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"Genetically Enhancing Humans" Topic

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tsofian Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Jan 2017 2:39 p.m. PST

In my Hive, Queen and Country Universe aliens have harvested humans 25,000 and 12,000 years ago and modified them for two sets of purposes. One is to be their general servants to aid in terraforming Mars. The second group will be simple farmers on a very different Venus, where they will grow organisms under direction of the first group.

The first group gets a full suite of genetic modifications. This includes removal of known genetic diseases. Since they will be living on Mars, which has less sunlight the first group is engineered so they can produce Vitamin D internally. What else should they have engineered into them? The aliens are only able to work in 1/2 G or less so humanity already seems physically strong and durable (human being scan survive things that will already kill most other quadrupeds (thing how fragile a horse is compared to a person). The stamina of human beings is far and away greater than most other land animals.

The immune system can be boosted. Since this is a servant relationship humans don't have to be made any smarter.

The second group is selected to be very fair skinned so they can deal with the world under the clouds of Venus. They still need Vitamin D dietary supplements, but their fair skin allows them processes the local equivalent of cod liver oil easily. I figure they will get an immune system boost as well.

I'm open to other ideas and suggestions.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2017 2:54 p.m. PST

I would suggest engineering in better rengerative capacity – perhaps via the immune system – a more efficient set of kidneys (or maybe also add an extra couple), an adaptive cardiovascular system that regenerates healthy vascular lining (avoid atherosclerosis) and add some more mitochondria to muscles (more like orangutan muscle) – also get that immune system to clean up cancer cells

Lion in the Stars02 Jan 2017 4:11 p.m. PST

You gotta be careful with your regenerative capacity, humans are already probably as close to "unstoppable" as you can get without unacceptable cancer risks.

I'm not sure that you'd need to make humans particularly much stronger, either, though I will note that Mars is a bit over 1/3 gee (3.7… m/s^2 to be more precise). So if you used humans for serious heavy lifting on Mars they'd stay pretty strong. Need some mods for avoiding kidney stones, too (Bones tend to lose calcium in low Gee).

The Venusians would probably need an upgraded immune system, Venus being a pestilential swamp-planet.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2017 4:18 p.m. PST

Some kind of resistance to radiation on both planets.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Jan 2017 5:54 p.m. PST

Radiation resistance is essential. While there is significantly less sunlight reaching Mars (compared to Earth), there is way way way way way way way way way more solar radiation on the surface because there isn't nearly the magneto and atmospheric protection.

The lesser sunlight would likely lead to more sensitive, or expanded spectrum eyes. Or maybe echo location or electromagnetic sensation.

A big difference is the average -50C temperature and the daily nearly 100C difference between high and low. Assuming for the VSF effect we are wearing 19th century clothing rather than advanced space suits, some type of heat retaining and venting skin, maybe like flowers opening and closing based on sunlight, would be important.

Even though it's overall much colder, the need to vent heat when it gets up to 20C from -70C at night would be important.

Perhaps a skin coating of light sensitive flower petals could deal with both external radiation and internal temperature management.

JezEger02 Jan 2017 11:19 p.m. PST

If you're keeping the clouds on Venus then you presumably are keeping the atmospheric pressure. Its the same as about 3000ft underwater. Normal lungs wouldn't work- divers don't go past 400 ft. They'd have to be much stronger as air resistance will be huge- kinda like permanently wading through custard. To be honest, humans wouldn't be the first choice for this as if you take away our brains, we really aren't much use. Other animals are faster, stronger, have better designed backs, eyes, smell… the list could go on. I'd have thought for farmers, some form of giant ant would be ideal. Pretty much what they do now anyway.

Norman D Landings02 Jan 2017 11:49 p.m. PST

Genetic manipulation? Face – and, may I add – Palm.

In this scenario, Aliens harvested their human stock 25-12 THOUSAND years ago.

In 25,000 years, how do you remove genetic diseases from a brood stock, increase its disease resistance, habituated it to climate and select optimum characteristics?

Sci-fi cliche says genetic engineering. Common sense and all historical precedent says: Breeding!

Except for radical departure from the genotype, genetic engineering is not mandated by this scenario,

Vitamin D can be easily given in dietary form.
If, for some particular reason, the Aliens specifically want a vitamin-independent critter – why would they stop at D? Why wouldn't they use that same gene-tech to make their stock entirely vitamin-independent?

