In this post I will make predictions about the future. It’s part of an ongoing series of articles relating to my predictions of the future as I see it.
Genetic engineering is the process of changing genetics (even modifying DNA) for the purpose of changing the properties of a living organism.
In the future, genetic engineering will play an ever increasing and (I predict) very dramatic role in shaping humanity.
So much so, that I predict genetic engineering will completely change humanity within 3 generations (about 100 years).
The revolution will be bigger than the industrial revolution and far more impactful on society than even the information revolution.
Not only will this happen, but governments will be horribly unprepared to deal with these changes and society will be extremely challenged to keep up with the possibilities and impact of genetic engineering. In short, we will be pushed to the limits of our understanding of what it means to be a human.
In the process, values, morals, beliefs, and even religions will face questions and pressures we’ve never faced before.
But for as big as the coming social tsunami will be, it will start small.
The genetic engineering revolution will start small.
Oxford Dictionaries defines genetic engineering as:
“The deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material.” (Oxford Dictionaries: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/genetic_engineering)
First, scientists and medical researchers will use genetic engineering to detect and cure birth defects in embryos.
Of course, there will be a small resistance as some people will not like the idea of tampering with the reproductive process and an even smaller set will express concern that this is just the tip of the iceberg and we don’t understand the repercussions of what doing this genetic engineering will mean for humanity in the future. (And they’ll be right.)
But eventually, the resistance will be overcome.
The initial resistance will be overcome because preventing birth defects in unborn fetuses is something that everyone will feel for. It seems wrong not to cure them and save them from a difficult life.
The March of Dimes says that nearly 8 Million children are born with a serious birth defect every year and 3.3 Million children die from birth defects every year.
Almost everyone would say it’s wrong and inhumane not to fix these problems and save these lives if we can. Who wouldn’t want to prevent heart defects, Down’s Syndrome, and other birth defects if we have that ability?
To not take action and prevent these birth defects before they happen would seem to most people as the same as intentionally inflicting these birth defects on the people we don’t cure. We will have the ability to prevent them so it seems morally wrong not to do so.
So using genetic engineering to prevent birth defects will eventually become accepted as normal. A small, seemingly pure advancement that now saves many many people from having to live a life struggling under the unfair burden of birth defects they neither asked for, nor deserved.
Preventing them before they happen seems “fair” and “right”.
And that’s how it will begin.
Then It Grows (The Gray Area)
From that small beginning it will grow. It will grow because the possibilities are so vast and so enticing. It will grow because our understanding of how it affects us as individuals and as a whole will lag far behind our ability to develop more and more advanced genetic modifications.
But it will also grow because there is a gray area of undefined definitions and boundaries. And this gray area will also grow as our genetic engineering capabilities expand.
After a while, it won’t just be birth defects that are prevented with genetic engineering, it will be other disadvantages like asthma, obesity, high cholesterol, and more.
This will eventually grow into modifications to control and eliminate imperfections in eyesight (no more need for corrective lenses), height, strength, skin color, and baldness.
Evolution Toward Perfection
At this point it will become “normal” to make these standard genetic modifications. This will be the “evolution towards perfection”.
Once we reach this point, we’ll soon have a world with no birth defects, no disease, no health problems, no obesity, no addiction, perfect eyesight and hearing, no allergies, peak physical condition and capabilities, etc.
Human beings will have evolved to the point of perfection.
But now small enhancements beyond “perfect” will begin.
Not content to have perfect babies just like everyone else, the elite and more competitive people will want their children to be better than perfect.
They’ll start requesting enhancements like: better than normal eyesight; resistance to all disease; drastically improved healing; extended lifespan; above average height, intelligence, senses; and above average attractiveness and sex appeal.
Even in cases where these enhancements are against the law, scientists will find a way and a black market will appear.
The evolution beyond perfection will have begun.
From there the changes will get discretionary. Parents will begin selecting genetic changes to suit their whims such as right or left handedness, eye color, hair color, straight or curly hair, and even skin color.
Up until this point most changes will have been made to move people to “normal” or beyond normal (removing disease, etc.)
But now there will also be less mainstream adaptations that begin to appear.
There will be a counter-culture that “customizes” the human body. Think of the people who modify their bodies today with tattoos, piercings, and other body modifications.
With the power of genetic engineering at their disposal, the body modifiers of the future will have much wider and wilder options to choose from.
We will have people with permanent tattoos as biological parts of their body.
And beyond that, there will be people with rainbow colored hair, claws, feathers, tiger stripes, and tails.
Genetic body modification will make endless forms of body modification possible.
As with any invention or new capability, there will always be interest in seeing if it can be used for military purposes.
Future soldiers will have their genes modified to gain tactical advantages undreamed of today.
