Chance becomes choice

We continue tracking the quest for bio-perfection in our “real” and Richard Powers’ alternative “mutant”-fictional universe.

In the “Mastery and Gift” chapter of his Case Against Perfection, Michael Sandel says

A Gattaca-like world, in which parents became accustomed to specifying the sex and genetic traits of their children, would be a world inhospitable to the unbidden, a gated community writ large.


The awareness that our talents and abilities are not wholly our own doing restrains our tendency toward hubris. If bio-engineering made the myth of the “self-made man” come true, it would be difficult to view our talents as gifts for which we are indebted rather than as achievements for which we are responsible.

When “choice, not chance” becomes our way, we’ll slip into an attitude of contempt for others and excessive regard for ourselves. Prometheus Ascendant will harden our hearts, and shrink them to grinch-size. We’ll be left with “nothing to affirm or behold outside our own will.”

That’s the story in Generosity too. Perfection in an enhanced future is a page-turning dream, at least until the alarm sounds . 

…on the insides of her eyelids, hopes rise, taboos fade, miracles get marked down, the impossible goes ordinary, chance becomes choice, and Scheherazade keeps whispering, “What is this tale, compared to the one I will tell you tomorrow night, if you but spare me and let me live?”

In that story, the storyteller saved herself. But who’s writing our story, the tale of our glorious “inevitable” tomorrowland?  And have we figured out that it might just be nonfiction?

Is “Oona” right? Does our “fortune lie not in our stars but in our changing selves,” can we “escape any fate by a daily application of near-religious will”? Tune in…

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