Humanity is immortal. You can backup your mind, you can choose your body, biological or robotic, in any shape or form.
In a universe like that, there is any motivation for racism to still exist?
Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers/artists using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Rascism is a sub-type of in-group bias, where a person will favor someone mentally labeled as "in my group" over someone "out of my group". Other examples of this type of bias show up in politics, text editor choice, religion, sports team preference and most any other instance where some characteristic can define a group.
The reason we humans have in-group bias is because those with this bias are more fit than those who don't (over the lifetime of the species. Recognition of racism as a harmful thing is a relatively new thing, just the past few centuries or so). Humans are social animals, so the groups we belong to dictate our survivability. A group that concentrates it's time and attention on itself, will naturally do better than a group that dilutes its limited resources on other individuals/groups. Consider the difference in how bad you feel about something bad happening to another human who is a great distance away and far from your internal in-group definition compared to a bad thing happening to someone of your race and socio-economic standing in your town. Proximity and same-ness dictate a lot of your emotional response.
The only thing that stops racism is cultural training. It takes effort to overcome those biases and behave differently. Perhaps, over time this will happen, but a magical post-scarcity, post-mortality, post-cis human world won't automatically fix this bias.
As long as there is free thought, there exists the ability to prejudice against others.
Racism is defined as abuse toward a particular race and culture, so if the culture still exists, there will be people to oppose it.
A culture is not a race, you can't be racist against an idea. With the option to choose any body of your liking, it would be hard to see how people would still hold beliefs about a certain look giving people certain inherent traits. Especially if it's such an established part of society that anyone can have access to, I don't see why anyone would care. Depending on how available the procedure is, people could change bodies, sex, gender, species like we change clothes, and people would think nothing of it.
That being said, depending on how your society is built, if a certain appearance was tied to a culture (People of culture A are typically green, people of culture B are typically blue) then there could definitely be prejudice between the two. This could even include sub cultures using body modifications as statements. Many today (or at least some years back) would judge one for wearing black clothes, piercings, dyed hair etc. In a similar way, people belonging to a sub culture could adopt certain body traits to show that they belong to that group. Perhaps the future punks will have long ears and sharp teeth. Others would then be likely to be judgemental towards people with those traits. Though this would still not be traditional racism, just like today it is not racist to judge someone based on what they wear. Today we deem it racist to judge a person for a look they were born with and had no control over. If changing your appearance is as easy as it is to change clothes, is it still a race in the traditional sense? Prejudice yes, but I still would not call that racism.
Another route you could go down would be that different bodies are of lower or higher quality, and cheaper or more expensive respectively. An expensive body would last longer, be stronger, maybe smarter or even robotic. This would provide a clear indication of what 'class' you belong to, and allow people to easily judge you based on your looks. It would more or less be out of a persons control what body they could be reborn into. It would be more like classism than racism, but at least you can argue that the way you were (re)born is something that can be judged.
An important concept here is cultural racism, basically the belief that an 'other culture' is essentially and unchangeable different in a specific way:
After WWII, as the idea of different biological races became controversial, the term culture received increased significance in racist reasoning. Scientists usually talk about so called "Culture racism". Instead of starting from biology, culture is used to explain how people are and what they do. Culture is seen as something solid and unchangeable. The rhetoric and the purpose of the division is the same as when talking about biological races though. Stereotypical notions about the cultures of ethnic groups as essentially different and incompatible with the (for example) Swedish culture lies as a foundation of cultural racism. Cultures are seen as unchangeable and very "deciding" for a person's characteristics.
This has largely replaced discredited biological racism. The function is the same, though: Justifying existing social hierarchies. If we are actually not all equal it's ok that we don't live under equal conditions.
So, in your transhumanist future, exist there any power difference, privileges between sentients? If so those in a better position (relative to anyone) will look for a way to justify this, maybe an updated form of cultural racism, maybe they'll invent 'cognitive types' or something else.
The important point for this something else that it attaches to a person or a group an *unchangable' characteristicum that will justify their lower status.
If, on the other hand, in your transhumanist future, there's little privilege to defend, such an updated racism will have less foothold.
If we're talking of racism specifically and not simply prejudice, then understanding what might happen in this transhumanist future requires an appreciation of where racism originated.
It's been mentioned that people are naturally distrusting of those outside of their comfort zone; their in-group. This relates to the Dunbar number, or the average number of meaningful personal relationships a primate species is capable of (thus group sizes and potential for empathy) based on their brain size. That's a fairly hard rule, but it doesn't mean it will translate into institutional racism.
The racism we see today is based upon specific social developments. Firstly, the domination of the world by European-American Imperialism, which in large part relied upon the transatlantic slave trade, which led to pseudo-scientific ideas for why this had happened, which, unsurprisingly, offered convenient explanation for the imperial powers. Of course Africans are slaves because they're not really human, and so it's fine to enslave them because they can't do any better.
This intellectual framework relied upon an understanding of feudalism. In the old world society was stratified into (generally speaking) nobles, merchants, and peasants. Slavery was not an alien concept in this context since peasants were often legally tied to their land, and thus owned by their lord. Serfdom was an even nastier sort of system; the serf one rung below a peasant and one rung above a slave on the social ladder.
