One of the big taboo ideas in political discourse is the idea that some people are poverty-stricken not because of the way they are brought up but because they just are not very clever.
I think that you would be churlish indeed to assert that whoever set the ball rolling, and whoever dribbled it to the here and now, the 30 years we have just spent “managing the transition to a skills-based economy” have not resulted in happy and universal inclusivity. The bare fact is that not everybody is intellectually equipped to make for themselves a place in such an economy.
If they are not looked after by their family, then the less bright, it is surely safe to assume, are often excluded from society because of their inability to make intelligent choices. Our refusal to look sympathetically on lack of intelligence as a real encumbrance in the modern world – or sometimes even to admit that it exists – is unfair on those who labour under that disadvantage.
Yes – it is in itself very stupid to claim that stupidity is the only cause of social blights and it is seemingly impossible to write about intelligence without coming across as an arrogant twit – but lack of intelligence is something that is almost never mentioned, because discussing it inevitably comes across as patronising, rude, and pointless.
Orr includes all the usual hedges about the dangers of generalisation, but what she is saying is genuinely important. The big problem is that intellectual disadvantage, either through genes or upbringing, is supposedly an intractable problem. Some are smarter than others.
Transhumanism then, is the ultimate expression of freeing the individual from tyranny. Throughout the Enlightenment new ideas challenged old dogmas. Superstition gave way to rationalism and empircism. Tyranny gave way to democracy.
And now Ray Kurzweil is challenging the greatest of all the inequalities: the skills and propensities we are born with.