A trailblazing biologist grapples with her role in the biggest scientific discovery of our era: a cheap, easy way of rewriting genetic code, with nearly limitless promise and peril.
Not since the atomic bomb has a technology so alarmed its inventors that they warned the world about its use. Not, that is, until the spring of 2015, when biologist Jennifer Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the new gene-editing tool CRISPR - a revolutionary new technology that she helped create - to make heritable changes in human embryos. The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers and will help address the world's hunger crisis. Yet even the tiniest changes to DNA could have myriad unforeseeable consequences - to say nothing of the ethical and societal repercussions of intentionally mutating embryos to create "better" humans. Writing with fellow researcher Samuel Sternberg, Doudna shares the thrilling story of her discovery and passionately argues that enormous responsibility comes with the ability to rewrite the code of life. With CRISPR, she shows, we have effectively taken control of evolution. What will we do with this unfathomable power?
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In to the abyss we ascend, a scary future
The whole idea shook me not just moved me
This book is a must read for everyone. Humanity is on the cusp of changing itself forever and most don't even know it.
I will ignore the mistakes and unintended consequences of the fascinating CRISPR technology, which are scarier and more prevalent than any technology humans have ever created, and let's pretend everything goes as planned, a highly unlikely scenario.
CRISPR technology is basically the editing of genes with what appears to be the at most accuracy, and it is easier and cheaper than pretty much any other important technology man has recently created.
Creating a mouse that glows in the dark, a pig that is the size of a pet dog, a fish which grows legs are things that have already been achieved. Eliminating heritable disease will be next without a doubt, and what after that? Forget a pretty blue eyed child, or a tall muscular athlete, which I'm sure is coming to a theatre next to you soon.
Let's use our imagination, a larger brain, more memory, more stamina, less sleep, high IQ, a human that has gills and can breath underwater and go down the near endless list of living DNA and pick your choice.
At first glance I think, let this not happen, STOP it right now, then I realise the cat is out of the bag, Pandora's box has been opened. It is the ultimate weapon for domination that has all the hallmarks of Eugenics on steroids.
To quote Steven Pinker let's hope "the better nature of our angels" evolves quickly enough to create future humans with compassion and tolerance. The author, probably a great scientist, is an optimist. I truly hope she's right, otherwise this could be a good explanation to Fermi's Paradox. This could potentially be the last mistake humankind makes. Since the next one if we are lucky will be made by an edited human animal that will need a new name.
Fascinating, incredible and scary science, and not necessarily in this order. Highly recommended for those who want to be spooked.
An easily digestible intro to the future...
- DC Mike