Full disclosure – I did not understand everything in this documentary. It was quite sciency. That being said, it was very interesting despite the fact that much of it went over my head.
Directed by Adam Bolt, the documentary weaves the tale of CRISPR or genome engineering. Or in basic English, gene therapy. This has been hailed as the largest tech revolution of the 21st century. Grabs your attention, no? By tech, they don’t mean digital, rather it is biological.
CRISPR (“Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats”), which is a mind boggling billions of years old, is something which will allow scientist to have a never before possible control over the basic building blocks of life. All life, including human.
While this might be a little above the level of most people’s science abilities, we can all understand that when scientists say that they are very close to solidifying a discovery which will allow them to cure diseases, reshape the biosphere and even “design” future babies. For instance diseases such as MS, sickle cell anemia and cancer would be no more. Meaning they will be able to alter the essence of our DNA and as such many or even most diseases will be wiped out. Further to that they will be able to alter the DNA make up of a woman’s eggs and sperm from male to give the resulting the child whatever you want – blonde hair, blue eyes, elevated intelligence, height, athletic ability or even artistic talent. How do people feel about being able to “order” your child? Would everyone want the same? Or would we still see a variety of human beings?
Of course, with such a monumental advance comes a whole bunch of questions. Will human relationship with nature change? How will it effect human evolution? Then there are the inevitable moral issues. Will certain people use this technology in order to make super soldiers? The ability to create humans who do not feel pain will be possible and not fear anything rendering them the perfect soldier. Entire armies could be constructed…in the wrong hands…
Scientists (biochemists who study the way molecules work) are in the process of inventing this, but it would be in the hands of genetic engineers to apply it.
The possibilities for this technology are endless. In Human Nature they follow a small start up of young scientists who are altering the DNA of pigs in order to have their organs be viable for transplant to humans. Thus solving the shortage we presently face in regards to organ transplants. We are apparently close to that being a reality.
The benefits would not only be to humans, but also the natural world. We would be able to bring back into existence animals which had gone extinct. Living a real life Jurassic Park!
Would this be heaven or hell? Dream or nightmare? Improve life on this planet or ruin it? Without really coming down on one side or the other, Bolt’s film stands firmly in the middle. But it has certainly given us a window into the (near) future and plenty of food for thought.