Technology Is Neither Good Or Evil, But Gene Editing Risks Crossing The Line
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I was rewatching the movie "Gattaca" recently, and it got me thinking about the scandal last year when a scientist claimed to have genetically engineered HIV-resistant twins. Such "designer babies" pose some serious ethical questions. For one, they could lead to increases in existing socioeconomic disparities. Obviously, accessing the technology necessary to select offspring traits in some hypothetical future would come with a hefty price tag. People who are better off would be able to create smarter, stronger, prettier babies while the rest of us would be stuck with the genetic lottery.

There is also what I like to call the "Jurassic Park" paradox, where such high-tech engineering could result in unpredictable outcomes. In the effort to create an Ubermensch, we could end up producing creatures with unpredictable emergent properties. While the ability to switch genders and produce offspring is relatively benign (for the dinosaurs, not the humans), imagine if such babies had increased cancer risk later in life, or increased susceptibility to certain illnesses?

Or take the story of Frankenstein. An attempt to create an Ubermensch, we could produce a living creature that is so far in the uncanny valley that people would be so disturbed by it that they would reject it from society, leading to the creature's isolation and ostracization. I would not like to see what happens when a person gifted with peak physical abilities and intellect feels socially bereft. Imagine the carnage.

And if you remove the need for social engagement, then you are essentially creating a psychopath with unmatched physical and mental ability. Which is still a terrifying a prospect.

I accept that much of this piece is literally the stuff of science fiction, the same was once said of spaceships and automation. To paraphrase Crichton, scientists are often so focused on whether the could that they forget to ponder whether they should. Such thought exercises, besides being highly entertaining, serve as a reminder of the need for humility in scientific progress.

Now, technology and progress itself are not inherently good or evil. They are inanimate concepts and therefore without morality. It is the ends (planned and inadvertent) to which they are used, by the people who use them, that require ethical examination and legal regulation.

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