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Monday, 4 July 2016

Tipping Points - CRISPR-Cas9

Sunday evening I finally read a 4 July 2016 article in TIME Magazine on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. I felt its importance days ago but was in no mood reading it given Joan's passing. After reading this article, I'm not at all surprised that this gene editing technology was recently put on the list of mass-destruction threats by James Clapper, director of US National Intelligence. Still anyone can buy a CRISPR kit online for as little as US$ 130 (TIME).

The article mainly focuses on the (medical) benefits of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Implicitly, it mentions its potential for disruption and devastation. It also raises some ethical issues. Essentially, the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology changes Science Fiction into Science.

Humanity might even become an obsolete word in future vocabulary. The article quotes Calum MacKellar saying: “As a society we will get to a point of saying that certain people are no longer equal. And that's a terrible situation to be in.” I think, feel and believe that he is underestimating the situation. Anything is possible with CRISPR-Cas9, including our current concept of people.

Any invention or technology can be used for and against humanity, including the invention of fire, herbal medicine, knives, and the wheel. It has always been that way and will probably never change. Laws, regulations or non-proliferation treaties will not restrict certain people from exploiting certain technology for their Belief, Cause or plain profit. Once it's in the open, we must live with the consequences of our breakthroughs.

The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology will have a profound impact on human life expectancy and thus on our already immense global population (see my 25 May 2016 blog). It's also likely to have a huge impact on food and fuel resources as well as waste management. It might even seriously decrease our so called ecological footprint on this planet. So much for the good news.

New human like species may be introduced into society which will create familiar 20th/21st century like frictions between humans and human like species. Biological warfare through insects rather than viruses may create havoc on a much larger scale. The combination of CRISPR-Cas9, GMO, and 24/7 AI robotics may change battlefields forever.

For long, money has been the main denominator of wealth, at least until death catches up with you. Genetics may well replace money as its leading indicator. In 1997, the Sci-Fi movie Gattaca (IMDb) used this in its plot. CRISPR-Cas9 is bound to lead into another split between haves and have-nots. This time it's also about immortality, intelligence, lack of diseases, etc.

It's a pity that our deceased loved ones (eg, Joan) were not able to profit of these quickly emerging science and technology benefits. On the other hand, CRISPR-Cas9 will not create - or enhance – happiness in our daily lives. Technology is a tool, a means to an end. It's still up to us to give meaning to our technologically enhanced lives. That is also something which will never change.

Milow – Ayo Technology (2008) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Baby it's a new age,
You like my new craze
Let's get together
Maybe we can start a new phase

Aayooh
I'm tired of using technology,
Why don't you sit down on top of me

Aayooh
I'm tired of using technology
I need you right in front of me


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