The writer is a journalist.
WHAT if you could edit your genetic code as easily as you can edit a sentence you write on Microsoft Word would you do it? And if so, how far would you go? In the near future, that will not be a hypothetical question as the first major step towards successful gene editing has already taken place.
Scientists in the US have now revealed that they have for the first time edited out a dangerous genetic mutation that causes heart disease from a human embryo using a revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR. Last year, China became the first country to use this technique to attempt to cure lung cancer in a human; previously CRISPR has been used to develop TB-resistant cows.
Due to US regulations, which strictly bar allowing edited embryos to develop into babies, none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days. However, the test has paved the way for a future in which we may not only see genetic disease eliminated, but also the ethically questionable creation of designer babies and, eventually, superhumans.
Wonders and terrors are promised in equal measure.
Welcome to the posthuman age that promises wonders and terrors in equal measure. Take cyborgs. It now seems inevitable that some kind of integration of man and machine will increasingly be the norm; in many ways its already happening. Pacemakers have been used for decades, as have cochlear implants.
Britains National Health Service has also okayed the implantations of the Argus II bionic eye which can restore sight in some cases of blindness, and more recently people with severe spinal injuries resulting in paralysis have been able to regain the partial use of their limbs thanks to computer chips implanted in their brains.
In another experiment, a man paralysed from the waist down was able to control a robotic arm thanks to electrodes implanted in the brain, and actually feel what the robotic arms was grasping. Taken further, brain implants aimed at repairing or enhancing memory can also help patients suffering from Alzheimers and work in this field is advancing at a rapid clip.
There are more mundane applications as well, of course, and identification chips are already in use: Verichip is one example, and is being implanted into Alzheimers patients and contains information about their identity and medical condition, meant to be accessed by doctors or in case the patient gets lost.
Naturally, corporations are getting into the game as well, and one company in Wisconsin has implanted rice-sized microchips in its employees hands which perform the functions of office entry cards and computer logins. Employees can also receive payments via the chip. While this would certainly ease many routine office activities, the question does arise as to how much data the company may potentially be able to extract and how secure those chips would be to outside interference.
However, once Elon Musks Neuralink project is complete, such chips will seem mundane: Musk intends to inject a mesh into our brains allowing humans to directly interact with, and even control, machines and eventually even communicate mind to mind. If thats not enough, note that steps are also being taken to create a human hive mind by linking the brains of individuals to create a superbrain with enhanced cognitive abilities.
Scientists have already successfully linked the brains of three monkeys, and in a separate experiment, joined the brains of four rats, allowing them to solve a problem that individual rats struggled to complete. Human trials are only then a matter of time, and will eventually define the meaning of brain trust.
Meanwhile, one field worth keeping a close eye on is nanotechnology the engineering of materials and devices on a molecular scale. Technologists anticipate a future in which swarms of tiny robots will be injected into human beings, working to fight diseases like cancer, actively repairing cells and clearing clogged arteries and even enhancing human abilities by providing us with enhanced lifespans, vision and strength, even allowing us to survive in otherwise inhospitable environments.
Just last month, another major threshold was crossed as scientists came a step closer to being able to grow replacement organs for humans by using stem cells implanted in host animals, and now there is research being conducted on enabling humans to re-grow limbs and organs in the way that some reptiles are capable of doing.
Ultimately, how much of this research makes it to the public at large depends less on scientific advancement as it does on ethically driven regulations and laws, which will likely fall by the wayside as nations race to achieve leadership in the biomedical field. What is certain now is that we are entering an era where we will be able to, at least partially, dictate the course of our own evolution.
The writer is a journalist.
