For the first time in the U.S., scientists have genetically modified human embryos. The technique could help screen out heritable diseases, but many worry where it might ultimately lead.
As rumors spread in advance of the publication, the story sparked comparisons with films like Gattaca and books like Brave New World, with their themes of genetic discrimination, DNA-as-destiny and the social dangers of tampering with human heredity.
But the research’s most important — and, to some, troubling — aspect lies in the fact that it alters the hereditary DNA known as the germline.
No one expects the machinery of progress to roll backwards, but sometimes it seems that no one is watching the speedometer (or manning the brakes, assuming any exist). Is this a fair assessment? If so, should we be worried — and what can we do about it?
In this feature, experts on technology, risk, science, policy and neuroscience discuss risk, innovation and how our values affect our conceptions of both.
In the real world, disasters aren’t just a matter of scale – they’re a question of preparedness and of a society’s capacity to handle the fallout. Vaccines, rapid-response teams and early-warning systems can move the needle from calamity toward recovery, while poverty, corruption and ignorance slide it toward catastrophe. So, cue announcer: “In a world … where real disasters aren’t single events that arise from simple problems that are solvable in 93 minutes …”