s Biosphere: EvolutionDynamics and Change (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002); Sarah Catherine Walpole et al., ‘The Weight of Nations: An Estimation of Adult Human Biomass’, BMC Public Health 12:439 (2012),–2458/12/439.
 William T. Jackman, The Development of Transportation in Modern England (London: Frank Cass & Co., 1966), 324–7; H. J. Dyos and D. H. Aldcroft, British Transport-An Economic Survey From the Seventeenth Century to the Twentieth (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1969), 124–31; Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).
 For a detailed discussion of the unprecedented peacefulness of the last few decades, see in particular Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011); Joshua S. Goldstein, Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide (New York: Dutton, 2011); Gat, War in Human Civilization.
4 ‘World Report on Violence and Health: Summary, Geneva 2002’, World Health Organization, accessed 10 December 2010, For mortality rates in previous eras see: Lawrence H. Keeley, War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
5 ‘World Health Report, 2004’, World Health Organization, 124, accessed 10 December 2010,
 Raymond C. Kelly, Warless Societies and the Origin of War (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 21. See also Gat, War in Human Civilization, 129–31; Keeley, War before Civilization.
 Manuel Eisner, ‘Modernization, Self-Control and Lethal Violence’, British Journal of Criminology 41:4 (2001), 618–638; Manuel Eisner, ‘Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime’, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research 30 (2003), 83–142; ‘World Report on Violence and Health: Summary, Geneva 2002’, World Health Organization, accessed 10 December 2010,; ‘World Health Report, 2004’, World Health Organization, 124, accessed 10 December 2010,
 Walker and Bailey, ‘Body Counts in Lowland South American Violence’, 30.
19 And They Lived Happily Ever After
 For both the psychology and biochemistry of happiness, the following are good starting points: Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (New York: Basic Books, 2006); R. Wright, The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life (New York: Vintage Books, 1994); M. Csikszentmihalyi, ‘If We Are So Rich, Why Aren’t We Happy?’, American Psychologist 54:10 (1999): 821–7; F. A. Huppert, N. Baylis and B. Keverne (eds.), The Science of Well-Being(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Michael Argyle, The Psychology of Happiness, 2nd edition (New York: Routledge, 2001); Ed Diener (ed.), Assessing Well-Being: The Collected Works of Ed Diener (New York: Springer, 2009); Michael Eid and Randy J. Larsen (eds.), The Science of Subjective Well-Being (New York: Guilford Press, 2008); Richard A. Easterlin (ed.), Happiness in Economics (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2002); Richard Layard, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (New York: Penguin, 2005).
 Daniel Kahneman, ThinkingFast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011); Inglehart et al., ‘Development, Freedom and Rising Happiness’, 278–81.
3 D. M. McMahon, The Pursuit of Happiness: A History from the Greeks to the Present (London: Allen Lane, 2006).
20 The End of Homo Sapiens
 Keith T. Paige et al., ‘De Novo Cartilage Generation Using Calcium Alginate-Chondrocyte Constructs’, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 97:1 (1996), 168–78.
 David Biello, ‘Bacteria Transformed into Biofuels Refineries’, Scientific American, 27 January 2010, accessed 10 December 2010,
3 Gary Walsh, ‘Therapeutic Insulins and Their Large-Scale Manufacture’, Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 67:2 (2005), 151–9.
 James G. Wallis et al., ‘Expression of a Synthetic Antifreeze Protein in Potato Reduces Electrolyte Release at Freezing Temperatures’, Plant Molecular Biology 35:3 (1997), 323–30.
5 Robert J. Wall et al., ‘Genetically Enhanced Cows Resist Intramammary Staphylococcus AureusInfection’, Nature Biotechnology 23:4 (2005), 445–51.
6 Liangxue Lai et al., ‘Generation of Cloned Transgenic Pigs Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids’, Nature Biotechnology 24:4 (2006), 435–6.
 Ya-Ping Tang et al., ‘Genetic Enhancement of Learning and Memory in Mice’, Nature 401 (1999), 63–9.
8 Zoe R. Donaldson and Larry J. Young, ‘Oxytocin, Vasopressin and the Neurogenetics of Sociality’, Science 322:5903 (2008), 900–904; Zoe R. Donaldson, ‘Production of Germline Transgenic Prairie Voles (Microtus Ochrogaster) Using Lentiviral Vectors’, Biology of Reproduction 81:6 (2009), 1,189–95.
 Terri Pous, ‘Siberian Discovery Could Bring Scientists Closer to Cloning Woolly Mammoth’, Time, 17 September 2012, accessed 19 February 2013; Pasqualino Loi et al, ‘Biological time machines: a realistic approach for cloning an extinct mammal’, Endangered Species Research 14 (2011), 227–33; Leon Huynen, Craig D. Millar and David M. Lambert, ‘Resurrecting ancient animal genomes: The extinct moa and more’, Bioessays 34 (2012), 661–9.
10  Nicholas Wade, ‘Scientists in Germany Draft Neanderthal Genome’, New York Times, 12 February 2009, accessed 10 December 2010,; Zack Zorich, ‘Should We Clone Neanderthals?’, Archaeology 63:2 (2009), accessed 10 December 2010,
11 Robert H. Waterston et al., ‘Initial Sequencing and Comparative Analysis of the Mouse Genome’, Nature420:6915 (2002), 520.
12 ‘Hybrid Insect Micro Electromechanical Systems (HI-MEMS)’, Microsystems Technology Office, DARPA, accessed 22 March 2012, See also: Sally Adee, ‘Nuclear-Powered Transponder for Cyborg Insect’, IEEE Spectrum, December 2009, accessed 10 December 2010,; Jessica Marshall, ‘The Fly Who Bugged Me’, New Scientist 197:2646 (2008), 40–3; Emily Singer, ‘Send in the Rescue Rats’, New Scientist 183:2466 (2004), 21–2; Susan Brown, ‘Stealth Sharks to Patrol the High Seas’, New Scientist 189:2541 (2006), 30–1.
13 Bill Christensen, ‘Military Plans Cyborg Sharks’, Live Science, 7 March 2006, accessed 10 December 2010,
14  ‘Cochlear Implants’, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, accessed 22 March 2012,
16  David Brown, ‘For 1st Woman With Bionic Arm, a New Life is Within Reach’, Washington Post, 14 September 2006, accessed 10 December 2010,
17  Miguel Nicolelis, Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains and Machines – and How it Will Change Our Lives (New York: Times Books, 2011).
18 Chris Berdik, ‘Turning Thought into Words’, BU Today, 15 October 2008, accessed 22 March 2012,
19  Jonathan Fildes, ‘Artificial Brain “10 years away” ’, BBC News, 22 July 2009, accessed 19 September 2012,
20  Radoje Drmanac et al., ‘Human Genome Sequencing Using Unchained Base Reads on Self-Assembling DNA Nanoarrays’, Science 327:5961 (2010), 78–81; ‘Complete Genomics’ website:; Rob Waters, ‘Complete Genomics Gets Gene Sequencing under $5000 (Update 1)’, Bloomberg, 5 November 2009, accessed 10 December 2010;; Fergus Walsh, ‘Era of Personalized Medicine Awaits’, BBC News, last updated 8 April 2009, accessed 22 March 2012,; Leena Rao, ‘PayPal Co-Founder and Founders Fund Partner Joins DNA Sequencing Firm Halcyon Molecular’, TechCrunch, 24 September 2009, accessed 10 December 2010,

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