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Genesis - Too many options to ignore


Context:

80 years from now, how will the advances in genetic engineering and augmentation technology transform our world? The recent documentary “Mirror Mirror” by @toddsampsonOZ has only scratched the surface of what can be expected in the future.


It is remarkable to think during the Covid-19 pandemic epidemiologists can track the genomic origins of each mutation of the virus. Less than ten years ago this was impossible. Humanity is already prospering from genetically modifying plants and livestock to increase productivity and resilience against pest and disease.


10 years from now we will be able to optimise the human genome to reduce risk of disease and engineer out any unwanted characteristics in our children. We have evidence that cloning humans may already be possible. It is the ethical and process reliability concerns that are limiting research into cloning humans.


We already have grown human tissue and created artificial blood. Scientists believe once they understand the complex framework providing the growth sequence that growing organs will be possible.


Then there is the potential to augment advanced technology into living beings. Already, artificial eyes, limbs, and transmitters are being used to address disabilities. The more we understand molecular biology, the more we can successfully augment technological enhancements.


Discussion:

In the next 80 years how might advances in genetic engineering change the world?


Let us look back at what has changed in the last 80 years:


· 1953 Double helix structure of DNA discovered

· 1958 First heart pacemaker implants developed

· 1967 first successful human heart transplant. Today over 3500 heart transplants occur every year.

· 1977 method for DNA sequencing developed

· 1997 first cloned complex organism “Dolly the sheep”

· 2010 first synthetic lifeform (bacteria named Synthia) created

· 2018 polio eradicated

· 2018 transmitters augmented allowing paraplegics to walk

· 2018 first functional bionic eye restores vision in blind

· 2019 tactile bionic arm developed

· 2021 Dengue fever, Malaria and Covid 19 mrna vaccines developed

· 2021 Neuralink @elonmusk established to develop high-bandwidth brain-machine interfaces


Our knowledge and understanding of complex biological processes at the molecular level has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. We currently have the capability to design characteristics of offspring. Ethical considerations are unlikely to keep pace with technology.

When advantages can be gained in a competitive environment it is predictable people will pursue it. Who would wish a genetic disease on their offspring if it could be avoided? Already, 5% of births use in vitro fertilization. 80 years from now it will not be surprising if 20% or more of births use genetically engineered.


What if we could accelerate the time it takes to reach adulthood? Some may say why would you want to do this? Take away the glorious childhood stage sounds mean. However, as our burgeoning population applies greater pressure on natural resources it might be necessary. In an environment where resources are scarce, productivity is key. Reducing the time to reach full productivity will be attractive. Could it be possible to speed up the growth and learning phase for humans? Genetic engineering that is already increasing productivity of our staple food sources, says it is possible.


Robots and automation have already emerged as valuable alternatives to human labour. Automating repetitive tasks is now cheaper and more reliable than using human labour. In a world under increasing pressure for resources, machine verse human considerations can only increase. This is likely to incentivise the augmentation of technology into humans so they can be better and faster at what they need to do.


An artificial womb has already been used to successfully nurture foetal sheep. These artificial wombs are used to care for premature babies. Yet, it does not take too much imagination to envisage how the whole nurturing phase could be substantially automated. Removing the health constraints of the mother could enable accelerated development rates of a foetus. With what consequences?


Should the level of genetic engineering be limited or restricted for ethical or safety reasons?


The immediate answer is yes, however, history shows that once a capability has been achieved, it is not easy to put the Genie back into the bottle. Overtime it is predictable that genetic engineering will progress. Some of the trends will include:


· Robots so like humans it is difficult to tell the difference

· Many options to create new offspring

· Ethics and rights struggling to keep up with the rate of change

· Augmentation of technology into people to provide a competitive advantage

· Increasingly scarce resources supporting in a burgeoning population

· Increasing competition from human designed machines


The possibilities 80 years from now will challenge conventional views of life and evolution of intelligence.


2101: Spark of Hope explores the many ways of creating intelligent beings and the ethical and discriminatory issues that brings. Synthetics that are more human than robot make it difficult to know for sure the origins.


Quotes on genetics and augmentation:


With genetic engineering, we will be able to increase the complexity of our DNA and improve the human race. But it will be a slow process because one will have to wait about 18 years to see the effect of changes to the genetic code. Stephen Hawking


There is a real danger that computers will develop intelligence and take over. We urgently need to develop direct connections to the brain so that computers can add to human intelligence rather than be in opposition. Stephen Hawking


Right now, people are interested in genetic engineering to help the human race. That's a noble cause, and that's where we should be heading. But once we get past that - once we understand what genetic diseases we can deal with - when we start thinking about the future, there's an opportunity to create some new life-forms. Jack Horner


The advance of genetic engineering makes it quite conceivable that we will begin to design our own evolutionary progress. Isaac Asimov


Transhumanism is the ethics and science of using things like biological and genetic engineering to transform our bodies and make us a more powerful species. Dan Brown

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. Erich Fromm


We’re already making the pieces that are needed for a useful humanoid robot,” said Elon Musk

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