Paving the way for the world’s master race

Keeping up: With 190 million followers, Kardashian West earns up to $500,000 per post. © Getty

Is the human race splitting into two species? An evolutionary scientist predicts that we may one day have a ruling elite which is genetically different from the rest of humanity.

What fun the party on the tropical island looked! There was the hostess in a gorgeous gold dress, posing barefoot on the sand; a gaggle of friends with their arms around each other, against a backdrop of giant lanterns; a three-tier cake with a figurine of the birthday girl smiling from the top. No social distancing here; no masks; no worries about unemployment or free school meals!

Not that the hostess, Kim Kardashian West, had failed to take coronavirus precautions. The guests she had “surprised” with her 40th birthday party were asked to undergo quarantine, plus two weeks of multiple health tests, before arriving on “a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time”.

“We danced, rode bikes, swam near whales, kayaked, watched a movie on the beach and so much more”, she told her 190 million Instagram followers. “I realise that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is.”

Privileged indeed; but where, some people wondered, was the humility? Some of the responses on Instagram were furious at Kardashian West’s insensitivity. “People are dying”, read one, “pandemic raging, economic uncertainties, families separated, political strife, but sure – splash your insane life all over the place”.

Before long, satirical versions of her posts were popping up all over social media. Some were selfies taken by people in ordinary surroundings that they presented as their own “private island”.

Others put her text beside famous paintings: Ronan Farrow chose a vision of hell by Hieronymus Bosch. Others showed scenes from films about cults, islands and wealthy people coming to sticky ends, such as The Wicker Man and Parasite.

But these hilarious memes all underline the key, very serious point: that while most people struggle to get by, a small minority lead lives so different that they could almost belong to a different race. And according to an expert at the London School of Economics, Dr Oliver Curry, that is what they could eventually become.

He envisages humanity splitting in 10,000 years’ time into two separate species: a good-looking, intelligent ruling elite and an ugly, dim-witted underclass.

By the year 3000, he says, we will have reached our biological peak. As a result of men and women becoming more obsessed with physical appearance and choosing their mates accordingly, mankind will end up looking homogenous. Humans will all be between 6ft and 7ft tall, and they will all have the same coffee-coloured skin.

But 9,000 years later there will be major differences, with over-reliance on machines and medicine leaving people weaker and more childlike in appearance. “After that, things could get ugly, with the possible emergence of genetic ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.”

Is the human race splitting into two species?

Split genes

Some say, no: there have always been huge disparities between rich and poor. During the Black Death, a higher proportion of wealthy people survived because they were able to escape plague-filled cities for the relative safety of the countryside. But that did not create a genetic division. The poor who survived were actually better off because labour was scarce and they could demand higher pay.

Others argue that we are well on our way to doing so. Someone who lives in a prosperous area can expect to survive years longer than someone who lives in a poor one. Those who have a healthy diet, or can afford cosmetic surgery, look completely different from others. It is likely that genetic engineering will allow rich people to produce children who are ever improved versions of themselves.

You Decide

  1. Was Kim Kardashian West wrong to hold a lavish party in the current crisis, or just to publicise it?
  2. What could be done to defuse the threat that artificial intelligence poses to humanity?

Activities

  1. Take a series of photographs of you and your friends, masked and socially distanced, mimicking Kim Kardashian West’s posts. Write an accompanying text explaining how privileged – or not – you feel.
  2. Write a story about life in the year 12020 as envisaged by Dr Curry.

Some People Say...

“The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German physicist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that science fiction writers often outpace scientists in imagining the future. In his 1895 novel The Time Machine, H.G. Wells presented a world similar to the one Dr Curry forecasts, divided between one species – the intelligent and wealthy Eloi – and another, the brutish Morlocks. In 1945, Arthur C. Clarke suggested a global communication system using satellites – 12 years before Sputnik was launched.
What do we not know?
One main area of debate is how far artificial intelligence will affect mankind’s future. The author Yuval Noah Harari warns that it will lead to the emergence of a “useless class”, unemployable because they cannot do anything as well as machines. “As algorithms push humans out of the job market”, he writes, “wealth and power might become concentrated in the hands of the tiny elite that owns the all-powerful algorithms, creating unprecedented social and political inequality”.

Word Watch

Gaggle
Group. Originally applied to geese, it derives from the cackling noise they make.
Figurine
A small model of a human, usually made of clay or china.
Kayaked
Kayaks are similar to canoes. The difference is that you sit in a kayak and use a double-bladed paddle to propel it, while in a canoe you kneel and use a single-bladed paddle.
Ronan Farrow
An American journalist best known for his work in exposing sexual abuse by the film producer Harvey Weinstein. He is the son of the actress Mia Farrow and the comedian Woody Allen.
Hieronymus Bosch
A Dutch painter (c1450-c1516) known for his apocalyptic scenes featuring tiny surreal figures.
The Wicker Man
A British horror movie about a policeman investigating a child’s disappearance on an island controlled by a pagan cult.
Parasite
A 2019 South Korean film about a poor family who get the upper hand on their rich employers.
Black Death
A pandemic which began in Asia and reached Europe in 1348, with further outbreaks in the 1350s and 1370s.

Subjects

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