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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Be All That You Can Be - Human Reengineering

I recently read something very disturbing. It was written by Madeleine Bunting for a British magazine called "The Ecologist." Bunting writes about a future 25 years down the road where embryos are screened for genetic abnormalities, where predispositions for "bad" traits like depression, addiction, etc. can be altered and removed from the genetic code, where genes can be added for enhanced intelligence -and all before that little ball of cells has the chance to form an arm or a leg.

Bunting goes onto write about pills that can be taken to improve memory, boost intelligence, surgeries for brain alterations and a life expectancy that grows to 110 years - all with a big assist from science and pharmaceuticals. (I suggest that anyone reading this check out the link below and at least read the first few paragraphs of Bunting's article where she writes about this potential future. It is very well written, engaging and more than anything her scenario is what really drew me into thinking about this particular topic.)

These "advancements" pose a lot of questions - questions that we may have to deal with in our lifetime, if not with our own children, then certainly regarding our grandchildren. What would you do if you had the opportunity to artificially boost your child's intelligence? My gut says, "No Way!" But when I take a step back I have to wonder. I mean, if every other child in the class is getting chemical or surgical enhancements, is it fair to limit my child and essentially guarantee that they will perform at a lower level than their classmates? Especially when I have the means to change it?

And what about those without the means? Isn't this kind of science discriminatory in that those without the money to get such "assistance" will be unable to get the good jobs, get higher pay and therefore be unable to move from poverty into the middle class because their "natural" IQ's will be outdone by those with enhanced IQ's. What about the children of those who can't afford to get the drugs? Is this a predetermination of sorts? A potential way to bring back the caste system?

And let's get really scary for a moment . . . If such tools can be used to "make humans better," then WHO will determine what people get access? Will it be the government? Corporations? I mean, the ethical questions involved are endless.

But as Bunting points out, if society thinks it's OK to have a pill like Viagra to improve our sex lives, why not a pill to enhance our intelligence? Is there a line that can be crossed? What is "natural?" What should be left alone and what is it OK to alter?

Medical technology and research is at a point right now where much of what killed our grandparents and great grandparents is now manageable and non-life threatening - take for example heart disease. Is that wrong to try and preserve human life for as long as possible? Is it wrong to work to make life "better?"

What do you think? What would you do if you could enhance your intelligence? Or know just after conception that your unborn child carries the genetic marker for Alzheimer's Disease and you could have it removed . . . What would you do?



At 7/20/2006 02:07:00 AM, Blogger MuseinMeltdown said...

This sounds almost too perfect an idea until you look into - where do you stop with the genetic interference, and what about fate - your perfect child is deformed by an accident - do you then reject it? I know from experience you don't.

Better is about perception not existence. Brilliant Blog...


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