How To Prepare for a Future of Gene-Edited Babies—Because It’s Coming
by Lila Thulin Smithsonian.com
It really feels to me like the world of science fiction and science fact are, in many ways, converging,” says Jamie Metzl. The polymath would know—he’s an expert on Asian foreign relations who served in the State Department, a futurist who was recently named to the World Health Organization’s advisory committee on human genome editing governance, and yes, the author of two biotech-fueled science-fiction novels. But his newest project, Hacking Darwin, is pure nonfiction. In the book, Metzl sketches out how real-world trends in genetics, technology and policy will lead us to a swiftly approaching future that seems plucked from science fiction but, Metzl argues, is not just plausible but inevitable: a globe where humans have taken charge of our species’ evolution through altering our DNA.
In Hacking Darwin, Metzl sorts through scientific and historic precedent to forecast the far-ranging ramifications of this technological shift, from the shameful popularity of eugenics in the early 20th century to the controversy over the first “test tube baby” conceived through in vitro fertilization more than 40 years ago. Potential side effects for this particular medical marvel may include geopolitical conflict over regulation of genetic enhancement and a torrent of ethical questions that we, Metzl writes, desperately need to consider. Hacking Darwin aims to educate and spark what Metzl calls a “species-wide dialogue on the future of genetic engineering.” Smithsonian.com talked to the futurist and Atlantic Council Senior Fellow about the bold predictions he makes, the ethical quandaries genetic engineering poses and the path forward.