From Designer Babies to Super Humans
In just a few years, pregnant women will have the option of going to a geneticist to discuss certain “enhancement options” for their unborn child.
With CRISPR, scientists are making tremendous strides toward being able to “edit” an embryo to remove problematic genes, thereby reducing the likelihood of certain diseases and physical anomalies.
However, it also makes sense to take this further, to the point of designing “super babies.”
While most people think about “designer babies” through the lens of an appearance checklist, where we mark yes or no to attributes like dimples, freckles, and great teeth, the full range of options will be far more complex.
We’ll be able to improve and expand on certain capabilities to the point where skilled geneticists will craft human lives that are not only healthy and strong but fine-tuned according to a menu of “enhancement opportunities.”
So not only will they have the hair color, lip shape, lash length, and ear shape we’ve requested, they’ll also be bigger, stronger, more durable humans, intensely bright, physically efficient, with greater life expectancy, super-resilient, super confident, and just plain super.
The Future Phases of Genetic Engineering
Undoubtedly, in vitro enhancements will unfold in phases. Here are a few examples of how this could play out.
In Phase 1, the focus will be on hereditary issues and the elimination of problematic disease-prone genes prior to birth.
In Phase 2, CRISPR techniques will be applied to genetic traits like eye color, finger length, neck length, eyebrow curve, and jowl lines.
Moving to Phase 3, prospective parents will be able to pursue neural and musculature options for their baby. They’ll be able to set parameters and choose relative values for things like hot-cold sensitivity, light sensitivity, skin sensitivity, hip deviation, wrist deviation, and foot deviation.
In Phase 4, advanced techniques will be employed to custom design thought processes and proclivities. Parents will instruct their geneticist on emotional variables – things like the ideal balance between thinking vs. feeling, introversion vs. extroversion, intuiting vs. exploring. Would they like to see their child grow up to be an artist? An engineer? A public servant? A humanitarian? A military officer? Over time, there will be formulas for each of these options.
Moving Towards a World of Superhumans
What is the lifetime value of a superhuman? Few people truly understand how powerful this question is!
While we still don’t know how to quantify a superhuman or the incremental advancements that will separate a stage one superhuman, from stages two, three, and four, the idea of giving birth to a superhuman is both intriguing and scary all at the same time.
The reason I’m asking about the lifetime value of a superhuman is that it changes how we think about human life and how we make the transition to what comes next.
The lifetime value of superhumans may indeed be 100 times greater than an average person today. One superhuman, on average, may add as much as $500 million to the global economy.
In some of the early phases, research groups will likely pay young mothers to have their babies genetically enhanced. In fact, they may even pay them to spend the nine months at a luxury resort, plus a salary, plus a bonus once the baby is born, just so they can monitor the entire fetal development.
Young women today, who may fret over the looming burden and responsibilities that come with a young child, may see it as the single greatest turning point in their life. One super baby pregnancy could lead to a stable home, guaranteed income, and a complete support staff to ensure the best possible outcome.
If this proves successful, countries around the world will likely start paying moms to have super babies, as countries compete with other countries to have the most super babies. The return-on-investment will simply be too compelling to overlook.
Public Tolerance for Genetic Engineering
Polling over the last few years indicates that most, but not all, Americans draw the
genetic engineering line at the point where reducing serious health risks fades into
genetic augmentation in areas related to intelligence, athleticism, and physical features.
We’re a little more divided when it comes to eliminating nonfatal diseases.
In spite of the polls, we can probably assume a move towards genetic enhancements as soon as it’s possible.
The recent college entry scandals demonstrate that many parents will skirt the rule of
laws to give their children a head start. It’s only a matter of time until those who can afford it, will give their unborn children this kind of genetic edge in life, augmenting both intelligence and athleticism.
Super babies at What Cost? The Ethical Slippery Slope
The idea of giving birth to an entire generation of super babies is both intriguing and scary at the same time.
Superbabies will grow up to become our future business leaders, politicians, strategists, entrepreneurs, designers, planners, and philosophers.
With one superhuman valued at $500 million, their access to training, healthcare, law enforcement protection, food sustenance, and general opportunities will put them in a tier of their own.
Geopolitically, wealthier nations and those whose scientists crack the genetic
techniques first will want to have a higher percentage of smarter and healthier citizens. This will perpetuate even greater genetic breakthroughs, more and better superhumans, and a rapidly growing gulf between the “have” and the “have-nots.”
As countries compete for global influence, they will incentivize prospective moms to give birth to superhumans. Unfortunately, this may mean, in some locations, they may also compel them to step into the geneticist’s office.
Over time, some countries may decide to preserve their superhuman assets at all costs. This, in turn, will lower the relative value of normal humans and shift many aspects of
Where will it stop?
Will we be okay to have a multi-tiered society with different rules for equality and
fairness? Or will we ensure that genetic editing is available to all? And if that’s the case, how will this affect our social structures?
How will non-supers compete in sports, compete for jobs, politics, and other aspects of life?
This may sound like the stuff of sci-fi movies, but it’s right around the corner.
Will superhumans require different laws, policies, and standards? Do they require different foods, neighborhoods, life insurance, different protections?
Is CRISPR simply a logical stepping stone to the singularity? Time will tell!