Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Visions of the Future: The Biotech Revolution

We just watched this excellent programme from BBC4 on the laptop, using the BBC’s iPlayer video-on-demand technology (see here). In this second programme of the series, theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku looks at the revolution in genetics, which promises health and longevity but also raises ethical questions (from the blurb).

“Supposing there was a gene sequence in males which invariably caused the carrier to execute brutal murders. Anyone who had this gene sequence would carry out these deeds.”


“And suppose that in a few years time, we routinely genetically profile every newborn infant for medical and diagnostic reasons. Little Tommy over there has the killer sequence - what shall we do?”

“We fix it - change the genes so he won’t grow up a murderer.”

“No problems with his civil rights?”

“Overruled by the rights of his potential victims.”

“But those genes have survived culling by natural selection. Perhaps they provide some evolutionary advantage to the human race. After all, not all adaptively-successful behaviours are necessarily pleasant.”

“Doesn’t matter - cut them out.”

“So perhaps you want to feminise the human race - cut out all the aggression, the rough stuff?”

“Can’t come soon enough - perhaps then houses would be designed properly and we could get at the plumbing.”

“Why not get rid of men altogether? Just reproduce women by cloning?”

“Works for me.”