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2017
The rest is here:
Posthuman age - DAWN.com
- Dr Shreeram Lagoo: The sensitive rationalist always on the social beat - Hindustan Times - December 18th, 2019
- Shriram Lagoo (1927-2019): Acting legend and rationalist leaves behind a rich and complex legacy - Scroll.in - December 18th, 2019
- In Conversation with Howard Ross Social Justice Advocate - Thrive Global - December 18th, 2019
- The Varieties of Mystical Experience - Psychology Today - December 18th, 2019
- Take the lead - Daily Pioneer - December 18th, 2019
- Theatre and film actor Dr Shriram Lagoo passes away at 92 - The New Indian Express - December 18th, 2019
- From small town boy to significant contributor - The Age - December 18th, 2019
- From Brown's bigot to Brexit and Boris - Dhaka Tribune - December 18th, 2019
- Israeli Journalist who Interviewed the Rebbe Passed Away - Anash.org - Good News - December 18th, 2019
- EU Policies Dont Tackle Root Causes of Migration They Risk Aggravating Them - Inter Press Service - December 18th, 2019
- Analyzing the Conspiracist Firestorm over Notre Dame - New Ideal - October 16th, 2019
- frag/men/t: Artist Dan Gladden explores the queer posthuman form - OUTinPerth - August 25th, 2017
- West Nile virus found in human-biting mosquito, detected in 20 towns - New Haven Register - August 25th, 2017
- Hall Center for the Humanities events to explore the posthuman condition - KU Today - August 22nd, 2017
- Hundreds confess to eating human flesh in South Africa - New York Post - August 22nd, 2017
- US holds up military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns - Washington Post - August 22nd, 2017
- US Slaps Egypt on Human Rights Record and Ties to North Korea - New York Times - August 22nd, 2017
- Human remains found in caiman may belong to missing man - New York Post - August 20th, 2017
- Natalee Holloway's dad finds human remains in Aruba - New York Post - August 20th, 2017
- British scientists develop world's smallest surgical robot that can mimic human arm - Firstpost - August 20th, 2017
- Big Brother: Elena slams Josh as 'an irrational human' - EW.com - August 20th, 2017
- A Speedier Way to Catalog Human Cells (All 37 Trillion of Them) - New York Times - August 18th, 2017
- Human rights commission 'reset' - Bangkok Post - August 18th, 2017
- AirAsia trains crew to spot human traffickers - Bangkok Post - August 16th, 2017
- Portage gets first look at human rights proposal - Chicago Tribune - August 16th, 2017
- A mob of beachgoers wanted to play with a baby dolphin and wound up killing it - Washington Post - August 16th, 2017
- Cuomo proposes new hate crimes provisions post-Charlottesville - Albany Times Union - August 15th, 2017
- Cristiano Ronaldo shows he's human; Matic key for Man Utd; Neymar's start - ESPN FC (blog) - August 15th, 2017
- 'Brains linked to computers will kill our inner freedom' - Zizek to RT on biohacking & identity loss - RT - August 15th, 2017
- Human remains discovered in Fayette County - Tribune-Review - August 15th, 2017
- India @ 70: A floating post office, a human calculator and 8 other amazing facts - Hindustan Times - August 14th, 2017
- I Am Not a Human Pacifier | Nurshable - August 13th, 2017
- Obama Responds To Charlottesville Violence With A Quote From Nelson Mandela - HuffPost - August 13th, 2017
- Taiwan master offers handwriting with a human touch - South China Morning Post - August 13th, 2017
- First human case of West Nile virus reported in Carson City-Douglas area - KRNV My News 4 - August 13th, 2017
- We're one step closer to using pig organs in human transplants - CBS News - August 13th, 2017
- It's not just Venezuela. Elected governments don't necessarily defend democracy or protect human rights. - Washington Post - August 11th, 2017
- The Climate Post: Federal Science Report Finds Human Activity Does Influence Climate Change - HuffPost - August 11th, 2017
- Scientists Hit Breakthrough In Quest To Transplant Pig Organs Into Humans - HuffPost - August 11th, 2017
- +/- Human review Is this the future of artificial intelligence? Bring it on - The Guardian - August 10th, 2017
