Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Gene Edited Human Babies

Someone finally claimed to have produced live human babies with edited genes. Here are my thoughts on the matter ...


* This claim might or might not be real. But don't worry: if this is a fake, someone else is doing it somewhere else, because it is a thing that can be done and has a high payoff.

* People will go apeshit over it, whether it is real or not. Because rules and religion and blah blah blah. Hasn't stopped progress yet, whether the good kind or the really stupid kind. Gengineering tends to span both. They go apeshit over both too.

* For a few years. 20 years from now, nobody will give a fuck because it'll be available at many fertility clinics. If we haven't cooked off the planet by then. Remember how people went apeshit over the first test-tube baby, how unethical and dangerous and blah blah blah. Now it's normal and nobody cares. That's science for you.

* Science always goes wrong in the beginning. Don't be surprised when that happens with this. CRISPR is still in the rough stage, but it has produced a lot of usable results. Ideally, before human testing, you want the science to be pretty solid. But you know, people are impatient and tend to want potential solutions before perfection is achieved. Non-standard risk assessment lies behind a great many scientific advances, and a bunch of those have been way less ethical this. Like say, all the times people did human experimentation on unsuspecting victims. Got informed consent? Go for it.

* Gene editing offers things some people REALLY want. Like babies for people who can't have them. Or babies that won't die. Or babies that don't have that glitch that crippled half a dozen relatives. These are awesome things. They're things we can't always get any other way. Gengineering is awesome for that.

* Rich people get whatever the fuck they want. Most of them want babies to pass down their riches to. Which means this stuff is already happening, quietly, in places that don't look too closely. Because we've had the tech for a while. I've just been waiting for someone to admit it.

* Before you go squalling about ethics, there pretty much aren't any in gengineering today. People are making frankensalmon and frankencorn, and a lot of other dangerously stupid things. None of it's driven by ethics, it's driven by money. See above re: rich people. Sure it would be nice if we had scientific ethics on this planet. Mostly we don't. Oh well.

* My idea of scientific ethics: don't do things to people without their informed consent, or in the case of minors, parental consent. That wipes out much of the medical industry today. So I have more support for scientists and parents getting together to do what they actually want, instead of having someone else make their reproductive decisions for them. Fuck that. It's your crotch, do what you want with it and any other amenable crotch; and if you need a helping hand, there's nothing wrong with finding an amenable scientist as long as you take the best precautions you can for a desired outcome. People take medical gambles all the time, they fuck strangers, and a lot of those things are way crazier than this. 20 years later, nobody will care.

* Regarding the gamble of possible HIV resistance vs. possible flu susceptibility: see malaria resistance/sickle cell anemia in Africa. Evolution absolutely will take a resistance gene even if two copies of it can be fatal. Provably a good bet if it pans out. There's no way to find out whether it works but to try it.

* As for releasing scientific discoveries on the Internet: that's been my standard recommendation all along for people stuck under oppressive regimes or bosses. Fuck 'em. Get the word out. I would, however, advise releasing your info discreetly, because if you piss off people in power, they are quite likely to destroy your life or kill you. Or in China, put you in prison and sell your organs to the highest bidder while lying about how ethical they are. See above re: rich people.

* It probably won't be a lot longer before gengineering spreads like crabgrass. I will warn you, it's possible to wreck a biosphere this way. If you think natural invasive species are bad, wait until you've seen someone make mosquitoes that eat metal or a dominant gene that makes wind-pollinated crops toxic. It unleashes a lot of creativity, though. I have to admit, the beta-carotene rice sounds kind of clever. Just for the love of Gaia, don't optimize the chickens. Raptors are way more fun in fiction than they are in fact.

* If you want to worry about something threatening the human race, climate change is a much more credible threat than gengineering. It's already here.
Tags: gender studies, news, reading, safety, science
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