IEET > Rights > CognitiveLiberty > GlobalDemocracySecurity > Vision > Bioculture > Staff > Kyle Munkittrick > SpaceThreats > Cyber
We Need Gattaca to Prevent Skynet
Kyle Munkittrick   Nov 17, 2010   Science Not Fiction  

In science fiction, when humanity is faced with existential crises, we turn to great minds attached to great hearts. While we aren’t under alien attack or facing sentient machines, our world has its own share of problems. Human cognitive enhancement might just be the solution from which all other solutions are born; or maybe it brings too many risks of its own.

Independence Day has one of my most favorite hero duos of all time: Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Brawn and brains, flyboy and nerd, working together to take out the baddies. It all comes down to one flash of insight on behalf of a drunk Goldblum after being chastised by his father.

Cliché eureka! moments like Goldblum’s realization that he can give the mothership a “cold” are great until you realize one thing: if Goldblum hadn’t been as smart as he was, the movie would have ended much differently. No one in the film was even close to figuring out how to defeat the aliens. Will Smith was in a distant second place and he had only discovered that they are vulnerable to face punches. The hillbilly who flew his jet fighter into the alien destruct-o-beam doesn’t count, because he needed a force-field-free spaceship for his trick to work. If Jeff Goldblum hadn’t been a super-genius, humanity would have been annihilated.


Every apocalyptic film seems to trade on the idea that there will be some lone super-genius to figure out the problem. In The Day the Earth Stood Still (both versions), Professor Barnhardt manages to convince Klaatu to give humanity a second look. John Cleese’s version of the character had a particularly moving “this is our moment” speech. Though it’s eventually the love between a mother and child that triggers Klaatu’s mercy, Barnhardt is the one who opens Klaatu to the possibility. Over and over we see the lone super-genius helping to save the world.

Shouldn’t we want, oh, I don’t know, at least more than one super-genius per global catastrophe? I’d like to think so. And where might we get some more geniuses, you may ask? We make them.


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
Nicole Sallak Anderson is a Computer Science graduate from Purdue University. She developed encryption and network security software, which inspired the eHuman Trilogy—both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception are available at Amazon, the third installment is expected in early 2016. She is a member of the advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.


“In science fiction, when humanity is faced with existential crises, we turn to great minds attached to great hearts.”
“As neuroscience progresses, there is a very real possibility we’ll be able to improve those specific parts of the moral brain.”

There’s always a fear that we’ll create a super-genius who is NOT attached to a great heart. Let’s just hope that we figure out a way to greatly improve the parts of the moral brain (I guess this is equivalent to the “great heart”?), BEFORE we start creating these super-geniuses.

I will be your super-genius. Now where did I put my brain pills…

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: The financial time bomb of longer lives?

Previous entry: Never Say Die: A Slate/New America Seminar on Radical Life Extension