Movie made: 2000 | Set in: early 21st century. The “not too distant future”
|Creation of superhumans||low||2020+|
More fantasy than future.
Enjoyably brings a comic book sensibility to the screen, with some nice special effects.
Mutations don’t give people powers.
Evolution / biotechnology:
X-Men is more fantasy than future—it is hard to imagine how a mutation will allow someone to control the weather—but it does raise the question of radical genetic change.
Evolution is not likely to deliver superhuman powers. Humans are slowly but steadily mutating, but outwardly discernible mutations tend to be unhealthy–cystic fibrosis and cleft lip are among many conditions caused by genetic mutations.
Occasionally mutations provide benefits: sickle cell boosts resistance to malaria, and the inhabitants of a village in Italy have a mutation that allows them to better fight the effects of cholesterol. But these aren’t exactly super powers.
The rate of mutation could be increased, for instance with radiation, but the effects would be overwhelmingly negative.
Biotechnology may provide another route. Many creatures already have extraordinary powers–generating electric currents, detecting magnetic fields, hypersensitive smell, sonar, echolocation, and so on. The biological plans for these abilities are encoded in DNA, and thus transferable to other organisms. The first primate has already been modified–in early 2001 the birth of a monkey with jellyfish DNA that causes a green fluorescence was announced.
Genetics could already be used to create human babies with lime green hair or multiple arms or other extreme characteristics, but this is clearly unethical. Radical changes may require the ability to modify consenting adults. A market exists: why be pierced or tattooed when you could have a tail, or horns?
It should be possible to employ nature’s genetic templates in several ways:
- Reprogram a characteristic–make one’s skin color green instead of beige, for instance.
- Grow new parts–graft on a tail grown from one’s one cells but guided by Colobus monkey DNA.
More complex modifications will be difficult. It would be hard to make a new tail prehensile, because the human brain lacks any control systems for a tail, and it would be even harder to introduce animal abilities like echolocation or magnetic field detection.