This social system was transplanted to the Americas by the colonial powers. Old world divisions dissolved and were reformed along racial lines to reflect the new power dynamics. In Spain's empire Iberians were at the top, Amerindians in the middle, and Africans at the bottom. This division became law... but over time it became awkward to the point of absurdity. What happens when an Iberian has a child with an Amerindian? Well, obviously they form a new caste which sits between the two. And then, what of when their children are from union with other castes? As you can imagine, after a few generations it became almost unenforceable because at first glance it was now impossible to tell which group one belonged to. Little surprise that this system crashed and burned by the time of Simon Bolivar's revolutionary wars. The racism we see today is a legacy of those times and a continuation of those beliefs.
So, how would transhumanism change this? One potential is that it makes it much easier for people to empathise with out-groups, because of body swapping they can be black for a week, and thus see how they are treated differently. In theory this should lead to a severe drop in racism.
Perhaps the state could mandate that in order to reduce prejudice, during their teenage years children have their bodies swapped a few times for a few months at a go, ensuring that as a result of them existing as a few different genders, sexualities, and ethnicities, they are trained to have greater empathy, as natural out-groups become part of their individual identity.
However, it depends on how fairly the gains of this transhumanist future have been shared. It'd be quite easy to imagine the technology is priced out of the market for the most people, ensuring a social decay back to God-kings of old. Only now they actually are immortal demi-Gods of sorts. The richest can afford super GM bodies and live forever. The poor? Well they're not much worth keeping alive for that long, are they?
Prejudices in that case would carry on because the social circumstances don't change. Similarly in a future where there's major wars between different ethnic factions there would be a lot of hurt and anger on both sides. You've also got to consider that even if we can change our bodies to any sort of shape... would we want to? Would it be allowed?
Self-expression isn't a value which has universal appeal. Most of the world's societies are guided by conformity and tradition. In that case, even if let's say, space North Korea, has its citizens granted immortality, why would they be given a body that was not what is deemed absolutely Korean? Either the culture or the state dictates what is acceptable, and if neither approve of self expression people will neither want nor be allowed to defy tradition. Therefore whoever looks like an outsider won't be considered a full member of the group.
An even nastier idea is perhaps that the state or culture encourage racist beliefs as part of their judicial system, and punish people by giving them the body of a group the people have been taught to dislike. Then we don't so much have a meme which associates, say, black people with crime; but rather makes a causal relationship between the two. You are white or black or whatever, because you are a convict.
When we look at evolution we often discover that doing something the way we always did have been the key to survival. Because hey it worked so far right?
So every time something new is introduced to the reptilian brain, a certain kind of suspicious arise. The same kind of suspicion starts when your boss tells you to work in another way, it is the reptilian mind, it is also the reptilian mind that make you go back to the old routines, even though your intelligent brain tells you it is more efficient the other way.
Now when you see something or someone that looks different the reptilian mind is also there, the brain at the first stage register the change.
The first iteration it might not even be a someone it registers just that the grass field looks different than before, then second iteration it registers what is the change, and this is just comparison, does it look like me or not.
If it does the brain don't put as much work in to it, but if it don't it starts to register, is it a rolling bolder, a charging bear, pouncing tiger or a person that looks different.
Now the reptilian brain teaches the brain what to be aware of to survive. To make it to the fittest part. It might not just be racism. A person's skin color. (Outsiders might be marauders coming to burn the village and kill us) It can also be towards persons with baggy jeans and hoodies, in case a person had a previous experience with people with those significant symbols.
The brain thinks in symbols, so it is important to remember that one can even experience a cautious nature towards a certain person based on walk, talk, clothes, would it be baggy jeans or a police uniform.
This is where racism originates from, a combination of the nature of the reptilian brain and what you teaches it.
If you teaches the brain to be warm and welcoming towards everyone, if you talk to people of many cultures, you teach the primitive brain that other people are ok. In-fact you don't even need to wait for an immortal human with cyber brain, you can start today!
In a universe like that, there is any motivation for racism to still exist?
Fundamentally, racism exists because of differences between people. It happens that it involves discrimination or negativity based on a specific identifier.
Race is an obvious and external difference currently and as such is often the precipitator for this discrimination.
Humans like feeling part of a group. Unless in your future society this social aspect of humankind is gone, it is likely that:
It is entirely likely and possible that humans will take those new differences and effectively create new forms of discrimination/racism. Whether those are explicitly racism is up for debate, you might not have "racism" on a technicality, but the underlying motivation and premise will surely still exist.
Simple answer but people find reason to be racist, for example they will be racist vs people because they choose a white body e.g. how stupid they are.
It is like Apple and Samsung even if we can choose the people still hate each other on stupid small things.
People could hate on other people depending on where you were born. Here in China we have the best bodies and stuff like that.
Also culture and religion form hate and racism.
I think strictly defined racism will fade. It might take a while, but as visual racial characteristics disappear and time passes, people will find other reasons to discriminate.
Cultural Racism will be with us as long as we will have cultures. The idea of "Us vs. Them" is very strongly embedded in the human psyche and will probably be so forever.
