For the ones of you who don’t know, the CRISPR/Cas system is a prokaryoriotic immune system which has recently started to be used in genetic engineering. So far, this seems to be resulting in a dramatic decrease of the costs of altering an organism’s genome.
The age of cheap and accessible gene editing may come even sooner than we anticipated. For those who (like me) have been enthusiacally waiting for this paradigm shift, these are great news, but not everyone seems to be happy.
Many people seem to be worried about the imminent development of DIY biology, which CRISPR may make practical whithin the span of a decade. When the common man can gather the resources to create a new organisms in his garage, some very bright, but also some very dark, possibilities will open. You can picture a smart kid discovering the cure for cancer by himself using DIY bio, but you can also imagine him creating a supervirus whcih would destroy humanity (some guy on the internet has said that the apocalypse will become available by 40 US dollars).
Because of this last possibility, many people (including [some generally technoprogressive people] 1) are calling for a moratorium on CRISPR related research.
In my opinion, while its true that we should recognize CRISPR’s destructive power, we should also consider the following:
- CRISPR provides us with an unique opportunity to rapidly eradicate all the genetic diseases that haves plagued humanity for millenia, thus saving millions of people.
- CRISPR will allow us to easily create better genetically modified crops which will help to mitigate (or maybe even eradicate) famine in the world, thus saving even more millions of people.
- CRISPR will allow us to develop new ways of fighting several types of viral diseases, including AIDS and every possible atificial virus which could eventually be created using CRISPR
In the end, I think that CRISPR has potential to save many more lives than it could possibly destroy (especially since it will provide us with ways to save the lives that it could possibly destroy) and we would be foolish not to pursue its development.
What’s your opinion?