Friday, May 12, 2006

The Catalog Of Correctable Omnipresent Human Flaws

I saw this some time ago, and thought it amusing.

This fellow lists all the biological problems that human anatomy presents, and what he would do about them, given genetic control.

Many of the suggestions are moderately sensible, although some are very medically naive. The spirit of the thing is certainly very positive, and I would like to see some percentage of the proposed changes at least modeled in detail.

He then goes on to suggest implementing them as retroviral in vitro modifications of human zygotes, which I think is a silly, and also terrible idea. Testing wild new biological structures on unborn children is a nonstarter for many reasons. The first is that you could doom them to a life of horrid misery, or quick death. But the second, and more difficult to dispel through care and testing, is that it's simply too indirect a proposition.

Aside from the fact that getting an unborn child's permission is tricky at best, even if you subscribe to medieval notions of children belonging to their parents, it's simply not as direct a motivation for research and development. Here you're offering potential benefits to the children of rich people, initially at least.

An alternate, and possibly more difficult attempt, would be surgical implementation on adults. Here you can sell directly to the rich people and those ill (but covered by insurance, or sponsored). That's a much more motivating, and much clearer proposition. The adult can consent, understand the risks, and perhaps more importantly, directly evaluate the benefits.

Eventually, of course, medical technologies will be possible to attempt on anyone, and both the adult and prenatal varieties will become social/legal issues. But this is another case where you should not live out your dreams through your children, but rather try to accomplish them yourself.

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