CRISPR refers to short repetitions in DNA, the study of which has produced technology to edit DNA with great precision. The prospect of being able to edit DNA nearly at will has led to a lot of breathless commentary about how we may change the world—for better or worse—through employing it.
A video recently posted on a YouTube channel called "Kurzgesagt" (German for "In a nutshell") falls into this category:
It is hard to know what to say about this presentation. I certainly enjoyed seeing all the weird descendants we will leave, such as the amphibi-sapiens on some far-away water planet.
Perhaps one place to start would be with the concept of technological determinism. On several occasions, the video suggests the inevitability of the arrival of genetic super-humans in the future, all because of CRISPR.
Several reasons are given. For example, even if some countries place restrictions on the technology, others will not. Thus, even the most extreme applications of the technology are bound to appear.
Also, there is a slippery slope from the current practise of selective abortions to the all-out editing of DNA to produce designer babies. According to the video, nothing can stop this development.
Are these claims true? Or, are they more like claims that the Human Genome Project would lead to a post-racial society?
Assuming that applications of CRISPR can be regulated, the next issue concerns who does the regulation. In the video, only scientists are shown as having a positive role in the development of the technology. Regulators, when mentioned at all, seem like King Canute ordering out the tide.
Are scientists the (only) ones who should determine the uses of CRISPR technology? Or, what role should politicians or the general public play in this matter?