THE TRANSHUMANISM SCRAPBOOK: GENETICALLY EDITED HUMANS IN TWO YEARS?November 27, 2015
This is another case where so many of you shared versions of this story, it would be impossible to thank you all by name(or rather, by initials, as is our custom here when we have the chance). But this story is so significant not only for the growing "transhumanist" agenda in popular culture, and for recent geopolitical developments, that to ignore it might be akin to a "sin of omission," for the idea is now circulating around the internet that genetically modified humans are on their way, perhaps in as little as two years:
I want to draw your attention to these parts of the article, outlining the new CRISPR genetic engineering technique, and its implications for the possibility of "designer babies," even though, at the moment, the technique is being touted in terms of preventative "genetic medicine":
The biotech firm Editas Medicine says that humans who have had their DNA genetically modified could exist within the next 2 years. The company announced that it will soon start the first trials of what it calls a groundbreaking new technique.
U.S.-based Editas is striving to become the first lab in the world to edit the DNA of patients suffering from leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a genetic condition that causes severe vision loss at birth. Some LCA patients also experience central nervous system conditions, such as epilepsy, developmental delays and motor skill impairment.
LCA is said to be caused by defects in a gene responsible for the creation of a protein that is vital to vision. Editas Medicine scientists believe they can fix the mutated DNA using gene-editing technology known as CRISPRs.
CRISPRs, which stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” allows scientists to edit genes “with precision, efficiency and flexibility,” Gizmodoexplained in a May 5, 2015 article. Researchers have reportedly been able to create monkeys with targeted mutations and prevent HIV infection in human cells using this piece of biotechnology.
In early May, Chinese scientists said they’d successfully applied CRISPRs to nonviable human embryos, suggesting that the technology could someday be used to treat any genetic disease. It might even be used to create “designer babies” in the future, though that day is a long ways off.
As always, the ethical and moral problems posed by such technologies come to the forefront: in the "brave new world" of designer babies, for example, will one be allowed to "take the chance" and have babies that might be born with such birth defects, or other birth defects, "the old fashioned way," or will the new technologies compel new types of regulations of human procreation itself? Will one have to undergo genetic testing and obtain a "permit to copulate" and reproduce? And will one be required to allow genetic engineering of one's offspring if, for example, genetic testing indicate the possibility or probability of some defect? Will it be, in other words, an excuse to practice a soft form of eugenics? More importantly, will such techniques be the camel's nose in the tent, to press for patenting of such offspring, or even the idea of an annuity to be paid to ma corporation for the use of its technologies in having such "designer babies"? Given the track record of corporate greed and mercantilisti policies in the GMO business "community," the possibility does exist, and therefore demands vigilance to prevent yet another massive expansion of corporate power at the expense of individual human freedom and rights.
All of these possibilities are, as I've argued before, in the offing.
But there's another possibility that occurred to me when I read the many articles on this story that people were sending to me, a possibility reinforced by the timing of this story so close to the recent attacks in Paris, and that possibility might be voiced in the form of a question: why this story, now? The high octane speculative answer came almost immediately: how better to fight a "war on terror" against the existential threat of jihadism, not simply with drones, or, as is probably coming, robots, but also with the "super-soldier," the soldier enhanced by a variety of technologies including nanotechnology, exoskeletal suits magnifying physical power and pwerformance, genetic alterations to allow less, or little sleep, food, self-healing wounds, and so on? Such technologies, from a certain point of view, would arguably be an affront to Muslim theological tenets and hence "off limits," just as we have seen more fundamentalist pronouncements from that culture against the idea of a permanent human presence on other celestial bodies such as Mars. In that case, such technologies would give the non-Muslim world a huge technological and military advantage, and expose the Islamic investments in acquisition of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons as a huge waste of money. In the light of this high octane speculative context, it is interesting indeed to contemplate the fact that both DARPA in the West, and Russia, have made the acquisition of sophisticated robotic technology - with all its attendant nano- and genetic technology offshoots - high priority projects for their militaries, and I cannot help but think that this prioritization are in large part due to a long term "assessment of the situation" regarding the "War on Terror."
See you on the flip side...