A few days earlier, as I watched the 1997 Sci-Fi film 'Gattaca,' I was left with a feeling of discomfort. Though the movie ends in a favorable circumstance for the protagonist, it left me wondering what we as a species were headed towards.
The plot of the film foretold of a future where Eugenics was possible. Eugenics, as some may know, is an effort to improve the traits of the Human population by genetic manipulation. Though the movie spoke of a widespread use of Eugenics, in the real world, such an advancement would be met with tremendous skepticism. A population which disagrees even to consume Genetically Modified Crops would surely see this akin to blasphemy. Religious organizations would declare it evil but would it even make a difference?
The opposition would slowly fizzle out as corporations start appointing individuals who were born with modifications. This would be the most obvious choice as these people would be physically and mentally superior as compared to the more virgin, more ancestral counterparts. They would be less afflicted by diseases, have better response rates and so on. In quite a short time industrial growth would mask the darkness of this advancement.
What darkness you ask? Let us take up a more modern example. When Bayer developed a cancer drug and priced it at $69,000 per year per patient, a Indian company filed a petition to make its Indian version. The CEO of Bayer, Marjin Dekkers, had this to say,"We developed this product for Western patients who can afford this product, quite honestly. It is an expensive product, being an oncology product."(He forgot to mention that the Govt. appointed researchers in universities did most of the research before his company made the industrial product ready. Will Bayer pay the public who sponsored this research?)
This is a rather common story in the pharma industry of today. Much like this, Eugenics shall become accessible to only the richest few in the world. And therein lies the problem.
As a generation of perfected individuals holds the high paying positions, they shall be able to afford similar modifications for their children. At the same time, the children of their competing counterparts shall be forced to battle it out against the might of a more scientifically equipped rival. As time progresses, these communities would increasingly diverge, and we shall be left with a new modern caste system and maybe, in the long run, even different species.
In an already skewed playing field, the poor find it difficult to gain enough training to become successful. With Eugenics the jobs shall come under the monopoly of the top 10% of the world's population while the remainder of the population shall be reduced to menial labor. In a world where 82 people hold more access to resources than 50% of the World's population, this is but an eventuality. The ball must always roll downhill.
As a scientist, several have worried before about the implications of their work. From Einstein to Feynman, the creation of the Atomic Bomb played a dark chapter in their lives. It is just my hope, if you are reading this article, I have been able to make you implore about the implications of your research. If nothing else, try to make it for all of us rather than a select few.
Published:- 22nd February, 2016