A Chinese scientist claims to be the first person to genetically engineer babies.
According to Professor He Jiankui, he used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to make it so that two twin girls were born immune to HIV, justifying his unconfirmed but nevertheless ultra-controversial actions on the basis of wanting to be a trailblazer and leaving it up to society to decide what to do next. His claims immediately opened the floodgates of criticism from those who considered his actions to be unethical because of the potential that they could be abused for engineering so-called “designer babies”, or children whose cosmetic and other features are chosen in advance by their parents. Not only that, but there are obvious military applications to this technology as well, which might have even been secretly experimented with somewhere in the world at some earlier place in time for all that anyone knows.
Officially speaking, however, the Chinese scientist would be the first person to successfully utilize this technology in human embryos if it’s proven that he did indeed pull off what he says he did, which could trigger a frantic race in this industry to take the technology as far as possible in the shortest length of time as various competitors – probably among the world’s Big Tech companies – fight to become the industry leader. As has been forewarned about in many sci-fi plots and even in serious publications discussing this issue, it can be expected that the unregulated proliferation of this eventually perfected technology could lead to the development of so-called “super humans” whose genetically engineered physical and intellectual abilities far surpass those of “ordinary” humans. Worse still, if they merge with machines to become “cyborgs”, they’d have a supreme advantage over controlling everyone else.
Another disturbing possibility is if “super humans” are bred by states to be immune to any biological weapons that they might secretly be developing, which could theoretically allow them to use these Weapons of Mass Destruction against their own people in the event of an invasion after knowing that they’d only kill their enemies who haven’t been genetically engineered to resist these pathogens. Along the same token, governments could use these bioweapons against enemy states if their genetically engineered subjects embed themselves in the target population as “sleeper cells” ready to take over once their hosts are killed off. Basically, the “designer baby” industry could easily lead to “superhuman cyborgs” and a bioweapons arms race that might altogether frighteningly wipe out large amounts of the global population and fundamentally alter what it means to be human.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review