By ANNALISE SCHULMAN
November 10, 2017
“Remember those kooky dystopian science fiction books many of us enjoyed? We have been living them for a little while now, and most people don’t really understand that.”
Remember those kooky dystopian science fiction books many of us enjoyed? We have been living them for a little while now, and most people don’t really understand that.
Now, before you roll your eyes and say “yes yes, I know,” hear me out:
Every day we read the same sort of stories on the internet with jaw-dropping titles like Teleportation Exists and Scientists Have Discovered Immortality only learn that scientists have just proven a theory that has been known for years and that technically there is an “immortal” jellyfish that doesn’t age, but how’s that going to help us?
These articles have gotten so ridiculous that many people have become completely desensitized to the age we are just now entering. They dismiss this reality as just another hoax. But life is about to become fantastical. And, surely, after the initial uproar, we’ll be living our lives in this sci-fi world like nothing is happening. Because that’s how humans are.
CRISPER-Cas9 technology and other methods of gene alteration are creative uses of what already exists in the natural world thatoffallows us to take any gene we want and insert it into anything we like.
Ultra muscular dogs? China’s done that. Take out the myostatin using CRISPER and, bang, muscle growth becomes crazy.
Look at this craziness:
That picture is not doctored. If we’ve done it to dogs it means we can do it to humans. Like, today, we could create an embryo that will later grow up to be Captain America. And not just in super strength, but with blond hair, blue eyes, the works.
We are entering the world of Gattaca, right now. Not soon. Now.
In fact, over the last few years, scientists have come up with a nearly foolproof plan to take out humans’ largest predator, the Anopheles Mosquito, and completely eradicate Malaria, along with many other massive diseases, forever. Just like that.
So why haven’t we yet?
Because scientists know that once we get that ball rolling, we can never stop it.
Eradicate a species in a few years? I guarantee you that all that would take is one clever biologist and a few thousand dollars of lab equipment to create the genetically altered mosquitoes. They get out, pass their gene drives to others, rendering, say, the female progeny infertile, and within a few years, every Anopheles Mosquito on earth is dead.
Have a family go to a fertility clinic and select for an embryo that will grow to be taller than his father’s 5 foot 1 stature? What about a parent that wants a basketball star? We can probably do it (although height is a little more complicated than, say eye color) but it can be done. It has been done, in a way, with seed banks and other services. Did you know that there is a company that will sort a father’s sperm in the U.S. so that you can choose whether your baby will be a boy or girl? Turns out most people here want girls. Funny huh?
Remember Michael Crichton’s Next? Yeah, we are past that point. This is here, and all it takes is one public use to get the ball rolling. So don’t be surprised when, one day, the world just becomes…different.
Now, just to elaborate, I’m not talking about using this technology to cure diseases. Cure an entire future family line from Huntington’s? Cake. And arguments of playing God or no, I am all for that. I also think that, no matter what I’m for, this more recreational use of gene therapy will become a reality too. I’ve made my peace with that.
Kill off an entire race of people by unleashing a targeted superbug? Yeah, don’t know if we are there yet, but we will be, soon. But the instructions to build a nuke are readily available online because it’s super easy.
The limiting factor, which is difficult, but not impossible to procure, is the proper isotope of uranium. And, look, we are all still here. Because, let’s be frank, how many people with the sanity and means really want to destroy the world? Fewer then we would think. Just look at the lack of mass nukings.
So what needs to be said?
People need to realize that this is happening. What can we do about it? Protest? Help? Get super angsty, write a Facebook post, then forget the next day?
No. What we need to do, for once, is to pass preemptive legislation and take control of the situation before this hits the fan. Figure it out, in the usual slow, grumbly manner of government so that this powerful, godlike technology can emerge in a world that is, for once, prepared for it.