• 2021.02.05
  • Designer humans
Technology is advancing at a blinding pace. We live in a world that people could not have even imagined just a century ago. Meanwhile, there’s been a dizzying explosion of basic knowledge.
The principal of the Escola Japonesa em Lisboa (Japanese School of Lisbon) said, “if we don’t pass our massive systems of knowledge on to the next generation, I fear that civilization may begin to collapse.”

I happened to see a series of documentaries on DNA last year. In one of them, they cut a portion of the gene sequence and replaced it in order to create immunity. Changing out portions of these sequences is part of the world of biotechnology.
We may someday be able to edit the DNA of children before they are born so that they don’t inherit certain diseases—which could eliminate hereditary diseases from families suffering from them. We may be able to help people with HIV, or restore the sight of blind children.
These seem like wonderful medical advances, but the question remains as to whether human beings should be able to interfere with life however they like.
As biotechnology advances, we’ll be able to manipulate genes, create children with blonde hair and blue eyes, or create those with exceptional intelligence. In fact, I’ve heard that some people are tinkering in their home laboratories and coming up with a gene injection that is being sold on the internet—something to give you a bodybuilder physique, or make a fluorescent-colored dog… human desire is boundless.
A few decades ago, even plastic surgery to give people more ideal bodies was seen with skepticism. It’s frightening to think that we’re now entering a world where we could use DNA to create designer human beings.

In New Zealand, there was a plan to control the rats that threaten kiwi birds and other native species by editing the rats’ DNA to create and release rats that only give birth to males. Despite the fact that the rats are an invasive mammal that were originally introduced by white settlers in the 19th century, it was the native Māori people who took a leading role in the discussions and opposed the plan.
In the memorable words of a Māori chief, “Noah had all of the animals on his ark”.

Just like creating designer humans, manipulating genes to eradicate the descendants of a living thing just seems like a bad thing on principle.
When you consider the speed at which technology is advancing, we seem to be in an era where moral questions take precedent over whether something is or is not technologically possible in theory. It does seem that the more technology progresses, the more a solid moral education is the key to resisting the threat of civilization collapsing.

Will these ideas or what we consider common sense today eventually be overturned? Will people like us one day be considered savages? It was a day that brought to mind a book I read in high school: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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