The start of a story

posted 07 October 2006

Everything works better when run by smart people. Therefore, smart people are in a lot of demand. Because of this, it's often too expensive to hire large groups of smart people: it becomes more cost effective to hire one extremely smart person, and get them to produce a system where a bunch of dumb people can perform the complicated task. This principle of increasing productivity -- specifically, increasing the productivity of people who aren't otherwise very productive -- is pretty much the foundation of economic growth. Therefore in order to continue to grow, it was not just desirable, but necessary that ever-smarter people be produced in order to continue to produce the ever-more-complicated systems of automation required to continue economic growth.

Luckily, humanity was quite capable of producing this new breed of smarter human: the intelligent tended to seek out the intelligent, producing even more intelligent children. At the same time, economic growth allowed ever-larger numbers of people to rise out of poverty, producing higher life expectancies and falling birth rates. Amongst the newly non-impoverished, fewer but better-fed and educated children in turn produced new generations of smarter people. It was a virtuous circle, and IQs rose worldwide continuously from the mid 1900s onwards.

However, in the middle of the 20th century humanity began to notice the emergence of a new kind of people, some of whom were so intellectually focussed that they could find it difficult or impossible to adequately understand, express and sustain emotional relationships, a condition known as Asperger's syndrome or, in more extreme cases, autism. Over generations, Asperger's and autism went from being a minority condition to a widespread pandemic: human intellectual growth was turning out to be self-limiting, since beyond a certain level of intellectual development reproduction rates dropped to zero. The shortage was not of brain power, but of the empathy required to communicate the results of intellectual activity.

Evolution would eventually have stepped in, natural selection providing for those who were both emotionally and intellectually accomplished, since they would be financially more successful than emotional people who were less intellectual than they were, and reproductively more successful than people who were less emotional than they were. But humanity didn't have time to wait for natural forces to kick in: to prevent worldwide economic stagnation, by the late 2130s the world required the production of people with profoundly improved levels of emotional connection, and genetic engineering had advanced to the point that manipulating brain development was becoming a practical possibility.

Initial experiments were mixed, producing spectacular successes, such as Marcus Pohl, a gene-engineered child born in California in 2138 who successfully combined his talents for organization and emotional connection into a spectacular political career, rising to become President of the United States in 2176. It also produced uncounted numbers of heartbreaking failures; from the emotionally unstable to the totally emotionless, as well as isolated cases of total failure, producing children with severe mental impairment. Suicide rates amongst gene-engineered teenagers in the 2150s and 60s were triple the already high rate of teen suicide, producing a strong and vocal backlash against the entire practice.

But the unanticipated domination of politics by charismatic, gene-engineered men and women, who despite the stigma of their birth were undeniably both capable and popular, ensured continued strong governmental support for Genetically Modified Offspring programmes worldwide. The high-profile success of the early GMO superstars was also a strong incentive for many parents, many of whom privately regarded their "geemo" children as a high-stakes gamble on future financial security.

In 2215, Anna Gajewski was born in London, and in 2227 became the first medically documented and officially recognized human being to be recognized as having Profound Empathic Ability, although it was later suspected that several particularly successful, high-profile individuals born in the early 2200s also had PEA but kept their abilities secret, for reasons of fear or as a tactical advantage. Anna's early life was highly public and the focus of much media attention, a factor that may have influenced her decision to go into acting.

Like it? Shall I write more?

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