The other day I was preparing to catch a train and realised I did not have much in the way of reading material. I treated myself to a New Scientist. I say treat because they are nearly £4 each! But considering how much I enjoyed the issue I reckon it was worth it.
It was the 60-year anniversary issue. Looking at the most important scientific discoveries of the last 60 years, as well as the discoveries that could happen in the next 60 years. That bit was quite exciting.
The part that made me think the most was the section on designing your own baby. We can already work out which genes cause which genetic disorders and diseases so once we can edit the genomes of the cells that eventually make up the baby, we could fix all sorts of problems. That seems perfectly reasonable, they could edit out things like mutations that increase cancer risk, or mental disorders or Alzheimer’s disease or cystic fibrosis!
But where would people draw the line? They could choose a baby that was taller, more likely to be athletic, maybe even smarter if we work out the gene for that. At what point are we just taking away the wonderful randomness of how people turn out and only breeding people we see to be desirable?
The thing that made me think this could be the plot for a dystopian sci-fi film was when they pointed out that wealthier people might pay more to get babies that are generally more healthy even if they don’t really need to. This could widen the gap between rich and poor as the rich people get super-genome edited babies and us normal folks get normal babies, which we all know are terrible .
It sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but you could totally see it happening. But then again, when you try to organise something so random, I feel like something would go wrong to knock everything back to the chaos that is human reproduction.
Could different diseases become more of a problem if we slowly eliminate the ones your genetics decide you’re more likely to get? Could it be like what Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park: Life finds a way?! Except this time it’s not dinosaurs randomly changing sex, it’s diseases working out new ways to get around?
Oh man! Help us Jeff Goldblum!