- Discovery of 13 million-year-old ape skull shows what human ancestors may have looked like - Washington Post - August 10th, 2017
- New UN report spotlights human trafficking into Thailand - Bangkok Post - August 10th, 2017
- Decoding the ancient logic of the Google Bro - Washington Post - August 9th, 2017
- Chinese man stopped at bus station with two human arms in bag - South China Morning Post - August 9th, 2017
- White House reviewing new report that finds strong link between climate change, human activity - Washington Post - August 8th, 2017
- Saudi Arabia must do something about its barbaric human rights practices - Washington Post - August 6th, 2017
- Human vs. machine contests (real or fictional) but involving ordinary humans - Washington Post - August 6th, 2017
- Saudi Arabia defends decision to execute 14 Saudi Shiites - Washington Post - August 6th, 2017
- Hikers form human chain to cross river after flash-flood - New York Post - August 4th, 2017
- The hidden environmental costs of dog and cat food - Washington Post - August 4th, 2017
- 'Obviously Human': Mother Posts Heart-Wrenching Photos of Baby She Lost at 14 Weeks - CBN News - August 4th, 2017
- AI-Powered Companies Combine Machine Intelligence And Human Ingenuity - HuffPost - August 4th, 2017
- Man charged with human trafficking in Howard County - The ... - Washington Post - August 3rd, 2017
- Scientists discover method to rejuvenate aging human cells - National Post - August 3rd, 2017
- First human embryo editing experiment in US 'corrects' gene for heart condition - Washington Post - August 3rd, 2017
- Can Human Beings Survive The Impending Climate Crisis? - HuffPost - August 3rd, 2017
- The milk of human kindness - The Jerusalem Post - August 3rd, 2017
- Some feared hackers and the devil. Others got microchipped. - Washington Post - August 2nd, 2017
- At The Human Library, The Books Are People And The Stories Are All True - 90.5 WESA - August 2nd, 2017
- YouTube says AI better than humans at removing extremist videos post-brand safety crisis - The Drum - August 1st, 2017
- More Jacksonville Businesses Might Have To Hang Human Trafficking Signs - WJCT NEWS - August 1st, 2017
- Tech companies fear repercussions from a new bill in the US Congress to combat human trafficking - Recode - August 1st, 2017
- Washington Post: Why human rights defenders love John McCain - Concord Monitor - July 31st, 2017
- Big Rigs, a Human Smuggling Mainstay, Often Become Rolling Traps - New York Times - July 31st, 2017
- Kelvin Benjamin's heartfelt Instagram post shows human side of football - ESPN (blog) - July 29th, 2017
- Fellow humans, don't panic yet - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - July 29th, 2017
- Why human rights defenders love John McCain - The Washington Post - Washington Post - July 29th, 2017
- If you could 'design' your own child, would you? - Washington Post - July 29th, 2017
- Maybe the AI dystopia is already here - Washington Post - July 29th, 2017
- Inevitably Posthuman? - The Weekly Standard - July 28th, 2017
- Trump's speech encouraging police to be 'rough,' annotated - Washington Post - July 28th, 2017
- 'First human cyborg' sucker-punched in subway station - New York Post - July 28th, 2017
- 10 People Dead In 'Human Trafficking' Case In Texas Parking Lot - HuffPost - July 28th, 2017
- Scientists genetically modify a human embryo for the first time - New York Post - July 27th, 2017
- Scientists are building DNA from scratch to redesign life - New York Post - July 27th, 2017
- Human Ken Doll Rodrigo Alves is 'waiting for his new chin to arrive in the post' ahead of 35k surgery binge - The Sun - July 26th, 2017
- Investigator: Driver part of larger human-smuggling scheme - The Denver Post - July 26th, 2017
- Plummeting Sperm Counts Could Result In Human Extinction, Doctor Warns - HuffPost UK - July 26th, 2017
- Company whose trailer was used in human smuggling case has history of legal problems - Washington Post - July 26th, 2017
- Here's a list of people Trump has fired or threatened to fire - Washington Post - July 26th, 2017