The Next Generation of Humans

By Purav Shah

Image of robot and human As humans have progressed over the ages, many have wondered what the next step of human evolution would be, if any. While the process of evolution is a lengthy one, advances in science have allowed us to take matters into our own hands. A recent example of this is the experiment recently conducted in China. According to the article, Scientists were able to modify the genes of embryos in order to make them HIV resistant. Although the study serves as an important proof of concept for the science behind gene editing, it is important to remember that the experiment was carried out on embryos that would have never come to term. In contrast, Swedish scientists hope to be able to edit the genes of live eggs. According to the article, the researcher hope to "edit genes in human embryos to learn more about how the genes regulate early embryonic development." The results in turn would give us better knowledge of diseases that affect children at birth. Ultimately, genetic editing will allow humans to develop new immunities and enhance ourselves biologically. This in turn sets out a new path of human evolution.
While the science seems promising, it is widely surrounded in controversy with many fearing it will be used to create "designer babies." The term refers to the concept of hand picking "favorable" traits for babies and modifying embryos to deliver "superior" children. This is a concern shared by many in the scientific community and has led regulatory bodies to limit or ban research into the topic. In areas where researching genetic modifications is not banned, scientists are required to request an exemption before doing anything. Due to slow progress in the field, the technology required for human gene editing still remains in its early stages.
Image of elon musk As a result of the restrictive nature of gene editing, other forms of human progression have been considered in order to maintain human relevance on the planet. Human augmentation through robotic means has recently gained tractions, mainly fueled by progress in artificial intelligence and biomedical technology. This topic has gained traction recently due to interest from several famous figured including Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and Elon Musk. Musk in particular has been critical of human superiority compared to computers. In a recent article, he asserts that humans and robots must merge in order for us to compete with robots.
Ultimately, advances in medical and metchanical technologies will bring about changes to humans in a way that many would not have prediced before. In many ways, technology has allowed humans to ignore environmental stressors. As a result, humans must rely on technology to take control of the future of human evolution. It will be interesting to see how research in this field progresses and how the scientific community will regulate this field in the near future.
Sources
Kharpal, Arjun. "Elon Musk: Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in AI age." CNBC. CNBC, 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
Stein, Rob. "Breaking Taboo, Swedish Scientist Seeks To Edit DNA Of Healthy Human Embryos." NPR. NPR, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
Vincent, James. "Chinese scientists genetically modify human embryos for the second time." The Verge. The Verge, 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.


Author: Purav Shah