Cancer's the biggie.
Radiation protection of some kind is a must, and genetic engineering handwavium does seem like a necessary get-out here, because without it the surface radiation levels on Mars and Venus would lead to unacceptable losses in your population, and – most significantly for a breeding programme – increased birth defects.
So yeah – go crazy with the gene-tech when it comes to radiation-resistance.

FWIW, we use human-animal hybrid cytoplasmic embryos (for stem cell research) and so-called 'three-parent' embryos (for fertility treatment) where I work. Fascinating stuff.
I'm not even going to ask if they'll let me build a Mars-human, though, cause I know what the answers going to be. Luddites…

Mobius03 Jan 2017 12:45 p.m. PST

I'm not sure humans are particularly useful to be genetically modified unless you are another human. They have unusually large brains which require prodigious amounts of nourishment.

Their usefulness must account for this cost in production. Plus they have low birth rates compared to most mammals of similar size. I guess if they arrive on your planet by their own transportation and you don't have to go out and collect them then this saves shipping. They don't have any fur so have to be clothed unless their cages are heated or you will suffer loss to exposure.

Zephyr103 Jan 2017 3:43 p.m. PST

If you let them breed like rats, or grow them in pods, losses through attrition would probably be an acceptable risk…

tsofian Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Jan 2017 5:45 p.m. PST

A little more background might help:

HQC is a hard science setting. Although things might seem odd except in those places where we out and out break things for story reasons (fairly few and far between) we've looked hard at the numbers and done the math and science.

The aliens need a servant race capable of working in the high gravity of Earth and Venus (they lost a lot fot heir tools on the way here-an even longer story)

Mars is as we see it today when they start, as is Earth, Luna and Mercury. Venus is very different. It is actually mostly oceans with lowlands of the landmases being very dry and releatively cool deserts (think the Atacama in Chile). The highlands were the land intersects with clouds are very wet cloud forests. We crunched the numbers and the high albedo of Venus would give a surface temperature slightly below that of Earth, if the atmosphere was almost entirely transparent to reradiated infrared radiation. The pressure is very close to earth normal as well.

The aliens want the first batch of servents in a few generations, so they don't have time to do the breeding.

Mars will have a thick atmosphere by the time anyone is playing unprotected on the surface and we gave Venus a hefty magnetic field, and Mars as well, to ward off much of the charged particle radiation, so the surface radiation isn't much higher than Earth normal. People can actually handle a lot more low level radiation than it might assume at first glance. Even near black sand deposits there aren't increased cancer rates. ( High altitudes see far more radiation than sea level populations and don't see a higher cancer rate. Considering how much radiation a smoker ingests over time and the fact that they die at fairly low rates is a good indication of just how much radiation a human body can handle, if it isn't a massive acute dose.

Ottoathome10 Jan 2017 4:35 p.m. PST

It all sounds nice Tsofian and, it is a game after all, but Mobius and others have pointed out that genetic manipulation on humans is a very dicey thing. You aren't really likely to get what you want out of it.

In your calling it "Hive Queen and Country" I suspect this is some sort of Victorian Sci-Fi set up. If so then any sort of "Hard Science" is out the window. Once you use the term "Hard Science" you open the door and all the impossibilities flood in. The hardest of hard science that comes back is the thermonuclear factor. Radiation proofing a human being is small bee compared to heat proofing him against temperatures not seen except on the surface of a sun.

The worst part of it is the mental mutiliations you would have to make on human beings to short circuit the basic desires and proclivities of mammalian creatures. In other words, how do you breed out the "herd/ pack" mentalities, the over-large brain, and their relative unsuitability. indeed, it would be much easier to modify the biology of lesser species. For example for food growing if tilling the soil were necessary, a giant beetle about 8" in length which ploughed furrows in the ground and excreted out the seeds (undigestible to them) which would also pre-fertilize the ground, and then at the end of the furrow-- died-- to make even more fertilizer would do much better than a human. A whole batch of such highly specialized creatures would do much better than humans who are generalists- jacks of all trades but experts in none.

