Posted by: crudbasher | May 12, 2014

Genetically Engineered Students?

One of the fun parts about writing this blog is I have a mindset that anything is possible in the future. I try really had to look over the horizon and imagine possibilities that seem very unlikely today but technology may unlock. For example, here is a story from the Economist.

Dr Dubal and Dr Mucke have been studying the role in ageing of klotho, a protein encoded by a gene called KL. A particular version of this gene, KL-VS, promotes longevity. One way it does so is by reducing age-related heart disease. Dr Dubal and Dr Mucke wondered if it might have similar powers over age-related cognitive decline.

What they found was startling. KL-VS did not curb decline, but it did boost cognitive faculties regardless of a person’s age by the equivalent of about six IQ points. If this result, just published in Cell Reports, is confirmed, KL-VS will be the most important genetic agent of non-pathological variation in intelligence yet discovered.

Ray Kurzweil has stated that modifying the human body is not a medical problem, but an IT problem. He wants to reprogram the software (aka DNA) that makes our bodies operate to make them better. This article is a step in that direction.

Here’s Ray Kurzweil on medical advances via DNA manipulation.

So where does this take us?

Imagine that powerful tools exist to make changes to a fetus’s DNA as it gestates. It becomes possible to screen for abnormalities and to make enhancements to longevity, overall health and cognitive ability. How much would this be worth to a family? Because the answer is lots, this treatment would be very expensive. Thus only the very wealthy would have access to it. As if we need another thing in society to split people apart, we could be changing what the Declaration of Independence says is “all men are created equal”. How would everyone else feel about children of the very wealthy living longer and being smarter?

Quite honestly that would destroy society as it currently exists.

Therefore it is likely that such technologies would be made available to enough people to prevent chaos. Even so, how do you teach children like that since their teachers will not have benefitted from such improvements? Growing up with the Internet is creating children that are very different than their teachers. My son is only 15 months and yet he knows what a computer and smartphone is. What we consider wondrous today he will consider commonplace. What wonders will he experience in his life?

I will tell you one thing with absolute certainty. Anyone who tells you with certainty what life will be like in 20 years is either a fool or a liar. Even Ray Kurzweil is only predicting how parts of society will change, not the overall ramifications of these changes. There are too many parts in motion now. Society is in a revolutionary moment and nothing, nothing is constant.

Scary stuff right? Good, that means you are paying attention. I’ll delve more into it this week.

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