Greg Stock: Redesigning Humans

Interview

Friday, November 04, 2011

Nearly a decade after the human genome was decoded, scientists are only now beginning to understand its implications. One of the leading thinkers in this field is the biotech entrepreneur Gregory Stock. A biophysicist by training, his 2002 book Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future makes the case that full-scale genetic engineering is on the way — whether we like it or not.

And, Stock believes, if the US doesn’t lead the way in developing those advances, other nations will. “Between a third and two-thirds of the population — and even higher if you look at China or Thailand and other eastern cultures — of parents say if they could enhance the genetics of their children, enhance their either cognitive or physical capabilities, they would absolutely do it."

But engineering traits to “improve” people remains a thorny issue. “It sounds so compelling, ‘take out a little bit of this, that, it’s going to be the best of you,’” Stock says, “but actually we don't have a clue what creates exceptional capabilities."

While Stock’s attitude is full-speed ahead, he admits, “it’s going to get weird."

If you could tweak your genome at will, what would be first on your to-do list?
Increase lung capacity? Improve your vision, or your memory? Tell us in a comment below.

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Guests:

Greg Stock

Comments [3]

April from Manhattan

I wouldn't have minded being engineered to not be myopic, or to have a fix for going blind now. But overall I found most of these ideas creepy in the extreme. In the first place, the one percent would be able to afford it. Would Medicare cover it? Don't think so. Medicaid? Forget it. The huge number of poor even in the West and more world wide, impossible. Armed class warfare would break out. We would design stupid drones to do the work, big brained, strong legged, good looking superior species, to work on Wall St or Vogue. Perhaps my beloved stepmother could regain her memory, but would she be happier? She doesn't remember my father is dead, and asks how my (non existent) children are. I'm glad of having no children. There are already far too many of us, and growing, killing the sea and eventually life itself. See Werner Herzog's film Encounters at the End of the World, (an intentional double entendre on his part.) World scientists at an American base in Antarctica, watch apocalyptic Sci Fi films. They've built a shrine at the end of a long tunnel in the ice for aliens to find, if they come. There are pictures of flowers, trees, animals, (all rapidly going extinct unless we eat, find them companionable, or use them for research to prove to ourselves how smart we are, or to engineer even more superior versions of ourselves). There are even pix of a woman and a man. We flatter ourselves by using "sapiens'. We think, but are irrational. We get in the car, jump on that plane, drill for more oil, even as we know it's bad for the planet and us and spills will happen. We're truly The Selfish Species. Perhaps it could occur to a scientist to fix our selfishness, to create a human with compassion that cares about life on earth, can think realistically and rationally about the future we're creating. I doubt it. Our compassion is limited to our species, but not rationally, so not even successfully for us in the long run.

Nov. 06 2011 12:36 PM
Karen Fellbaum

Make pain disappear.
I had a stroke and the stroke determines whether and where pain appears.
That determination pays no attempt to medications.
Reverse the stroke.

Nov. 06 2011 08:11 AM
Silence Do Good Gauge from Chesterfield, MO USA

Come on James, please publish my essay. That was the line of thought from Benjamin Franklin when his brother refused his request for publication.

I have the answer for making better people, though unlike Benjamin Franklin, I don't know how to trick you into publishing my thoughts. The Silence Do Good Gauge false persona is unlikely to work in your media.

The solution to better humans is to provide the motivation to articulate a reasoned thought. I've written many essays to describe this technology. One individual with an interest in the idea hints at the problem of my delivery:

Your presentation of the very tool you hope will help people present their ideas, well, needs your tool.

I've taken additional advice from this individual. Stay tuned, I am working on an outline summary of the Do Good Gauge proposition.

Silence Do Good Gauge
http://www.dogoodgauge.org

Nov. 04 2011 12:51 PM

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