Thinking about the Road to Follow

In a variety of dystopian fantasies, many writers have questioned how humanity might face its own demise. Enslaved under the boot of Big Brother’s surveillance? Defeated by a revolution of robots we once considered our tools? Perhaps plummeted into a culture of stupidity, where “retweets” and “likes” are a form of currency and people spend all day being entertained into complacent obesity?

The biotechnology field seeks to improve our complex internal mechanics, and is making strides in a variety of industries.DNA sequencing has become cheaper and more accessible – opening the doors to highly personalized medication replacing one-pill-suits-all approach. Wake Forest university researchers are making milestones in the 3D printing of organs and cartilage, hoping to soon cure arthritis and long waits for organ replacements. Mind-controlled prosthetics allows patients who’ve lost limbs or suffered spinal injuries to regain their dexterity through complex robotic arms controlled by microchips in their brain. Researchers keep discovering genes in mice that can be deleted to end obesity – genes that humans also posses. Is the fine-tuning of our genetics not the final frontier of all these repair endeavors? Wouldn’t it be better to avoid disease and illness altogether rather than fight it?

Of course, people fear the possibility of a technological class system, which separates “naturalists” from those who can afford or choose scientific enhancements. These issues, however, seem more related to policy rather than science. You cannot be blamed for discovering fire, if someone chooses to burn a house down with it.

The discussion of any form of eugenics can cause visceral reaction in the public. Forcibly sterilizing people on a basis of poverty, education or health is monstrous. Allowing all parents to choose the healthiest possible outcome for their baby less so. The scientific ability to improve the human genetic stock, and desire to do so, is not inherently evil. It is only how we pursue that path that defines whether we maintain the moral high ground. I once had a Political Science professor who proudly stood left of Lenin on most social issues. But after volunteering at a hospital to treat crack babies, she grew to despise the addicts who were having 5-6 children, and abandoning them with all their health ailments for someone else to take care of. She suggested a policy that would give repeat offenders a choice: if you abandon more than two crack babies, you either go to jail or have your tubes tied. Reasonable, or tyrannical?

It’s perfectly sensible to debate where our pursuits might lead us, and to tread carefully in the shaping of our collective future. But life is the result of complex chemistry, evolving biology and our own will. We should always discuss, monitor and regulate our actions, but not to the point of never moving forward. We’re still debating abortion in this country, while the rest of the world experiments with far more radical ideas. Private, military and government labs around the world are already working on genetic engineering; to think we can stop it is naïve. The best we can hope to do is ensure that it serves mankind’s best interests, and doesn’t leave anyone behind.

5 Responses to “Thinking about the Road to Follow”

  1. fwiw says:

    Our Ministry of Truth would likely be heading more toward a nation of Airstrips 1, 2, 3, etc, more similar to the Branch Davidians than a society of 6 million dollar men waited on by eunuchs.

    And,genetic engineering is being pushed as a highly profitable business venture. Producing new organs in a laboratory for transplant into the .1% who are outrageously wealthy as they grow older but wish to postpone the inevitable has the appearance of being the McIntosh of the future. Healthcare for the other 99.9% won’t offer doctors and hospitals the grand lifestyle they feel they deserve.

    • Lisa says:

      “I am all for progress. It’s change I can’t stand.” Mark Twain

      No doubt we have many unresolved disputes about health and value of labor. Most health problems are due to ignorance, high risk behavior, and inability to have self control. Sure we have defective genes and accidents. We also have many encouragements to act in ways that cause us harm in the long run. Freedom and liberty has responsibilities that when ignored many times are self punishing.

      Is everyone ready for death? My grandfather at 99 told me he wanted to die. Sometimes living is the punishment. It is beliefs that have many fearing death.

      We can look at the difference between needs, wants, and desires. To stay alive you just have to satisfy needs. It is morals that serve wants and greed that pushes desires.

      Knowledge is a never ending process. Ignoring knowledge only leaves you behind understanding. What does the drug addict that steals to survive deserve? There seems to be a probability that doing well results in being treated well and doing bad results in an unhappy life.

  2. jnewman says:

    Great piece. Lots of heavy thinking. As technology grows and new practices and procedures become possible it seems to me that if one should ask if these new technologies benefit mankind. My take is if there is a profit to be made and a marketing program to sell the tech to the people it will either succeed or fail based on the acceptance of the consumer. Or if a company can make a case to congress, it will be funded by the gov. whether it is a benefit or not.

  3. jnewman says:

    Speaking of “retweets and likes” Wed. DJ Opinion pg. Marty Russell. First day of school since Mississippi’s new Student Religious Liberties Act became law. High school student asks Principal to give a morning prayer over the PA service. He wants to pray to the Holy
    Trinity. Principal is excited and says young people need to become more familiar with the Holy Trinity. You know, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Oh no the student replies, I mean Apple , Google and Microsoft. Later in article student pulls out cellphone and the teacher informs him it is prohibited in school. Student replies in his religion it is a religious artifact just like cross necklace or a tee shirt with a biblical verse on it.

    • Lisa says:

      A marked rise over the last decade in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could fuel growing concern that the diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children.

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Dansette