Crazy transhumanism, or transhumanist adventurism?
It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the biohacker community has recently been obsessed with putting the human genome editing procedure on a commercial stream when it is still in its embryonic state. After a story with Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui, who edited the genes of human embryos on his own initiative, experiments with CRISPR began to raise many questions among bioethics. The scientific community criticized He for the fact that he arbitrarily decided to carry out a risky procedure and connected volunteers to it. However, the story of a hapless scholar from China did not affect the plans of the American biohacker Brian Bishop. The American states that he is working on a technology that will allow biohackers to "create people who can build muscle without lifting weights and live for more than a hundred years."
For several years, Bryan Bishop, a 29-year-old programmer and bitcoin investor, has published many comments on the Internet about the need to improve humans as a species. He is a transhumanist, which means that he shares the concept of human improvement through technology. Bishop has long urged others to take active steps for this. Now he decided to do it himself.
Bryan and his enterprise partner Max Berry, a former biotechnology research scientist, organized a company focused on the production of designer babies and human germline genetic engineering. According to businessmen, the laboratory work has begun and there are already the first comers to order a couple of designer children. Companions say that they want to support the outstanding (in their opinion) geneticist George Church from Harvard University, whose list of potential genetic improvements using tools such as PCSK9 and CCR5 has been called the “Scroll of Wishes for the Posthuman Era”.
The text of the business proposal of the newly-minted "designer" states that the company plans to allow parents to have transgenic children who will be endowed with the powers of "supercenteries" or the AB + blood group, i.e. universal blood group. A few weeks ago, copies of fundraising materials describing Bishop’s business proposal and promising billions in revenues from the creation of hundreds of thousands of children with improved properties, fell into the hands of journalists. Bishop and Berry believe that, having $ 2 million, they can quickly move from animal testing to experimenting with male volunteers, who will be the first people with transgenic sperm, and start taking pre-orders.
After the recent statement by Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui that he created the first genetically modified children, the scientific community hastened to urge the next pseudo-researcher to stop with his experiments. Some require a strict moratorium on genetically modified children, others say that detailed technical criteria and medical recommendations are needed so that IVF embryos can be safely modified for purposes that the medical community accepts. Gene editing experts from China, the United States and the United Kingdom are planning to create an international committee to monitor the activities of all kinds of genetic engineering specialists.
The unscientific community is also concerned that transhumanists will try to translate their ideas for improving the human species into life, and calls for active opposition to the “Bishop” and similar businessmen.
Bryan Bishop (left) and Max Berry at the Genome Project-Write conference. Photo: MIT TR
Based on MIT Technology Review