Saturday, December 17, 2016

Genetically engineered humans will arrive sooner than you think. And we're not ready.; Vox, 12/15/16

Sean Illing, Vox; Genetically engineered humans will arrive sooner than you think. And we're not ready. :
"Michael Bess is a historian of science at Vanderbilt University and the author of a fascinating new book, Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in a Bioengineered Society. Bess’s book offers a sweeping look at our genetically modified future, a future as terrifying as it is promising...
Sean Illing
I'm always amazed at how little technologists tend to think about the moral and political implications of their work. For example, it's hard to imagine how disruptive this kind of biotechnology will be to our sense of fairness and equity.
We should be very concerned about the societal risks that would emerge alongside these bioenhancement technologies. Because presumably, in the beginning at least, only rich people will have access to this technology, and I wonder what kind of disorder that could spawn.
Michael Bess
Well, let's put it this way: If only rich people have access to these technologies, then we have a very big problem, because it's going to take the kinds of inequalities that have been getting worse over recent decades, even in a rich country like ours, and make them much worse, and inscribe those inequalities into our very biology.
So it's going to be very hard for somebody to be born poor and bootstrap themselves up into a higher position in society when the upper echelons of society are not only enjoying the privileges of health and education and housing and all that, but are bioenhancing themselves to unprecedented levels of performance. That's going to render permanent and intractable the separation between rich and poor.
For me, then, one of the imperatives that's going to arise out of bioenhancement is we're going to have to, in a sense, become Sweden. We're going to have to find a way to socialize the benefits of these technologies and offer them, at least as an option, to all citizens.
Doing this in a rich country like ours is hard enough — the challenge of doing this on a planetary scale is far more daunting."

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