We are definitely entering a weird new world where cars will drive themselves, AI will be taking over a lot of our work load even making decisions for us in some cases, cryptocurrencies will be mainstream, holograms will be real and more.
One of the weirder capabilities that we will have is of high tech genetic modification. This is kind of a grey area as far as morality is concerned because genes are the foundational basis for life itself and editing them might be like playing with life itself.
There are many different applications of genetic modification ranging from medicine, agriculture, research to even industrial applications, but today I want to talk about a futuristic use case of creating ‘designer babies’.
If that term confuses you, let me quickly explain what it means. In simple words, a designer baby is a baby whose genes were modified when it was in the embryonic stage to produce particular desirable traits.
Designer Babies of The Future
Technology has always made the seemingly impossible, possible. With our current technology, there is not much we can do as far as designer babies are concerned but scientists think that we might some day be able to do more, much more!
Not only could be determine the cosmetic changes in a baby like the colour of eyes, hair, skin, general appearance, we will also be able to make it immune to many, many diseases. Of course it can’t be immune to all the diseases, but every single one that it can be immune to is a risk averted.
On top of that, even though some scientists doubt it, some others suggest that one day we might be able to even enhance things like strength, intelligence, and other abilities, though doing that would be no simple feat as we just don’t have any clue about how many genes come together to bring out those traits in a child. But it remains to be seen.
Of course, this raises a lot of concerns as well. If this technology were available to the general public in the future, and parents chose to enhance other traits of a baby rather than just cosmetic ones, it could create a great divide. Designer babies could have unprecedented advantages over non-designer babies and our very civilisation would then be divided.
Ethics Committee Gives A Green Light
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB) recently came out with a report on the ethical issues of human gene editing which states that editing human embryos is morally permissible if we take several key factors into consideration.
The considerations are pretty logical as well and is something that regulators in the future will definitely have to mull over. For starters, the report states that any such modification will be such that it doesn’t harm the lineage of the genetically modified human.
Another one of the important factors is that genetic modification should not increase divisions in a society which is highly likely if people start using this technology to enhance the abilities of their children. This has the potential to disrupt the very fabric of society, and not in a good way.
The different countries of the world will have to come up with their own regulations (since NCB doesn’t have a jurisdiction to draft laws) and even the simple uses of the technology should only be allowed after much discussion and assessment.