Thursday, July 28, 2005

The New Evolution

Someone new is in charge of human evolution, said Joel Garreau in the Los Angeles Times. It's humanity itself. "We're at a turning point in history," with science and technology beginning to redesign the human being, in new and improved form. For ill or for good, genetic engineering, designer super drugs, and the merging of man with machine will soon realize many of the dreams of science fiction. Five U.S. drug companies are working on "memory pills" that will keep baby boomers' minds sharp indefinitely and "revolutionize education of the young." Some scientists think they could turn legions of poor learners into A students, and boost SAT scores by 200 points. Another company is now testing a "pain vaccine" that would leave people virtually immune to bodily suffering for a month--which athletes might find handy prior to a marathon, or women during childbirth. And the 2004 Athens Olympics may have been the last in which competitors are not secretly genetically altered to have more muscular, efficient bodies. In recent months, a private company has developed technology enabling a paralyzed Boston man to send e-mails with his thoughts and to control a robotic arm. Before too long, we'll see the creation of cyborgs--human beings integrated with computer chips, mechanical parts, and organs grown from stem cells. That and other medical advances may extend the average human tife span to 120 or even 150 years. Is all of this ethical-or even desirable? "It won't be easy for us to choose. Yet choose we must."
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