In Search of Perfection – Fantasy or Satire?


We’ve seen it come and go, this ephemeral quest for Beauty. With the invention of such genome-engineering tools as CRISPR, a technology that could allow researchers to perform microsurgery on genes, precisely and easily changing a DNA sequence at exact locations on a chromosome, we’re seeing the beginnings of a revolution in cosmetic Augmentation before our eyes.

Beyond the medical breakthroughs which are already forecast, one will begin to see those who seek perfection, the self-editing or techno-makeover industry will take the next step in editing out those blemishes and micro-deficiencies, all those disgusting aspects of one’s fleshly existence that have for so long troubled one’s sense of beauty.

CRISPR and the other new tools also give scientists a precise way to delete and edit specific bits of DNA—even by changing a single base pair. This means they can rewrite the human genome at will. Someday vast digital libraries of CRISPRs, each of which targets a different human gene will become marketable. These vast collections, which account for nearly all the human genes, have been made available to other researchers. The libraries promise to speed genome-wide studies of genetics.

Cut and patch technologies will become the stock and trade of a new wave of Augmentation Specialists, equipped with the vast encyclopedia of beatific forms, a typology of Beauty that can compute and edit ones genome in one sitting, the cosmetic augmentation specialists of tomorrow will splice and dice one’s flesh with subtle variations like a musical score played by a Maestro. A Symphony of fleshly delights that will have you looking like your own Barbie Doll in no time.

(I wrote this as a spoof, reflecting on the usual culprits, the panoply of applications to which such technology could be adapted too, since as one scientists stated CRISPR and other technologies “will likely only be limited by our imagination“.)

The whole notion of metamorphosis, transformation, editing out the imperfections in the human genome is based on a typical fallacy that we can edit out the Other. One will imagine a future of clones and typology of advanced sleeves – a sort of immortalist factory model of Sameness. As in Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi trilogy, where humans can resleeve or change bodies through a process of transplanting etc. Obviously fantasy at our moment, but imaginal projection for those singulatarians who surmise such things.

Already we see CRISPR being used in China for experimental purposes on human embryos. They’ve only used embryos that were to be destroyed so far, but one wonders about rogue governments and black ops projects that might already be developing such augmentation and mutations. What will occur when such editing of the human genome is brought to fruition? When the first experimental embryos are born after such editing procedures?

In an article published in the journal Science, leading biologists warned about the dangers of altering the human germline (meaning permanent changes to the egg, sperm, or embryo that can be passed on to future generations). They note that the “enormous opportunities” of such genetic engineering come with “unknown risks to human health and well-being.”

As Carl Zimmer notes in National Geographic, there were several major problems with the work, including the fact that the CRISPR technique often missed its target, inserting the DNA into the wrong place in the genome. “Such a misfire wouldn’t just fail to fix a disease,” writes Zimmer. “It could create a disease of its own.” He adds that despite this and other mistakes, there was nothing in the researchers’ work that was a “conceptual deal-breaker” for using CRISPR to edit human genes.

read more on the Verge: Scientists in China edit human genome in embryos for the first time

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