The CRISPR revolution is coming. Once it’s discovered, it cannot be forgotten or suppressed. Unless the researcher who discovered it, destroys all his work and didn’t tell anyone about it. Very unlikely these days. No regulation can ever effectively prevent/suppress the use of a new technology. If the idea is spread, if the knowledge of „that it’s possible to do“ is spread, others will also figure out the „how“, even if that would be kept secret or is erased/deleted by the first discoverers. And with CRISPR, as I heard, there is no really special laboratory equipment needed to get the gene-modifications done. It’s rather easy.
That means, the use of this technology will come anyway and so will the misuse. But it promises a ton of amazing cures and possibilities in general for mankind.
The use of this technology will change entire species in only a few generations. The old version of the species will probably not exist anymore (except it’s cut off from the rest of it’s species so that no natural reproduction between them can take place). So, if, on a later date, we find out, that the changes we made in the species, brought a side effect with it that we didn’t see coming, we cannot undo it anymore.
In a dramatic scenario, the side effect influences the ability of survival of the individuals of that species in any way. In this dramatic scenario, the whole species dies out.
Or in another scenario, we perhaps stopped the ability of a species to transport a human-life-threatening disease, but something went wrong and the genetically altered individuals do have the ability to transport the disease (or now a different one or so). This ability will spread out on the entire species in only a few generations and will be an even bigger thread to mankind, since now each and every individual of this species will have the ability to transport the disease instead of only a small part of the original species.
Last dramatic scenario, I can think of at the moment, is, we changed ourselves directly for some reason. Maybe cured babies from a handicap, eventually even prior birth. Whatever we changed, and maybe didn’t think of, will spread throughout our species. It will take longer, as we live quite long, compared to mosquitos or similar species, and as we might be aware of it at some point and therefor regulate reproduction somehow (which would be a horrible scenario of it’s own). But it still has the potential to not leave one single human without the genetic changes after some time.
Those are the risks. Creating something that kills it’s whole species, or creating something that we cannot undo and that kills our own whole species somehow (might also be indirect by changing the environment or something), or even changing something directly in ourselves that in the long run is counterproductive or eventually threatening to our own species.
That being said, the risk is there anyway. So, prohibiting the use of it, will only cut off the beneficial aspect of this technology and leave the abusive aspect untouched. I see no point in doing that. We should take advantage of this technology, but under strong regulations and under the use of very well thought through safety mechanisms, where we can have a handle on it. That’s the best we can do, I guess..
Technology and discovery is a big part of what brought us forward in our human history and what made us so successful as a species on this planet earth. Without it we would still live a very simple, animal-like life, kill other groups, fear the unknown and be stuck in our own heads without a lot of insight and intelligence.
Okay, looking at the world today, we might actually not have gotten that much further forward. We still fear the different, the unknown, and we still kill our next neighbors because of that. We just only changed the tools with which we do so, and made them more efficient.
Well, that’re some leftovers from these ancient times of human development, I guess. Majority of mankind did change for the better, has actually really a lower aggression potential, and is not stuck in themselves anymore, but caring for others and looking after the world and all humans, maybe even all living beings on earth.. That, at least, is the hope of my optimistic side.
– © Ben Bayer (31.7.2016)