Gene editing could lead to the Brave New World

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On the latest Pivot podcast, author and journalist Walter Isaacson discusses the giant leap made in gene editing but warned of dark possibilities it may hold for our future.

Isaacson of the Aspen Institute is very enthusiastic about the leap ‘forward.’  It could give us better genes to fight diseases. He does have a deep concern, however.

This treatment will be expensive and will end up more readily in the hands of the elite [and they don’t have genes for good character].

The biggest things he worries about are “if this sort of genetic supermarket isn’t free — and it won’t be — the rich could buy better genes, and we could exacerbate the inequality we have in our society. Not just exacerbate it but encode it into our species like in Brave New World or Gattaca.”

The interviewer asked, Meaning they don’t get sick, or they don’t get —

Isaacson:

Or they have children that are six inches taller than the rest of us. Or they decide, with all due respect to Scott, that “I want a full head of blond hair for my kid.” And they edit their own children, and they buy better genes for them. Eventually, it could even be things like memory or intelligence or height or muscle mass or eye color or anything. Secondly, I think if we let this just be a free-market thing, that it could end up being what I would call free-market eugenics. Now, with eugenics, we think about the Nazis or even Cold Spring Harbor, where the government mandates master-race kind of things.

I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about individual choices where people edit out the diversity of our species. Behind me, you can see on your little SquadCast thing these big doors behind me that open to a balcony on Royal Street. I remember walking with your two sons; they were visiting once. Royal Street is filled with all sorts of characters — short and tall and fat and skinny and Creole-colored and black and white and gay and straight and trans and deaf and hearing enabled. That’s what makes our species so cool and so great and creative and resilient. If we allow people to say, “I want to edit out anything that I call a deviation from typical,” that’s a bad thing too.

The wealthy who are currently destroying this nation will have the power. What could go wrong?

Not so fantastical any longer:

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