Species Park Avenue?

Paul Saffo, an American futurologist, recently told the Telegraph that the ultra-rich may slowly evolve into a separate species thanks to medical advances. Saffo imagines a world of replacement organs, sophisticated robots, self-driving cars, and artificial limbs that are superior to the real thing — all available to only the very wealthy. He says, “I sometimes wonder if the very rich can live, on average, 20 years longer than the poor. That’s 20 more years of earning and saving. Think about wealth and power and the advantages that you pass on to your children.” (HT: Economist’s View) [%comments]

David Leppik

Speciation only occurs when populations don't interbreed. As long as either (a) people's wealth fluctuates significantly, or (b) wealthy people continue to be attracted to people of more modest means, interbreeding will continue.

Besides, all of those medical advantages are primarily useful later on in life, not during one's peak child-bearing years.


Apparently those who do not read H.G. Welles are doomed to repeat him.

Kevin H

This is the reasons why real capitalism is incompatible with inheritance.

Eric M. Jones

It has always struck me as incredible that very attractive teenaged children of the poor are not simply scooped up by the wealthy using the lure of providing for them a life of luxury and wealth.

But of course this HAS been done throughout human history. Sieving the pretty children from the general populace has been the right of kings for millenia.

I suspect that much human evolution can be seen in this fact. We would be more hairy if hairy women were seen as hot.

So yes, I am certain than the human race tends to drift into two camps, punctuated by revolutions. Keep those torches and pitchforks at the ready.


They won't be so well-off after they have to pay gazillions of dollars for genetic engineering and neural enhancers.

For some reason radical egalitarians seem to regard any technological advance as a slam on the poor. "Cancer cured: poor, minorities hardest hit."

Kevin H

@Eric M Jones - actually, the scooping up the pretty ones helps ensure that the two genetic populations don't become segregated. Getting a prostitute pregnant is also mixes the gene pools. Also remember that natural selection doesn't care directly about the size of your 401k, it only cares about reproductive success. If you give up bearing children to make money, you are tiptoeing down an evolutionary dead end.


What's the difference between a futurologist and a science fiction writer?


No, seriously, what's the difference?


Ben, you beat me to the Time Machine joke! Morlocks rule! Eloi drool!

Kitt Hirasaki

A hundred years ago, only the super-rich had automobiles. A new technology may not be initially available to everyone, but if it lets you cheat death (why not download your consciousness into a computer?), it will eventually become available.

And who says those rich people are only interested in reproducing with other rich people? You don't have to marry for wealth when you're already rich.

Frater Gregorius

Are we talking Almodovar's film "Brazil" here? I suspect our species current tendency to self-destruct, possibly taking Gaia with it, ensure that this sci-fi medical scenario will never come to fruition. But maybe we'll all (planet and persons) be lucky, and somehow we'll snap out of the madness we now think of as normalcy.

Andrew Ogas

It's pretty much a guarantee that the rich will get these amazing technological and medical advancements first. However, if current technological economic trends continue, it is reasonable to assume that at some point the middle class and poor will get these technology eventually. As well, any flawed technology will be "field tested" on the rich and when perfected and the price of production brought down, the less fortunate will get their chance at this tech. Personally, I would never get first generation genetic augmentation.


If this were true than my mother should have lived years longer than her mother. My mom died at 86, her mother at 93 and from an economic standpoint, it should have been the reverse.

Economic determinism is not always the case. In China, the concept of blood relation superceded economic relation (and we are not talking blood in the genetic sense, but in the abstract.)


Apparently he doesn't know much about evolutionary theory.

Dave Gore

All improvements are expensive at first; only the rich can afford them. Then as the kinks are worked out, the price falls and eventually the improvements are available to everyone. So the rich do everyone a favor by paying for the learning curve. This should hold true for medical and genetic advances as well as cars and laptops.

Arjun Gokhale

Strange how he gives the computer - something that at first was only affordable for the very rich but eventually came down in price as technological improvements allowed cheaper manufacture of a much better good- as an example of another thing that has dramatically changed our lives. If these improvements do take place, it is hard to imagine they would be only limited to the rich for a long time. More likely, initially they would only be available to the rich, but after a time be affordable for all. And, as stated in the comments above, he seems to have a bad grasp of biology and what speciation entails.

David Chowes, New York City

Should the vast separation of wealthy and poor with a diminishing middle class (approaching zero) continue and it shows no sign of abating . . . Why not?

I suspect that they will be by social constructs separate and become as members of of what will be labeled as different races. The further it goes the gene pools will indeed differ.

That has already happened in many South American nations. Africa and Asia, too.

Two discrete groups: the superior promelgated by great assets will feel entitled by their superior "genetic" endownment, So, no guilt. Also, in part a self fulfulling prophecy.

Hasen't this been done to explain IQ disparages between "racial" groups?

As time goes on this tendency will accelerate... We will then have the creation of a brave new world.



they'll hire lobbyists to convince the government to support the reasearch, then pluck the fruits when they're ripe and relatively inexpensive.

Seems to me that inherited wealth mimics a genetic trait in how it ensures the survival of a particular family. As if their wealth makes them more fit to survive than does your labor.

Ain't that America.


@Kevin H - That's the premise of Idiocracy. I was thinking the same thing about inheritance being incompatible with capitalism the other day. And yet, Our inherited ideas and knowledge is also a part of what makes us human. Perhaps there is a optimal structure of inheritance that would ensure that future generations had more of a level playing field and that the populace was more competitive. If only the wealthy were those who earned it by themselves and without any unfair advantages of the families they are born into.


In very very rare cases does family wealth last more than 3 generations.

There's always someone who comes along and screws everything up.

Now, evolution can't happen in 3 generations can it??

Eric M. Jones

@— Kevin ..." Also remember that natural selection .....only cares about reproductive success. If you give up bearing children to make money, you are tiptoeing down an evolutionary dead end."

Ah Kevin....we are not talking opposable thumbs here, we are talking about hands on the levers of power. A population of 99.9% your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. and 00.1% bazillionaires with private jets, security guards and islands in the Bahamas.

A separate species does not imply numerical population dominance. One could say that the very rich have failed as a "species" whilst they still have all the money and power.

Frankly, I have met Manhattanites who seem to be a breed apart already.