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Would you want to alter your future children's genes to make them smarter, stronger or better-looking?|
As the state of the science brings prospects like these closer to reality, an international debate has been raging over the ethics of enhancing human capacities with biotechnologies such as so-called smart pills, brain implants and gene editing.
This discussion has only intensified in the past year with the advent of the CRISPR-cas9 gene editing tool, which raises the spectre of tinkering with our DNA to improve traits like intelligence, athleticism and even moral reasoning.
Experts believe genetic enhancement is more likely to emerge out of China. Numerous surveys among Western populations have found significant opposition to many forms of human enhancement
So are we on the brink of a brave new world of genetically enhanced humanity? Perhaps.
And there's an interesting wrinkle: It's reasonable to believe that any seismic shift toward genetic enhancement will not be centered in Western countries like the U.S. or the U.K., where many modern technologies are pioneered.
Instead, genetic enhancement is more likely to emerge out of China.
Numerous surveys among Western populations have found significant opposition to many forms of human enhancement.
For example, a recent Pew study of 4,726 Americans found that most would not want to use a brain chip to improve their memory, and a plurality view such interventions as morally unacceptable.
A broader review of public opinion studies found significant opposition in countries like Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. to selecting the best embryos for implantation based on nonmedical traits like appearance or intelligence.
There is even less support for editing genes directly to improve traits in so-called designer babies.
Opposition to enhancement, especially genetic enhancement, has several sources.
The above-mentioned Pew poll found that safety is a big concern – in line with experts who say that tinkering with the human genome carries significant risks.