Imagine a world where genetically altered humans, some implanted with chips and other gizmos, walk the earth undetected. That reality may be coming sooner than we think, and Americans are worried.
This week, the Pew Research Center released a report laying out American’s concerns on the bio-hacking movement.
A majority of the 4,726 US adults surveyed said they would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene-editing (58%), brain chips (69%), and synthetic blood (63%). Less than half of participants said they would be enthusiastic about each of the three major technologies of the future.
We may be smarter, stronger, and healthier than our ancestors thanks to these scientific and technological innovations, the Pew Research Center points out. Gene-editing might someday reduce babies’ risk of living with disease, while implanting brain chips and giving transfusions using synthetic blood unlocks new cognitive and physical abilities.
So, what’s the problem, America?
Seven in 10 survey participants predicted each of these new technologies will become available before they’re ready, without complete testing or understanding of how they work.
If a day comes when these developments become as ubiquitous as cosmetic procedures, 73% of Americans surveyed believe they will be only obtainable by the wealthy at first. These cognitive and physical boosts might further the divide the haves and have-notes.
Still, Americans surveyed are more open-minded when it comes to gene-editing than brain chip implants and synthetic blood transfusions. More than a third of participants reported they think gene-editing will have more benefits than downsides, while 25% voted the opposite.
In 2012, scientists took a huge step forward in disease prevention and elimination with the CRISPER-Cas9 system, dubbed “the biggest biotech discovery of the century” by MIT. It’s essentially a “search-and-replace” tool for the genome. Don’t want the code that’s related to a particular disease? The tool can be used to snip or potentially swap it out.
Genetically edited “designer babies” could transform everything from cancer research to neuroscience.
But as the UK becomes the first country to formally approve research on gene-editing in human embryos, it seems he biohacking movement is underway — whether Americans like it or not.
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