not the only one to do thought experiments.
The good science fiction writers with a scientific understanding (Michael
Crichton), take today’s science and technology and transpose it into a possible
future. Very often, years later,
science fiction becomes science reality.
discoveries are happening all the time but get lost in the noise of politics
and culture. Walter Isaacson’s new book
Code Breakers has now moved to the best sellers list. It brings to light the science of CRISPR; but
is more a biography of one of the discoverers, Jennifer Doudna.
CRISPR is a
technology that allows bio-scientist to edit strings of DNA. It offers the real possibility of genetically
protecting the human race from Alzheimer’s, cancer, leukemia, sickle cell
anemia and other inheritable maladies; along with a cure for many virus
infections like HIV, flue and Covid…
CRISPR has already been used on humans. In China, scientist He Jiankui edited the genes of unborn twins Lulu and Nana, protecting them against HIV which carries
a devastating stigma in China.
also a down side of gene editing that could lead to one of the many science
fiction future. Using CRISPR we can
cut-and-paste genes outside the body and then reintroduce them, as well as modify
genes in-uterus. Once certain
genes are modified, they can become inheritable. We have been modifying genetic traits for
decades through selective breeding. We
have been able to design cattle, dog and cat breeds as well as breeding plants with
specific traits. Now we can do this by DNA
cell manipulation. CRISPR offers the
real possibility of designer human beings.
we now have the capability of defining hair color, eye color, height, muscle
mass and resistances to illness; but we may also be able to define intelligence,
life span, skin tone (race?).
biologist believed that certain emotional traits are defined by DNA, such as aggressiveness,
religiousness, ethical behavior… in which case they could also be modified.
We could be
talking about a total redesign of the human race. Designed warriors, designed
workers, a master race? We have been
And who would control this power? Likely the people rich enough to fund the
Christianity wades in immediately claiming scientist are playing God: A God that has given us birth defects, infant
mortality, infant and childhood diseases, retardation….
always drags us forward, while religion attempts to drag us backwards.
be put back in the bottle. CRISPR is
here. We are at the very beginning of
a genetic revolution. Forty years ago,
Apple came up with the personal computer.
It had a blinking cursor on the screen and could do very basic
operations, with a 112 kilobytes memory. Today, forty years later, my Walmart
purchased computer has gigabytes of memory and operating capacity far beyond my
ability. Where will genetics be in forty
If it can be
done someone will do it.
If it can be
done some country, race or religion with the money to finance will use it: Russia,
China, US, Israel, Mormons…
next forty years we are going to see science fiction evolve to science, and a
human race that will eventually look back on us as primitives.
In a way, I
am glad I won’t be there.