The History of a Public Controversy video that discussed the topic of genetic engineering reminded me about Gattaca, one of my favorite science fiction films, which also deals with this topic. Gattaca tells the story of a normal man who attempts to compete with genetically engineered super-humans, and it attempts to portray the idea that there is more to a human being than our genetics.
I have always found this topic incredibly intriguing, and I believe that for better or for worse, genetic engineering is the future of the human race. I believe that our foray into genetic engineering will likely begin with relatively uncontroversial issues, such as birth defects or genetic disorders. Gradually, I believe that the extent of permissibility of genetic engineering will broaden, encompassing nearly every trait imaginable, from intelligence, to size, to physical appearance, to athleticism. The human species will accelerate evolution at a pace that has likely never been seen on earth, gradually drawing our species towards perfection. Many argue that our faults are part of our personality, and that they define us just as our strengths do. Although I certainly see their perspective (most lessons that we learn in life can be attributed to faults that we have to overcome), I still think that genetic engineering is inevitable.
With every passing year, scientists bring us closer to the reality of genetic engineering. For example, researchers at MIT, the Broad Institute, and Rockefeller University have found a way to alter the genomes of living cells, adding or deleting genes. These researchers are able to target specific genes that they want to alter, precisely changing the cell’s genome. Currently, the goal for this technology is to help treat diseases like Huntington’s disease, which is likely caused by a single abnormal gene. This treatment may even be used to treat HIV by altering the receptor through which the virus enters. Although this method is not currently being used with genetic engineering in mind, it isn’t difficult to see how it could potentially be implemented in that manner.