The 2016 elections are behind us now. I’m sure you would agree there were lots of theatrics, lots of drama, lots of attention to the size of one’s hands and the size of another’s private email servers. Lots of news that bled and therefore led.
In that election cycle, we had 24 debates, another 20 forums, countless media interviews, and billions in spend – but not a single thoughtful conversation occurred about the DNA revolution occurring all around us.
You might be tempted to think the genomic revolution is just the stuff of scientists. Presidential candidates should focus on discussing the economy, healthcare, jobs and immigration. I agree with you, world. Those are all very important topics that deserve to be the center of conversation in presidential debates.
But I am here to tell you this — DNA editing is part-and-parcel to all of those topics.
Is it the economy you care about?
DNA editing will cause the next big tectonic shift in our economy. We will need more genetic counselors, more ‘coders’ who understand the code of life (DNA), data miners that can dig into genomic data and find insights. This will all impact almost every industry we know today, from big food & beverage, to fashion, to energy and transportation.
Is it healthcare you care about?
DNA editing offers an emerging field of healthcare called ‘precision medicine’ – this idea that we can sequence your DNA and hone in on where to fix you. During the election cycle, we yelled and screamed about the healthcare system but what we really did is make a lot of noise about billing and insurance – we did nothing to talk about the technology available to actually make people healthier. Why didn’t we?
Is it immigration you care about?
Well, then you must care about DNA editing. To fuel this new kind of economy, there will certainly be a fight to attract the best talent from all reaches of the earth. The other countries that attract that talent first will absolutely win this new race to the moon.
Is it the Supreme Court you care about?
Well, then you must care about DNA editing. The biggest ethical decisions of our life time – the biggest ethical decisions our species has ever encountered — will now be debated. Dear world, no form of life on this planet has ever been the conscious editor of it’s own life code – until now. And our justices at the Supreme Court will be challenged in unprecedented ways. For example, you might have wondered whether a justice is pro-life or pro-choice, but what about the justice’s thoughts on editing the DNA of an unborn child? Should you be allowed to not have a child if you don’t like what the DNA says they’ll turn out to be? What if your child is likely to have a disease and you don’t want to edit the DNA to delete that disease because you want a more natural child? Is that constitutional? Should it be?
Public policy will need to meet the new demands created by DNA editing. Thoughtful design of public policy requires widespread conversation and well-informed debate. The right answers are not clear yet. We must talk openly and broadly so that we avoid falling victim to the wrong answers.