By Volodymyr Ostruk | 4 November 2018
tl;dr In this article I present my view on the future of human genome modification and how that would impact our society.
In the future human capital may be the main valuable thing on the planet. It is already like that. As the production becomes cheaper, the one who will win is the one who will be smarter, one who will filter, invent and understand faster. Taking into account that our human body is very limited we may see a big shift towards increasing human capacities in the near future (life longevity, health, intelligence). Most of the people are talking about technological singularity and brain-computer interface, uploading our mind to the cloud, possibilities of extending our brain with external storage and processors. That’s definitely one way to go, the smooth way. This way we may become as smart as our computers are, we may extend our calculation and search capacities. However in my opinion on this road we have no chance to exceed capacities of our brain and actual intelligence, our understanding and perception of the world. How can we possibly do that? The answer is below.
Human genome decoding is one of my biggest hopes of the 21st century. Below I present my view on the situation.
Of course, genome decoding and editing would allow us to experiment with curing diseases, choosing the eye color for your children or encoding the resistance to some diseases in our genes. There were already successful trials on the human genome, trying to heal Hunter and other syndromes.
“A therapy that edits genes directly in the human body might be safe, suggest early findings from the first trial to test the approach.”
Same can be also done for animals. But genome modification will bring something much bigger and controversial for us. It would allow us to experiment with the human creature itself.
At some point we would understand that our capabilities are very limited for the things that we want and can do, and the only way to achieve better intelligence and body is to transform our self manually.
We have actually come to the point where we are speeding up evolution by making experiments on the human genome. We can create new humans not only in terms of brain function, we can edit the genome to make the human body better. As we may see for example there are already talks about creating the new kind of humans which will travel through the space.
Japan is already planning to give a permission for human genome modification in next year.
And now the hard part comes. How I see it would develop further? I believe we will evidence experiments of random changes on the genome in search of a better human genome and better human. Putting a random state simulation and experiments (simulated evolution) will lead us to a possible better formula of human genome.
At that point we’d need not only to modify the genome to cure some illnesses or imperfections of human body. We would need to modify it just to try something else, something that we haven’t seen yet. We’d consider our own brain and body as imperfection if we may find some better alternative to it.
We may understand at some point that our brain capabilities are limited and that the fastest and the only way to develop further (and understand what we are doing and what the world is around us) is modifying our genome manually.
We’d probably need to make a choice between rationality of gene modification and possibility of further development.
In fact it may be that this genome modification advancement will be the only way for the human race to survive. If we achieve singularity by some means we may not be able to perceive it. We’d not understand it’s already singularity because we just can’t. Monkeys can’t understand what humans are thinking about. Monkeys think humans are more stupid (but more aggressive probably) than they.
It is already happening and we can see that in May 2016, scientists, lawyers and government representatives converged at Harvard to discuss the Human Genome Project-Write (HGP-Write), a plan to build whole genomes out of chemically synthesized DNA.
I believe by now we have all capabilities to get to the next level of human genome decoding and modification. We just need permissions for testing and a bigger focus on that right now. I tend to believe that during the next few decades, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression.
Same as the 1% difference that makes us a few orders of magnitude smarter than monkeys, the same 1% can make us many orders smarter than our self now.
Of course it’s not sure if our physical capabilities will allow that. Maybe a changed genome would produce some “ugly” (as we may consider) creatures that would be 100 times smarter than us, and we’d not be able even to understand them the same as monkeys can’t understand us, however that’s the reality that I see for now. The problem is only that we would need to grow those samples and that would require quite a bit of time. I guess we’d need about 300 more years to amplify our genome to the next level.
I tend to believe that human genome decoding and modification is the only way to become smarter in future.
We will be born and we will modify our genome probably similar as we do vaccination today. Or we may create creatures, smarter than us, but which we will not be able to understand.
Additionally, there will be a lot of changes required in human perception of the world, human values, ethics and beliefs. So, like here normal children may become possible from same sex parents in few years.
“Can we today edit the DNA in human cells? Yes. Can we do it accurately? Yes. That’s absolutely being done in many labs around the world now.”
Many people will say it’s bad and not ethical, BUT that doesn’t matter, because restricting it will cause even worse outcomes for us. It will be unstoppable. Some countries will do experiments to have better humans, some private companies and people will do that, with or without permission.
We’d better allow that to be prepared as a humanity than ban it and then be totally unprepared.
If some person or government will have a chance to improve their body or mind without consequences they will do that. Laws may be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life. Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete. Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant.
Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.
Very likely if there will be creatures much smarter than us they may destroy us easily (we can’t understand why with our brain, but there may be some bigger reason). You see there is a bigger risk in banning that than in developing that, same as with every new technology.
What would I propose is focusing on research and tests. What we really need is more volunteers participating in genome projects as well as more researchers dedicated to the topic. More people need to understand it and have access to it to prevent bad consequences. Of course that all would not help without a proper regulatory environment and financing.
— Science Magazine (@sciencemagazine) June 2, 2016
PS. Information is the only way to understand things around us. Make sure you at least understand what human genome if you are interested in the topic. Hope my article will increase your interest in human genome and future related to it.
PPS. Those who feel interested in the topic are much welcomed to have open discussions in the comments below. I suggest however you follow me on Social medias (Medium, Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, Steemit) and subscribe to my newsletter to stay updated.
I’m also working on the book now that will try to present a new mindset (the new way of thinking, set of beliefs, call it new religion or whatever it doesn’t matter) of a new human for the following years together with a new reality combined with the latest knowledge. Without the mindset presented in the book I believe we will not be able to develop further, only to degrade. I will describe how our tech advancement happened quite fast and that’s beautiful, but our values and mindset are same as 100 and 1000 years ago. If that would stay we have no change to survive.
Also as I am not able to cover everything on my own I am in progress of gathering people interested in the topic together, creating a community and a working group that will lead humanity to a better future.
You can reach me at email@example.com. Stay updated.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
Volodymyr Ostruk is a programmer, scientist, futurist, psychologist, creativity expert, and digitalization enthusiast.
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