ENGINEERING A COMPLETE MAN

Man was once the weakest animal on this earth. Once he was a ‘freak of nature’. He wanted to survive, yet he did not have inherent means for survival. The armoury he developed for his survival included capacity for thought, imagination, ingenuity, and self-awareness. Man now is the most evolved species. He has created social and religious orders, based on agriculture and animal husbandry. With the development of reason and conscience, he emerged from nature; he felt ‘fully born’, ‘fully awake’, and ‘fully human’. He is more intelligent than other animals. Is he a complete man?

According to one view Man is ruled by reason, rather than instincts. According to another view human behaviour is more flexibly intelligent, because humans have more instincts. The paradox of evolution is that it makes man the most complex as well as the simplest. With evolution man has become more integrated as well as differentiated. Man wants to maintain his uniqueness as well as identity. He wants to be an integral part of the society. His increased complexity gives him an opportunity to make him more versatile and useful. The incentive for human being to become more complex is that he wants to rule the Earth. Man rules the earth even though he is a minority among all living things. Minority ruling the earth is therefore not a new phenomenon; it is natural, and we have observed this phenomenon in many other spheres of human activity.

Man is the sum of inherited and acquired qualities. He is born with instincts bred into him. His temperament is constitutional. It is changeable, to some extent, by insights and new experiences. His interaction with the outside world essentially forms his character.

Man is a blend of various orientations. People with ‘receptive’ orientation believe that the source of all goods to be outside. These people do not believe in making their own efforts in getting information; they would rather find somebody else to give them the needed information. They feel lost when alone. They wish to help others and also do not hesitate in securing favours from others. People with ‘exploitative’ orientation believe in getting things from others by force or by cunning. Such people believe in stealing ideas, even though they possess the capacity to generate new ideas. They tend to overrate what others have, and underrate what is theirs. People with ‘hoarding’ orientation believe in their security, based on hoarding and saving. They are miser not only to material things but also to feelings and thoughts. These people tend to feel they possess only a fixed quantity of strength, energy, or mental capacity, and this stock is diminished or exhausted by use, and can never be replenished. Such people have scant respect for intimacy; their attitude is ‘mine is mine and yours is yours’. People with ‘marketing orientation’ know how nicely to package and sell themselves to the market. They always like to be in demand. They are available as you desire them to be.

In the beginning man was totally dependent on the environment. There were few men and their requirements were also few. Environment was not in danger. With the increase in our number, our requirement increased. But the increase in our requirement was disproportionate. Man-Environment balance is thus getting threatened. A consequence of this is that environment has started feeling the pressure of man’s intrusions and exploits. It feels as if man is hostile to it.

Man is a product of gene and society. Genes give him less than what society requires of him. Do we need to modify man in order to fulfil his needs? Yes, both psychologically and sociologically. Should we synthesize or modify human beings biologically to increase their utility? We have done this with other living organisms. Should we use technology to increase the productivity of man?

Our scientists want to rewrite life from the scratch; merely tinkering with life's genetic code does not satisfy them. In this age of synthetic biology they are trying to create novel forms of life. They want to make synthetic DNA, and from the DNA to genes, then from the genes to genomes. They want to build the molecular machinery of completely new organisms. They say: "The genetic code is 3.6 billion years old. It's time for a rewrite." There are others who say, “To take God's place, without being God, is insane arrogance, a risky and dangerous venture." There are also people who say, "If we don't play God, who will?"

The desirable attributes of a complete man are: enhanced mental and physical abilities and devoid of undesirable attributes such as stupidity, suffering, disease, ageing, and involuntary death. At the same time man is not man if he doesn’t have some amount of inherent stupidity. Man must suffer, must age, and must die. Another specification of a complete man could be: he is creative; has scientific insight; has determination; has reforming capabilities; has leadership abilities; has conscience; he is a visionary, and has tolerance for nonsense. In other words, a mix of Rabindranath Tagore (for creativity), Jagdish Chandra Bose (for scientific insight), Mahatma Gandhi (foe determination), Raja Rammohan Roy (for reforming capability), Jamshedji Tata (for leadership), Vivekanand (for conscience), Jawahar Lal Nehru (visionary), and common man (for tolerance for nonsense).

Though man knows how a complete man should like, man can’t engineer a complete man. “When systems are not engineered but instead allowed to evolve – to build themselves – then the resultant whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We must recognise the fact that we humans were produced by a process that was not engineering. “There is another approach besides the strict engineering approach which can produce something of that complexity, and that’s the evolutionary approach.” I think the idea of designing a complete man should never be entertained. One should wait for the complete man to evolve.

The last century witnessed momentous changes in all spheres of human activity; the most significant ones were in the field of science. The progress in science in this century is continuing with much faster pace. The resulting material benefits will create problems of disparity among its users, notwithstanding the need of better environment protection measures. This raises few other questions. Should we leave the destiny of man in the hands of science alone? Does science needs restraint, particularly in its application? Man belongs to two different worlds, the world of natural necessity, and the world of moral freedom. In one sphere he is doing pretty well. There is, however, much to learn in the other sphere. A proper balance between these two spheres will be the major challenge for man in this century.

Our situation is like that of a fluid in a bucket. If you swirl the fluid vigorously, there is vortex formation. If you want to reduce vortex formation, place your finger in the bucket. Your finger acts like a baffle. We are moving very fast in the material world, and if we don’t want void or vortex formation, then we must place moral baffles at appropriate points.

The problems of moral freedom have appeared in every age. When they went out of control, arrived men to bring them in control. Such men have arrived in the past, and they will arrive in the future. Man has not lost faith in man. He knows that his future exists in the present. Learning mistakes from the follies is an ongoing process. Man has known that destruction is bad. He is also learning to curb his capacity of destruction.

There are reasons of developing destructive capacity. Erich Fromm in Man for Himself writes that man’s failure to use and spend what he has is the cause of his unhappiness. If he has potential, but somehow his tendency to grow is thwarted, he feels suffocated. The unspent energy undergoes a process of change, and is transformed into destructive energy. The main point he made was that “Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”

Our failure to use and to spend what we have is one of the major causes of unhappiness. We are living far below our capacity to live. How to realize our unrealized possibilities is the greatest challenge of the moment. Let man get the opportunities to use all his capacities. Let man be a complete man. More the man is complete, lesser are the chances of unrest.

Generally we can’t see even when our windows are open. We don’t notice things even if they exist in front of our eyes. Though we are continuously evolving, we have not reached the destination. How far we are from the destination? Are we responsible for the future of evolution?

We do not know if there is ultimate destination of evolution. But we know that in many respects we are still inadequate. If something is inaccessible to us, we think it doesn’t exist. Our perceptions dictate how we see a particular thing, and react to a particular situation. Such people are rare who can see the world even when they are not looking through a window. They can see, because they are gifted; they are exceptional. They have extrasensory perception.

As Schumacher puts it: “This searching uses not only the sensory information but also other knowledge and experience…there are inevitably many things which people can see but which others cannot, or, to put it differently, for which some people are adequate while others are not.”

Man can only become man by education, a kind of education which encompasses those searching qualities. Let man understand that “there is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying meat and drink...”. Long live Plato, long live man!