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Let us presuppose a universe adjacent to our own, that has collided non-catastrophically with our own on a number of occasions, causing an exchange of matter including humans in the most recent collissions.

Humans have formed a civilisation in this alternate universe, which has bigger, cooler stars, approximately the same goldilocks zones and a slightly higher average temperature on alternate Earth. Humans can survive there, though not as optimally as a natively evolved lifeform.

What might cause the development of a society that emphasises research and development of the life sciences over materials technology, and ultimately result in a transhumanist society as the technology matures?

Collissions between the universes have been occurring since the end of the pre-cambrian era, with increasing frequency and duration. The most recent collissions were around a million years ago, 10,000 years ago, and around 1500 years ago. Humans or pre-humans would have been exchanged each time.

Due to the pre-cambrian collision, there will be life on alternate Earth that is biologically compatible with humans, but will have had billions of years in which to evolve. We may suppose that collissions and exchanges have occurred at around every major time of change in the nature of life on Earth.

I don't need to deemphasise the other sciences, I merely want to emphasise a drive toward genetic transhumanism.

Aside from my stated restrictions, any conditions or societies an answerer deems necessary or unnecessary may be deemed to exist or not as required, provided that their occurrence or failure to occur can be justified.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is your starting timeline for this? Are your people stone age, or 21st century? Any special cultural issues we should know about? Hostile alien life? Is native life edible (ie mostly identical to terrestrial)? $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Aug 23 '20 at 4:33
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    $\begingroup$ I have no idea of what "life sciences" are, but if you mean biology: most progress in biology happened after the First World War, especially after the Second, and it was conditioned by the availability of advanced technology. You know, small things such as aircraft and satellites, underwater vehicles, X-ray diffraction, computers, analytical chemistry, electron microscopes... Without modern technology you won't have modern biology. No way. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 23 '20 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus Lifeforms are similar but different... and many of them are edible, but not all. The timeline may be considered to be from the stone age 10,000 years ago to now, with humans transplanted from earth at each of the times in my edit. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Aug 23 '20 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I want to emphasise transhumanism. I'll accept any precursor technologies required. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Aug 23 '20 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild When you say transhumanism does this include simulated minds or minds uploaded into robotic bodies or is it specific to biological processes like gene editing? $\endgroup$ – user69935 Aug 23 '20 at 13:57
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Religion

A major religion in your universe is about being the best you can be, and that, through research, meditation, shedding your burden, etc, you'll transcend the abilities of a normal human. There's a spiritually section on trans-humanism on Wikipedia that documents existing philosophies, regions, meditation groups, etc that strive towards transhumanism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism#Spirituality

A very good example in fiction is documented at https://stargate.fandom.com/wiki/Ascension or https://babylon5.fandom.com/wiki/Transcendence

I was trying to think of other ways to motivate them, and my first idea was to show people an example of what they could achieve. The appearance of a transhumanist instructing humans how to become transhuman could work, but I've realised on reflection that, having someone come down from a higher plane, perform feats that can't be explained by current science, tell us to be better people, leave us rules that we should follow if we want to get to a higher place, and then return to their plane of existence... is basically going to create a religion anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes but now you have to motivate why the religion develops ;-P $\endgroup$ – Daron Aug 23 '20 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ I was interested in purely physical transhumanism. In my world, there is no "higher plane" to which to 'ascend'. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Aug 24 '20 at 4:01
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TRANSFORMATIVE "DEMIGOD" VIRUSES:

Your alien life has a family of viruses with unique transformative properties that infect reproductive cells. They have formed symbiotic relationships on their world, and occasionally instead of transporting virus, they relocate big chunks of genome from one species to another. While many of these impromptu experiments turn out badly, some relocate significant traits and multiple genes between species, using viral proteins to insert them into host genomes.

In humans, this means that significant interspecies gene transfers occur, and at a beginning low tech level. While some of these are undesirable, a few of the resulting human/alien/animal hybrids have significant genetic advantages over the unmodified humans. Some of your 1500-year-ago transportees were naturalists, and observed the changes mythologized by the locals (transfer of the modified to Earth could even give rise to legends of human-animal hybrid creatures...). The local long-term humans have god myths about the hybrids, and the hybrids are seen as blessed by the gods. When the naturalists deduce how these things may be occuring, it leads to a significant biological revolution coupled with the native acceptance of hybrids.

The study and development of various hybrids in both humans and animals leads to early agricultural revolutions, and the people naturally see the biosciences as the go-to technology. Once people select new and better breeds of transfer viruses, they have a poor-man's CRISPR during the equivalent of their world's age of enlightenment. The eugenics movement has the tools to actually DO the things they imagine, first breeding better domesticated animals and slaves, but then selecting for the traits brought into the human population and making better people. Maybe even making ape slaves with human genes like an early version of Planet of the Apes (yes, the Victorians wanted ape slaves, but the apes weren't good slaves). https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Meunier

Your world would likely have an ethically questionable attitude towards human gene manipulation. When the rest of science catches up with biology and gives geneticists even better tools, traits previously selected for could now be spliced and diced to make super-humans, perhaps in a very Nazi-ish effort to replace "normals" with "demigods".

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Different functional castes of the same species.

Humans differ in their biologic abilities, but we are tool using animals. It is easier and more effective to hit something with a rock than it is to hit it with a fist. Thus the emphasis on technology. The most successful human groups have been the ones with the best tools.

Your species (and it is not clear to me from the OP - are these humans also?) is eminently cooperative - like a social insect. Like the social insects they have different castes - workers, food storage, reproductive, soldier, mega soldier. Rather than develop a tool for a job, they develop a caste of individuals suited for that job. A hive with better soldiers, better doctors, smarter strategists will be a more successful hive. Rather than tools, the emphasis for these creatures has been biology from the start.

It becomes clear that superior and more intelligent strategists can overcome the advantages other hives have as regards "man"power, resources etc. This species uses nature and nurture to improve the intellect and perceptiveness of their strategists.

And there is a breakthrough. In one hive there is born a strategist whose perceptual range covers the large and small, past and future in a way not possible or even conceivable for earlier generations. This hive and its descendants take over their homeworld, and this individual is considered the founder of their race.

In addition to this individual's unprecedented depth of understanding, it also understood that the depth of understanding possible is infinitely more. The race sets out to continuously expand its perceptual and cognitive abilities. When they run up against what seem to be hard limits of biology they move laterally to find a way past these using intraorganismal cooperation, mind synchronization between past and present, technological augmentations, and more.

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Transhumanism Develops Because it is Needed

By transhumanism I presume you means genetically modified people or perhaps uploading your mind into a computer/robot body.

This requires a lot of new technology be created. It will not develop all at once. In fact it won't develop at all unless there are visible benefits along the way.

For example modifying embryos to be more resistant to disease; eliminate congenital abnormalities pre-conception; replacing failing body parts with robot equivalents; or backing up failing memories on a hard drive. These are all stepping stones to full transhumanism.

The question is now, why would such technologies recieve much more attention than on Earth? The answer is simply because they are needed. For example the sun in the other universe produces more gamma rays that leads to more cancers and generally shorter lifespan than on Earth.

Health is worse, fertility is low, babies die in the womb or are born with defects, body parts fail, and people lose their memories faster with age. People age faster and die younger.

So all the things above get much more emphasis. At the logical conclusion people look nothing like they used to.

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