Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Genetic Hybirds, Stemcells, and Elective Surgery

Biotech, especially stem cell experiments, simultaneously excites and disturbs me.
In the hands of scientists, life is technology, as in the National Geographic article "Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controvesy." In the hands of artists, a medium, like the Biological Arts Department at SymbioticA. In the marketplace, I believe there will be a niche for elective body modifications. Would I get breast implants? No. But would I get gill implants? Maybe.

Of course I have a lot qualms about all of this. The main argument in support of biotech is that medical research must be furthered to save lives; the obvious counterpoint is that this is a fantastic Pandora's box. And yet along with the rest of technology it seems so inevtiable, so unstoppable, so incredible, that I would be tempted to participate in its advancement.

What scientists would do (have done, are doing...) with human-animal hybrids is a question of ethics, not so different than the ethical questions of animal testing, but without the convenient divide between humans and animals. But as long as biotech is in the lab, it remains contained and controllable.

What the market would do is what actually worries me. Genetically modified corn designed to resist pests is only a global issue once it is widely planted. Patents and copyrights on molecules and GMOs is already a convoluted problem. Fertility treatments, already well established in our culture, are a huge market.

I don't know what will happen, and until I have gills, I won't be holding my breath.

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