April 15, 2015
Better Body Software Will Make People Less Equal

DNA upgrades will be most beneficial for future generations. But those already alive who can afford it will get gene therapy, cell therapy, and replacement organs that will have lots of fixes to the DNA. What will be the impact at the societal level? Yuval Noah Harari tells Daniel Kahneman that medicine will increase the gap between the richest and the poorest. I'll slightly amend that: biotechnology will increase the gap in abilities, drive, and therefore achievement. But we might not call it medicine.

After medicine in the 20th century focused on healing the sick, now it is more and more focused on upgrading the healthy, which is a completely different project. And it's a fundamentally different project in social and political terms, because whereas healing the sick is an egalitarian project ... you assume there is a norm of health, anybody that falls below the norm, you try to give them a push to come back to the norm, upgrading is by definition an elitist project. There is no norm that can be applicable to everybody.

And this opens the possibility of creating huge gaps between the rich and the poor, bigger than ever existed before in history.

What will drive this the most: embryo genetic testing and, later, offspring genetic engineering. The embryo genetic testing to select for performance-boosting genetic variants will come first. Fast genetic sequencing tech will allow detailed genetic testing on cells extracted from embryos. Embryo selection driven by genetic sequencing will appeal more to upper classes. They'll be better able to afford it too.

Embryo selection using genetic testing is already done on a small scale. To date the benefits are low because we do not know the impact of millions of genetic variants. But sufficient understanding will come in the next 10 years. Then the most successive and driven will opt for pre-implantation genetic testing of multiple embryos to select a genetic profile with the most promise..

Other technological advances will reduce the need for humans for manual and dangerous labor.

But in the 21st century, there is a good chance that most humans will lose, they are losing, their military and economic value.

Signs can already be found for this trend: the gap in employment rate for high school drop-outs and those with at least one college degree is now 30%.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 April 15 09:05 PM 


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