The Bizarre Future of Genetic Engineering for the Masses

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DAN

Over the past five years we’ve seen technologies like 3D printing go from making plastic cubes, to making plastic firearms. It’s a huge game changer that allows the individual to make tools that once required a factory full of workers to build. It has essentially lowered the barrier to entry for the manufacturing industry, and as this technology progresses, it could fundamentally change the world we live in.

But does 3D printing stand alone in this regard? Are there other emerging technologies that might democratize fields beyond manufacturing, such as medicine or energy production? Surely, we could benefit from devices that allow the everyman to diagnose their own ailments, or cheaply produce all their energy needs. But what about genetic engineering? What if everyone could access the tools required to modify DNA, and do so in the comfort of their own home?

Before any of us have had the chance to question the ethical implications of such a device, it has already to been invented. The Singularity University, which was founded by Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis, and is funded by mega corporations like Google, has unveiled a device that can create millions of strands of DNA from scratch, and they think it will allow DNA to become a “consumer product”. Buckle-up, you’re about to see ego and hubris at its finest (skip to the 2 minute mark if you don’t want to listen to Kurzweil blather on about The Singularity).

It seems they have plenty of lofty ideas for their machine, like bringing back the dinosaurs, creating artificial life, or preventing birth defects. But not once do they stop to consider the obvious consequences of this genetic tinkering. We’re talking about the building blocks of life here, the stuff that is at the root of every living creature on earth. And yet they think they can hand off the keys to creation to any jackass who can afford their machine, without ever stopping to consider whether or not this is a good idea.

This machine means that anyone with a wad of cash and a major in genetics could make all kinds of genetic horrors, like splicing different plants and animals or creating new viruses. And that just accounts for what people might do deliberately. We also have to consider the potential for mistakes to be made on a wide scale. In short, this device could change the future of life on this planet, and they treat it with all the levity you would find in an internet startup.

I don’t want to sound hypocritical though. I’m a big supporter of technologies like 3D printing. I understand that it might fall into the wrong hands, and I accept that as the price we have to pay to live in a free society. So to be ethically consistent, I have to take the same stance with this technology.  It has great potential. It could take the power away from those biotech companies that have the gall to place patents on the human genome. It could sidestep the medical cartel, and bring cheap genetic diagnosis and treatments to the masses. But it could also unleash unspeakable horrors onto our planet.

And ultimately, it can’t be stopped. No human technology has ever been suppressed indefinitely. It always finds its way onto the marketplace, one way or another. I just wish the folks at the Singularity University wouldn’t blindly hurl this technology onto the world, without stopping to consider the devastating consequences.

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Contributed by Joshua Krause of The Daily Sheeple.

Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .

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  • Smarty

    I’ve always wanted a pet dinosaur… something to cuddle with on those cold nights…

  • Sir TuberKopf

    You thought computer hackers were bad, genetic hackers could create a retrovirus that could give humans tails, elf ears, spots, horns, spider spinnerets. What a hoot!

  • jim_robert

    Ah yes, the good ol’ “man can become god” syndrome. Of course, just like in economics, “this time it’s different.”

    CS Lewis already discussed the outcome of this in his fictional work That Hideous Strength, and in his non-fiction The Abolition of Man.