I once designed such a race, not as slaves or servants but as a human species the aliens "perfected" the biology of. One must always see the universe as our aliens would and what their view of things would be. In this case they were intelligent plants, masters of genetic manipulation (That's the Doo in the Die Ex Machina) and they "perfected" the biology of some humans they came across. It turned out to be quite interesting as the aliens were doing this NOT for themselves but FOR their creatures to make their life berter. It was quite interesting, and quite disturbing in a very nice and beneficent way.

Ottoathome10 Jan 2017 4:37 p.m. PST

Oh yes, one more thing.

Any civilization requires two things to keep it going. Calories and energy. If you can reach the stars you have unlimited energy at your disposal and calories is no problem.

Lion in the Stars11 Jan 2017 7:43 p.m. PST

@Otto: He's already stated that Venus isn't the sulfuric hellpit that we know and love of today (though I'd like to hear more about the assumptions that went into his version: I'm pretty sure that water vapor is extremely absorptive of IR, so it should be a tropical planet, not cooler than Earth)

But I'd still optimize the immune system for the Venusians, high humidity is ripe for bacteria, molds, and fungi.

If you give Mars a magnetic field, that will deal with the radiation problem. However, there are still two other problems: much of the red color of Mars isn't actually iron oxide, it's apparently chromium (which is toxic); plus the dust itself will be a problem due to lack of surface water (look up the disease called silicosis).

Ottoathome12 Jan 2017 8:54 a.m. PST

Lion in the stars.

Wasn't me who was arguing for the real venus. I already said it's obviously some sort of Victorian SF and so the hard science concerns of real life atmospheric pressure on Venus or chromium on Nars wasn't a problem My point is that the problems come from his own assumptions. These are-- if you have mastered genetic engineering to the point required by his assumptions, humans are the last thing you want as your base. Second, that extensive modification of humans in the form required would breed out all of those things that make "humanity" and hence you're back to the same thing, not needing humans.

Finally if you have the ability to space-fare or star-fair the problem of energy is no problem at all and the problem of calories even less, so why need human slaves? It's the same problem that the transporter in Star Trek imposes. If you can make and create matter then you can make and create whatever you want. To mix films and TV the Transporter in Star Trek is like the Krell machine in "Forbidden Planet." Creation without instrumentation-

Ottoathome12 Jan 2017 8:57 a.m. PST

One more point. Things like Victorian Science Fiction already have created a world where Victorians can live on these environments without extensive advanced science. So once you've done that, you don't need to modify humans, the environments have been modified in the literature to be suitable to the humans.

TheBeast Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2017 1:25 p.m. PST

I happen to agree with you, Otto, but Terry is an author who likes to consider himself grounded in the harder side of science fiction.

One can pick and choose to some extent, use the real formulas for worlds that match the fantasy. There were a lot of real scientists surprised at just how challenging Venus is.


Lion in the Stars12 Jan 2017 5:44 p.m. PST

One story reason to have modified humans on Mars and Venus is to have theoretically interbreedable natives, since most of the VSF stories are highly colonial to begin with.

Plus, there are already some engineered bugs in the HQC universe, they're the source of the "Hive" in the name!

Umpapa23 Jan 2017 11:56 a.m. PST

Deficits of vitamines (including D) are easily avoidable (f.ex. in 60s children were protected with one i.m. injection of 1 million units of vit D, unbelievable, I know).

More aggressive immunological system means even more autoimmunological diseases, so it is not a good idea.

I suppose humans could be upgraded (mars/venus-formed) with:
- spiracles which would help respiration;
- eyesight adapted to different EMG spectrum (since retinae recepts UV, replacing the naturally blocking UV lens with nonblocking UV, UV-vision becomes possible, albeit cancer risky);
- interdigital webbing (swamps of Venus)
- skin/fur/termoregulation adapted to different climatic conditions
- rodentlike ever growing teeth (teeth as a main source of infections)

And of course: the optic nerve attached to the back of the retina, not the front!

tsofian Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Jan 2017 7:54 a.m. PST

The HQC Universe has a lot of backstory. Most if not all of your questions and concerns are addressed in canon. I'm reluctant to put a lot of that information here, because it contains a lot of spoilers. A lot of the material will be in the two new books coming out this year, but not everything. Some is too deep in the weeds to see traditional publication, but it still won't make sense without revealing things about the Universe that would ruin the joy of discovery for the players. Suffice to say the aliens have reasons why they do things, that make sense to them, and make sense in the context of the situation in which they find themselves.

