Many people often wish that it was possible to recreate themselves to be ‘perfect,’ physically, mentally or both. To fulfil this desire, scientists are exploring how DNA manipulation can be used to change plants and animals, as well as redesign our human bodies and minds. DNA is the source code of all forms of life, and changes in our genetic composition may make it possible for us to survive longer, and in more extreme situations. Founding Director of the Life Sciences project at Harvard Business School, Juan Enriquez, has spoken about using gene editing to take evolution into our hands, instead of depending on nature to choose which species survive. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is through CRISPR, a genome editing technique that can modify a specific part of a gene without harming any others.
Enriquez pointed out the evolution of science itself, which used to be about discovery but is now about creation.’ Technology has changed the pattern of our world from ‘survival of the fittest,’ to one in which humans can decide which species live and die. We can also modify the genes of plants and animals to live in conditions they would previously have been unable to survive in. Although the ability to modify the body of different species is phenomenal, an even greater achievement is the ability to recreate our minds.
DNA manipulation means humans can decide who they want to be, and which experience they want to dominate their lives at any given moment. The mind can be shaped by altering, creating and deleting memories, which are the foundation of who we are. This would allow people to change their entire identity, past experiences and personal beliefs almost instantaneously. This altering of self, with technology, raises many questions and the possibility of harmful or immoral consequences. Would justice still be served if a person had no recollection of committing a crime? Would other members of society be affected if somebody ‘created’ a relationship in their head? Would existing financial obligations be avoided by changing the circumstances in the mind?
Although the question of the morality remains, the ability to change our DNA would be frequently lifesaving. In addition to altering or removing DNA associated with genetic illnesses, the length of time taken to make vaccinations would decrease significantly. Future survival would be guaranteed, even in the event of a catastrophic planetary event, as DNA could be altered for life outside of our atmosphere. Space exploration would increase exponentially, as Enriquez believes that the human species was created for expansion. ‘As explorers at heart’ we will always be drawn to the unknown, breaking barriers, creating and recreating, with DNA manipulation being only a part of the process of expanding our beings.