Shall We Fear Designer Babies?
I suppose that my title is rather misleading. “Designer” tends to imply aesthetics which is not what I am writing about. I am writing of our future survival. If we develop gene repair techniques which prevent illness and they are designed into our progeny, then I think “designer baby” fits.
Since we no longer follow natural evolution, aka natural selection, negative mutations will continue to creep into our collective genomes and be propagated (my myopia for example). In other words, if random mutations drove evolution, without selection pressure now, mutations will cause a decline in fitness. So we have developed corrective lenses, insulin and everything else our technology has allowed in order to overcome the results of the declining fitness of our genes.
The principle of ‘survival of the fittest’ throughout our evolutionary past brought us to this point but we stepped beyond what mere nature could do many, many years ago. The first hominid who cared for a sick tribe member essentially put the first nail in the coffin of natural selection for humans. Today, no longer do the individuals with the most genetic advantages necessarily produce the most offspring who make it to reproductive maturity. This is why I need corrective lenses in order to see well enough not to be eaten by a predator (or be run over by a car).
For those who fear technology and the tampering with our genomes, the other two alternatives are far more terrifying. I believe the Hitler regime toyed with one and other would involve going back to nature’s survival of the fittest rule (sadly, I imagine that if civilization collapsed we would go back to the latter automatically). So, we really have no acceptable choice but to continue to embrace technology. And what better way to do that than to do it at the source code? Everything else are mere patches or the alleviation of symptoms.
In our extropian future, as long as we remain biologically based, that is, we will continue to seek improvements to our bodies and minds and to undo the damage caused by the ‘errors’ that have crept into our code.
Besides a potential gene therapy to alleviate a scourge of humanity such as cancer, selfishly, I ‘hope to Scientist’ that a gene therapy is developed that can correct myopia. Would it not be nice if we all received a shot along with our other vaccinations in childhood and no one ever had to wear glasses again?