Stellaris

Species modification always feels eugenic/authoritarian (and doesn’t have to)

stellaris 4 - Species modification always feels eugenic/authoritarian (and doesn't have to)
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I'm thinking about this in terms of the setting, but this is still a game. It IS more fun to control things.

Still, it's odd that you can re-engineer an entire interstellar species in just a few months/years, with no political repercussions.

Let's say you're playing a very Democratic civilization. You prohibit slavery, prohibit population controls, even prohibit forced resettlement. But even with all those civilian protections, the state can turn everyone into robots (synthetic evolution), or genetically engineer them into something else (evolutionary mastery).

To be clear, I'm not talking about prohibiting trait mods. In a game about technology, it's completely antithetical. I'm talking about prohibiting government control of trait mods.

There's ideas of Democratic Transhumanism (the politics of using biotechnology on persons), where individuals should be empowered to control their own genetics / cybernetics / etc.

In Stellaris, you can set policies that give people the liberty to decide where to live, or how to reproduce. Why shouldn't there be a policy where we give people liberty over their biological fate?

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Of course, the benefits of modifying a species are too tempting. Without a gameplay reason, giving population power over their own traits is just theoretical.

So I propose that it offers a different style of gameplay. If you prohibit "state eugenics", you give up the species modification screen, and allow pops to determine their own biological traits. Which means that you're effectively turning cybernetics/genetics into a consumer good, which allows individuals to pick and choose their trait mods based on their own desires.

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Effectively, you'd increase the consumption of consumer goods, and surrender state control over species modification, for some significant benefits. Maybe populations automatically switch their habitability preferences to whatever planet they migrate to. People also find ways to make their jobs easier. Miners choose to become Industrious, Researchers become Intelligent, and Farmers become Agrarian. Leaders become Quick Learners and Armies become Strong.

People are pretty good at choosing a biological destiny that makes work easier and more successful. But you miss out on some specific strategies — no one will engineer themselves to be a Rapid Breeder or a Conformist. (In fact, maybe pops are so individualistic that they pick traits that effectively make them decadent or deviant.)

Also, you really pay for it — in consumer goods, maybe empire sprawl, and (especially) time. You're waiting for people to use their individual liberty to make good choices about their biology, which might take generations, and never be perfect. Maybe this is even a slow progression that is gated behind multiple layers of technology.

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I'm probably in an extreme minority who has read lots of books about Transhumanism, and is fascinated by the politics of the near future. But it's such an interesting subject that deserves a rich treatment, and I'd love to see Stellaris explore that.

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