In my article in TechCrunch, released today, I call for a species-wide conversation on the future of human genetic enhancement. Such a dialogue has never before been carried out. We didn’t do it at the dawn of the industrial or nuclear ages for understandable reasons, even though we might have avoided some terrible outcomes if we had. We now have a limited opportunity to avoid making the same mistake and begin laying a foundation for decisions we will need to collectively make in the future. Given the political divisiveness of this issue, the window will not stay open long. Such a conversation would involve connecting individuals and communities around the world with different backgrounds and perspectives and varying degrees of education in an interconnected web of dialogue. It would link people adamantly opposed to human genetic enhancement, those who may see it as a panacea, and the vast majority of everyone else who has no idea this transformation is already underway. It would highlight the almost unimaginable potential of these technologies but also raise the danger that opponents could mobilize their efforts and undermine the most promising work to cure cancers and eliminate disease.
But the alternative is far worse. If a relatively small number of even very well intentioned people unleash a human genetic revolution that will ultimately touch most everyone and alter our species’ evolutionary trajectory without informed, meaningful, and early input from others, the backlash against the genetic revolution will overwhelm its monumental potential for good.
Conversations on genetics are far overdue. Those who are concerned about the ethics of genetic enhancement are well contented to say nothing ill of robotics in companies laying off workers in place of more productive machinery. These opponents would do well to think of what this contradiction means for the future of biological life in an environment increasingly under command of the economy. A human genome evolving at the pace of random mutations and natural selection vs. almost unbridled robotic and cybernetic enhancements. How ironic and self-negating that these naysayers of genetic advancement create a blind spot for the development of things which supplement humanity rather than enhance it.