About some of the issues though:
Water vapor is an issue but most of the energy that becomes IR is reradiated from a planetary surface, not direct solar radiation, Plus if the water vapor is high enough it will reradiate the IR back into space not so much to the ground areas. The clouds of Venus are extremely deep so there is a lot of room for energy to get reflected, absorbed and then reradiated.

As for the heavy number crunching- HQC has a Yahoo! group. The group has been around for a number of years and has about 250 members, most of whom lurk. I am one of the least intelligent, knowledgeable or experienced people on that list (Be Nice). We have a couple of gents from Sandian National Labs, a fellow who is an absolute genius from Germany, a retired Col in the British army, and a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Other people provide expertise in music and culture and lots of other topics. A lot of the heavy number crunching and other detail work is done by some of these folks. The group has prevented me from including a lot of things that would have cropped in and generated issues later on. I owe them a huge thank you. So if I haven't said it here before: THANKS TO EVERYONE ON THE YAHOO! GROUP!

The discussions about the atmosphere and water cycle on Venus were long and detailed and go into things like the types of airborne particles that can cause droplet formation in the Venusian clouds and how the lithic composition of the Venusian surface contributes to atmospheric effects. We were DEEP in the weeds!

As for what other VSF has done that is great and has inspired us tremendously. But we didn't want to be a Verne or Wells retread. We have our own stories to tell and want our stage to be unique and memorable in its own rights. I think you will find our worlds to be different than many others out there (especially other Steampunk/VSF ones as well internally consistent. We like to think in terms of Climates, Creatures and Cultures when we do world building.

The archive for the list has over 50,000 messages (it can be extremely high traffic at times). If anyone is interested please let me know and I'll be happy to add you to the membership, we are always looking for new voices and members.

Thanks for all the interest! This is very similar to a number of thread on the Yahoo! Group, so if this discuss is in your wheelhouse let me know!


tsofian Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Jan 2017 3:06 p.m. PST

Here is the address for the Yahoo! Group link

Lfseeney26 Jan 2017 1:10 p.m. PST

Humans always need beer.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2017 3:07 p.m. PST

Here's one that is not so sci-fi in the future: link


tsofian Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 4:05 p.m. PST

Genetic engineering of humans is a dicey things now. Getting a fire started was a dicey thing 25,000 years ago, getting an airplane to fly was a dicey thing in 1905. The list of things that our technology can't do is pretty long, but it grows shorter every day. Sequencing the human genome would have been beyond the imagination in 1900 (because no one knew what the matrix of genetic information was) it would have been considered impossible for a long time after Watson and Crick discovered the role of DNA, but it was done. I suspect that human genetic engineering is far closer than most people would suspect, or desire

tsofian Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 4:12 p.m. PST

Why would you want to breed out the herd/pack mentality. Use it! The aliens engineer in a submission to them as pack leaders and they have built in obedience (to a certain level). The wide range of human abilities is what made the species masters of Earth,and it will serve the aliens well. It is true that there are very few things human animals are better at then ever other species on Earth. But it is also true that human animals are way better at more things than any other animal on the planet. We swim, we run, we climb, we can digest just about anything except bones and cellulose, we heal better than almost any other mammal, we live a hell of a long time, we breed very fast and are fertile year round, there isn't another animal on the planet that two dozen humans with flint tools can't kill (even whales can be killed by primitive technology and skilled hunters). If the aliens have limited resources they might go for a biological equivalent of a leatherman tool, instead of tying to make a whole tool chest. Humans might not do everything well, but they do most things well enough

Ottoathome29 Jan 2017 7:10 a.m. PST

You have not considered the most disturbing possibility of all.

That the aliens decide that humans have much more fun than aliens and they, the aliens, want to turn themselves into humans. Humans have a whole "life of the mind" that others do not. Love, Lore, Drama, Art, Religion, Philosophy, painting, tragedy, comedy, the ability to derive intense pleasure from art, sunsets, cute little puppies, and imagination and speculation, even the joy of collecting things might be something the aliens desire. Humans have a pursuit of pleasure potentiality that goes way beyond a full belly or the will to power which one finds in most "alien races."

What if the aliens are captivated by the non-materialistic side of human existence, and they realize they can only tap this by themselves becoming human.

This of course would be the ultimate punishment of Marx in Hell.

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