There will probably be more movement between cultures when people no longer carry their ancestry on their skin. This will probably stop discrimination from becoming too bad, as people will simply desert to other cultures. Except for a few fanatics. See that guy over there? He is the last remaining plaid-skin! What a criminal disregard of the Monochrome Law!
Consider this: You have not been promoted, but that other guy is. Which explanation are you most likely to believe:
We Greens have to stick together to fight Blue-skins racism!
In times of plenty, everybody are friends and nobody is discriminated against. Not much, anyway.
In times of scarce, people start looking for scapegoats, and it is always "Them". "They" are taking all our jobs. "They" are getting all the good asteroids, leaving just the gravel to "Us".
Unfortunately, something is always scarce, and "plenty" is always relative. It doesn't matter that you have a spaceship if your neighbor has two. How did he get so rich? Must be nepotism...
Yes, racism will persist.
Even though we all merge into one race - same skin shade, same shape, same hair, same crotch/infant-feeding equipment, same abilities... There will persist the reason to hate "the other group (race)": straights vs. LGBT; men vs. women.
Ok, we are all the same, we are all hermaprodites. All exactly the very same... There is still reason to hate "the other group(race)": Age; Older hate the younger because, well, they are younger, healthier, full of ambitions,... Youngsters hate elders because they won't let them do what they wanna do,...
Ok, the "science&technology" vanished aging, health differences and there are three states of human being: infant-adults totally isolated from the others, grown, AI-educated. Adults moving freely. New adults are indistinguishable from the ones who just moved from another place. Their death is driven only by probability. Dead ones. But there is still a reason why to hate"the other race": North-comers vs. South-comers.
Ok, S&T guys took over the Earth and Moon kinetics, so the Earth rotates randomly, so does the Moon. There is no North, South, east or West. The surface is terraformed so every cubicle has the equal sea-to-soil ratio, they are exactly the same. But there is another reason to hate "the other race": Religion. The catholics hate protestants, Westboro baptist church hates everybody else, All hates atheists.
Ok, there is one and only one religion (no religion is religion too), right? Satisfied? But there is another... Aw, c'mon! ...reason to hate "the other race": Habits. Big-end hate the small-ends, Cat-lovers have dog-lovers,...
Ok, people are exactly the same, there is absolutely no difference between two people right? NO DIFFERENCE, guaranteed.
But do they have free will? Are they people, actually?
Darn, only two stones cannot be racist, because they do not think at all. But there is The First Sirian Bank, you know.
I wish I have never ever asked... (I wish there were translation, but you don't actually need to hear what they speak, her faces are well descriptive...)
Transhumanism will provide the ability to create not just new races, but entire new species of humanity (descendants of humans who are unable to reproduce with traditional humans without the assistance of technology). Development of these new species will be driven by cultural values.
In fact, people with strongly held ideologies (religious zealots, fanatical communists, etc.) will seek to encode these ideologies into their offspring. If a subculture values obedience to elders, they will encode obedience into the genome of their offspring. If a subculture values pacifism, they will remove the ability to experience rage from their offspring. Clearly, these new races and species will have very strong fundamental disagreements about a wide variety of core beliefs.
Just go on the internet and see, we always find reasons to hate eachother like
the shows we watch
the music we listen
the way we dress
the people we vote for
the imaginary invisible borders we were born in
cat vs dog
thor vs loki
iphone vs android
A semantic quibble: several of these answers say "yes" (which is ridiculous) but then go on to explain that they actually mean "not per se, but new bigotries/factionalism would take its place" (which unfortunately I believe).
This is a sci-fi pet peeve of mine. If you want to write dystopian scifi, write dystopian scifi. But don't give me a utopian transcendent race and then tell me "but they still believe the racial gobbledy-gook that was invented in England in the 16th century to justify replacing the banned indentured servitude market with an African slave market. Oh and everyone still conforms to 1950's gender norms. And the Foundation will still run on nuclear power."
Hopefully we'll have evolved beyond our baser instincts toward factionalism, but at the very least I am certain the factions won't be "blue skins" vs "red skins."
Instead, I think it would be between the "baselines" (those who stick to the level humans had naturally evolved to at the time this transfer-to-a-new-body singularity happened, basically using the new technology as a rejuvination or back-up safety system [more "facelift" than "breast augmentation" you might say]) and those who don't.
Discrimination is human nature, its how we differentiate one thing from another. In fact, I'll go as far as saying that differentiation is a base constituting common human analysis done by a thinking mind.
There will always be a "sought after" human body / enhancement. Something that'll set it apart. People who don't have it hate the ones who do and scream, "My Privilege!!". People who do have it cry, "Damn Plebians!!"
Some human characteristics are just more perfect and fine than others. It gives rise to the human need to always have that perfection in no matter what they do. Sometimes this need is even seen in pretty mundane things.
So coming back to the point, human beings , as they say, will always find a way.
Here's a small thesis on human nature. Its pretty crude but it gets the point across. Its not easily understood, but it delves pretty deep into the workings of the gritty societal structure that is and constitutes being human.