Imagine soldiers whose skin changes color to blend with their surroundings, and who can breathe underwater, have extremely high strength, have the distance vision of an eagle, have the night vision of a cat, can perform echo location like a bat, have the sensitive hearing and sense of smell of a dog, have redundant critical organs, have unbreakable bones, have extremely tough and resilient skin, and can heal very rapidly.
It’s around this time that a line will be crossed.
We will no longer be perfecting what is human.
Now we will be going beyond the biological definition of human.
We will be redefining what “human” means and what it means to be human.
Eventually the floodgates will open.
Anything that is capable in biology will be capable in human.
- Re-growing body parts
- Changing colors to suit your mood
- Producing electric shock
- Eyes in the back of your head
- You name it
Some humans in the future won’t even be recognizable by our standards of “human” today.
Impact On Society
The genetic engineering revolution will impact society and the world on every level, from the simple to the frightening.
Obvious impacts will include the initial decrease in birth defects and the corresponding reduction in infant mortality. The cascading effect will be to increase population growth on earth.
Societal impacts will include things like:
- Genetic engineering’s affects on sports
- Is it fair to compete in professional sports if your body has been genetically engineered to be faster and stronger than normal?
- How about the Olympics? We have rules against doping already. Will we have similar rules against genetic engineering?
- What about in high-school sports? Do you want your high-school child competing against other children who are genetically engineered?
- The Olympics and pro sports have the money to test for and enforce rules against genetic engineering. College and high-school sports likely wouldn’t be able to effectively police against genetic engineering
- As the capabilities of engineered humans exceed those of non-engineered humans, companies will begin paying more for people who have been engineered in the way they want
- Eventually this will grow to where un-engineered people will not be hired
- Put another way, companies will begin requiring specific genetic engineering enhancements as a requirement for job consideration. Moving companies will require strength enhancement modifications, for example.
- Teachers will have to adapt to new smarter kids
- Health care
- Health care will have to adapt when people no longer get diseases
- Without colds, flu, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, pneumonia, and all the other illnesses that affect people today, health care will need to find new things to treat and new forms of treatment
- Modern day medicine will essentially become “extinct”
- Doctors who don’t adapt will become obsolete
- Health insurance
- Health insurance will also have to adapt when people no longer get diseases
- The cost of insurance should drop because people will need less health care
- But the insurance industry employs a lot of people and it will try to survive and avoid shrinking
- Animals can be genetically engineered as well
- Because of less stringent rules around genetic engineering of animals, the advancements in engineering for animals may come even faster than those of humans
- From hypo-allergenic cats and dogs that don’t shed to cosmetic changes like fur color and size the first changes will be small here too
- But eventually, as we explore what’s possible, there will be new breeds and eventually genetic changes that lead to entirely new animals that don’t exist today
- At first, the wealthiest countries will use genetic engineering as a military advantage because they will have the financial means to implement the technology in their soldiers
- Eventually a “Geneva Convention” of sorts will set the rules for genetically engineered soldiers in warfare
- As the technology to perform genetic engineering becomes less expensive and more wide-spread, a black market will emerge to provide illegal genetic engineering to anyone who will pay
- Terrorist and lawless countries will then use illegal genetic engineering to create new soldiers and war monsters
- By war monsters, I literally mean monsters, men or animals so modified they don’t resemble anything on Earth today
- Their willingness to go outside international law will give them an advantage in battle and terrorist activities
- Our military will have to adapt to these genetically engineered enemies
These and many other issues will face society as the genetic revolution progresses.
The Genetic Engineering Revolution Is Coming
I predict that all of this will happen in less than 100 years. During that time, science will completely change the genetics that humans are born with. Every aspect can be controlled and “improved.”
It will start out slowly, but eventually it will become an unstoppable avalanche of advancements and achievements, each new one coming faster than the previous.
As the genetic engineering revolution is taking place, science will far outpace society’s ability to adapt, adopt, and cope with the rapidly advancing capabilities of genetic engineering.
Black markets will form as capabilities emerge that aren’t legalized. At times the law and rules of society will block aspects of genetic engineering until we learn to deal with them. At other times, capabilities will be adopted by citizens before society and laws catch up with them.
New industries will be born. The corporations that own the patents and provide the services will become very wealthy. Startups will rise to dominance the way Google, Amazon, and Facebook have. The balance of power will shift.
Compared to the Internet revolution, the genetic engineering revolution will be bigger. Much bigger.
And the challenge to our cultures, societies, and religions as they learn how to deal with the changes will be massive.
But it’s also scary.
– Weston Henry
Oxford Dictionaries – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/genetic_engineering
If you could change your genetics today, would you change anything? Why or why not? What would you change?
Do you think genetic engineering should be legal? Do you think there should be limits on what genetic engineering we allow to humans? What limits and why?