“You can’t really put a lid on it, even if you wanted to” ~ Dr Jennifer Doudna, CRISPR researcher
As always, the dichotomy between freedom and equality threatens to split humanity.
This time though, I’m not talking about economic freedom vs economic equality; that good old battle between free market “monopoly capitalists” and their arch enemies the red-beret wearing communists and their Marxist cousins.
Rather, I am talking about the coming conflict between procreative freedom and genetic inequality. In other words, the conflict between randomly selected Homo Sapiens (you know, mom meets dad, stuff happens, you arrive nine months later) and intelligently designed Designer Babies (chosen from superior sperm and eggs, deliberately edited in a petri-dish via CRISPR technology to eliminate “bad” genes and select the best ones before conception).
Just like with the economic struggle between liberty and equality, it is gong to become very hard to accommodate both natural selection and intelligent design.
Well, as intelligently designed embryos become commercially available and socially acceptable (although, truth be told, that second part is not entirely necessary) parents will become obligated to genetically engineer their own offspring, or doom their defendants to, at best poverty and irrelevance, and at worst oppression, or even extermination in a world where CRISPR kids have every advantage – height, health, attractiveness, intelligence* – over their naturally selected counterparts. In other words, eugenics as real, not pseudo science.
Within a generation or few, the superior CRISPR kids extra-superior CRISPR great-grand babies could, realistically, have evolved into as author Yuval Harari writes, an entirely new superior species, “Homo Deus”. This hypothetical split in humanity’s evolutionary family tree, dividing the genetically superior from the genetically inferior is known as the Bifurcation of the human race.
This would be a wonderful advantage for Homo Deuses, but a horrible threat for Homo Sapiens. Economic inequality is nothing compared to genetic inequality.
If you think racism, or classism is disgusting, just wait until we start with the speciesism
Naturally selected Sapien parents will be pressured, even obligated to edit their own offspring to at least give them a fighting chance in a world run (or even overrun) by supermen.
Keeping up with the Jones will take on a whole new meaning.
This, of course, will mean the results of “accidental” pregnancies will become even less desirable than they are now, and the spontaneity of procreative freedom will be frowned upon – or even, potentially, dammed as “child abuse” (stranger things have happened).
Of course, this may not happen at all.
But then again, it only takes one guy. One government to start actively sponsoring the super-human race, and we will all be swept up in the competition. This won’t be an opt-out game: It will be a case of compete, or go extinct.
And Chinese scientists are already experimenting with Crispr-Cas9 to develop “inheritable DNA changes” in human embryos (something that even the co-founder of CRISPR technology, Dr Jennifer Doudna, finds disturbing).
If China is breeding CRISPR kids, our countries will follow suite, for better or for worse.
This is happing now. It’s an issue for our generation. Our decisions will design the future for Generation Alpha.
*Disclaimer, although CRISPR technology is very, very impressive and has already saved babies from being born with terrible genetic abnormalities and illnesses, the ability to select and edit all the various genes required for beauty and brains is not quite a reality, yet, although it surely will be within our lifetimes.