Designer babies and other moral dilemmas

People have talked about designer babies for a long time, but I just read for the first time about a clinic openly offering genetic screening of embryos. You can pay $18,400 to screen for gender and they plan to soon offer eye colour, hair colour and other traits.

That’s illegal in most countries, but (somewhat surprisingly) it’s allowed in the US.

Genetic screening has reached this point now because technology developments are improving capabilities and driving prices down. That’s a phenomena that’s happening across a broad swathe of areas at an accelerating rate that will throw up moral dilemmas we have to grapple with.

  • Designer babies
  • Human augmentation with robotics
  • Human genetic enhancement
  • Cloning
  • Autonomous robots taking jobs (self-driving cars will be the first)
  • Autonomous robots making ethical decisions – e.g. a self-driving car choosing between hurting it’s passenger and a pedestrian in a crash situation
  • Artificial intelligence advising on legal matters, and eventually de facto making decisions
  • Artificial intelligence advising on policy matters, and eventually making de facto decisions

Coming to the right answers on these questions will require solid thinking and strong, far-sighted leadership. The default reaction of many people, politicians included, will be to reject, suppress and deny. That risks pushing developments and scientists underground and/or to less restrictive geographies where they will still flourish, but in a less controlled manner. And then they will come back.

And this isn’t far away now. In the next 10-15 years most of these technologies will reach a price point that makes them widely affordable.

We have interesting times ahead.