Towards the end of Summer, when I stepped out of the workaday rhythm, I read the most interesting piece of the summer season. Written by Jamie Metzl, an old political friend who ran for Congress a few years ago, his book the Genesis Code is about the furious pace that genetics is challenging basic assumptions of what it means to be human. You might ask what does genetic engineering have to do with cosmetics?
Lots. Much sooner than we imagine, we will select the eggs that create our grandchildren and ensure blond or red hair with the latest possible onset of gray or baldness, no teenage acne, and above all ageless skin selected from those rare people (whom we all know) whose genes minimize age based wrinkles.
Today we obsess over about the non-or GMO tomatoes in our fridge, but in a few years the issues of GMO will be much deeper and touch on what it means to be human. As I quoted a good friend in a past post, “new ideas and trends always take longer than we expect to gain traction, but, when it starts, its progress is faster than we ever imagined.” Genetic engineering will be the same.
So what’s the worry?
Metzl writes that “we are on the cusp of taking control of our evolutionary process like never before”. Take a baby from 11,000 years ago and raise him in your house and you’ll have a text happy trend obsessed teen within 14 years. Take a baby from 1,000 years from now and put him in your house and the experience may not be as pleasant. She will be smarter, larger, “better looking”, stronger senses, and more disease resistant. Perfectly engineered like that new apple or tomato you are enjoying. Imagine one country focuses and supports this process and its main competitor bans it for religious reasons. Within two or three generations there is a genetic gap……. no longer a missile gap, but one based on raw intelligence, physical strength.
Genetics is not everything, but it’s clearly the main driver followed by what each society and family does to manage its social capital. Anti-wrinkle creams and other necessary potions will be needed for many years to come, but it’s clear that the “brushstroke” will be replaced with the keystroke to erase and minimize proof of a life well lived.
In which case someone will have to ask if there are no wrinkles, is it really a life?