Artificial Intelligence has become a resonant word in the 21st century, especially for the past few years. Bioengineering has become an area of a constant quest, however, there are certain issues regarding it to worry about. Michael Bess in his book has described the terrifying future that bioengineering is ought to bring with it.
Michael Bess is a historian of science at Vanderbilt University and the author of a fascinating new book, Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in a Bioengineered Society. It is in this book Bess describes the shortcomings of such drastic technology.
In conversation with Sean Illing of Vox, Bess has shared his opinion and provided insights about the possible genetically modified future.
According to Bess, the future marked by bioengineering is going to be another great turn in the history of humankind, like the industrial revolution. He compares it with industrial revolution primarily because the technology is ought to bring a drastic shift in the way we live, think and act.
Bess differs from Ray Kurzweil in regard to technological determinism. Bess does not believe in technological determinism rather he claims that it is with the humans mainly in the hands of scientists and designers to steer the development of bioengineering techniques in the direction of better life.
Bess emphasised, “we still have agency. We may not be able to stop the river from flowing, but we can channel it down pathways that are more or less aligned with our values.”
Albeit Bess is critical about the future bioengineering has to offer, he recognises the positive aspects of it. Such a technology enables us to live longer through rejuvenating techniques where a person can have longer health span besides having a lifespan. A person can feel like 45 at the age of 100. It also offers great memory.
There are techniques and methods available for gene editing and there is the introduction of the concept of ‘designer babies’. Bess opines, “the most awful aspects of designer babies is somebody’s shaping you before you’re born — there’s a loss of autonomy that’s deeply morally troubling to many people. But if you’re 21 years old and you decide, okay, now I’m going to inform myself and make these choices very thoughtfully, and I’m going to shape the genetic component of my being in precise, targeted ways. “
He is, however, optimistic that humans gradually will adapt to such changes. He, however, threw light on how such technologies might lead to gross imbalances in the society. There arises a situation where unemployment rate shoots up and the gap between the rich and poor further increases. The economically rich could only afford such expensive technology leaving the poor in the worse situations. Thereby hits hard the sense of fairness and equity.
Bess being optimistic suggests that socialising technologies might help better the situation. He suggests on having a welfare state that subsidises such technologies for the poor by a way of redistributing wealth.
When asked about his opinion if such technology makes the concept of perfection problematic, Bess claimed, “Perfection is a mirage that constantly dances away from us. We’ll have augmented powers, but we’re going to be nowhere near perfect.”
Nevertheless, Bess explains, “There’s no reason, in my view, why these technologies are inherently incompatible with a fairly decent world. But the choice is going to be up to us as individuals, as families, as communities, as nations, and as humankind. At all those levels, we’re going to face a series of tough choices about how we educate ourselves to prepare ourselves for this very swift change.”