Hacking Darwin presents an evenhanded look at the future of genetic intervention from a non-scientist’s point-of-view.
The first “test tube baby” was born using IVF in 1978. The human genome was fully sequenced in 2003. CRISPR, a method to cut and paste different genetic code into DNA, was developed in 1988 but first used on human cells in 2013. The combination of these three advances will soon allow IVF embryos to be selected for freedom from disease, hair/eye color, and gender. The ability to select based on IQ, longevity, or personality styles (i.e., extroversion or agreeableness) will soon follow. Basically, our DNA will become an IT product that can be hacked in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.
There are many ethical issues inherent in this ability. Would only the rich be able to afford the cost of manipulating their offspring to be smarter than poorer offspring conceived the old fashioned way? Would one “look” be so popular that races are effectively wiped out? Would this allow an entire generation to be wiped out by a new disease for which they are not protected by natural selection? Will we trust artificial intelligence to make humans that are smarter than even they are?
Hacking Darwin is a thought-provoking treatise on decisions that will need to be made soon to achieve the best results in the future with genetic engineering. The best part of this book is the author’s easy-to-read style. He uses examples of people in the future casually selecting their baby’s height and IQ. There is nothing so technical here that an average fiction reader cannot understand, or worse, have to Google.
Perhaps it is because I’m a book blogger but I think this book would be a great resource for writers looking for ideas for a plot. There are a lot of unspoken “what ifs” in here. Would the genetically engineered younger children dominate the naturally made older ones? Would the smarter children be able to outsmart their parents? Could a disease wipe out a world made up of Kardashian clones? I’m not even an author so imagine what a real author could think up. For that reason, plus this is just a fascinating and well-written book, Hacking Darwin deserves 5 stars! I can’t wait to read it in twenty years and see how close or far it is from the truth then.
Thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.