As Sarah said in her email to me about this earlier, it “looks more and more like Alien”. A couple of weeks ago, NASA discovered 7 new earth-like planets around a star not too far (in space terms) from where we are. So, presumably, if they’re “earth-like”, would their inhabitants still be “aliens”? Aliens, typically, are represented as creatures with sinister motives and terrible facial proportions. Think of the word “alien”. You don’t visualise someone who looks like yourself. You think of whatever it is that’s going to eat that man’s face in the clip above. Which, obviously, is terrifying. But for some reason, watching this preview made me think of CRISPR. You’ve heard of CRISPR?
Radiolab, one of my favourite podcasts, just did an update on an episode they did two years ago on CRISPR. CRISPR is gene-editing technology. In the two years since Radiolab featured CRISPR, scientists have made even more advancements in what they can do with DNA. In short, CRISPR in its purest form, can “fix” genes. One day, it’s possible that CRISPR will be able to fight incurable diseases. But one day, it’s also possible that CRISPR can go into human embryos and, for example, “fix” the “short” gene. So that our super race might be able to one day fight aliens? That last part was my own imagination. But seriously, superheroes? They are not that far off. Also JLO is making a TV show about CRISPR.
Still, what happens if there are no longer any short people? And who gets to decide which attributes are the “desirable” ones? CRISPR is bringing up all sorts of ethical dilemmas about scientific responsibility and boundaries. This reminded me of an article I read recently (we discussed this on The Social too) about schools introducing “values” lessons into classrooms and critics now “worry about all the time teachers are spending on morals instead of math”. I mean I get it. Math should definitely be a priority. But what’s math in the hands of someone who may not have the morals to use it responsibly?
Well. That took a turn. Sorry. Life will screen at SXSW first and then open on March 24.