The previous part of this series of articles dealt with robots. Now, it is biotechnology, specifically genetic manipulation, in the spotlight. Here is a list of innovations:
Predecessor: Human Genome Project
In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix of DNA. Many people dreamed afterwards that it would one day be possible to map the human genome. In 1993, the Human Genome Project was started by President Bill Clinton. It aimed to map out the human genome. By 2001, they had succeeded. They made some surprising discoveries along the way. This led to the new field of biotechnology.
Personal Genomic Sequencing
One noticeable trend in recent years is individual trying to find out about any genetic disorders they might have. This is done through personal genome sequencing. This is only just starting to become mainstream. Personal genome sequencing has allowed for people to get healthier throughout the United States. However, it is not the only thing that has come along.
In 1997, Dolly the Sheep was cloned. This generated controversy. Since then, other animals have been cloned. We are already seeing cloned pets. Will human cloning come? Most likely, it will. We have not seen it happen yet. But human cloning will most likely revolutionize humanity. There is even the possibility of cloning individual organs for the purpose of organ transplant. There are, of course, other ways genetic engineering is being used.
Curing Genetic Diseases
With genetic engineering, there is now the possibility of curing genetic disorders. This is not mainstream yet. The most notable cure has been for a weakened immune system. In the near future, it will be possible to cure all single-gene disorders. Genetic disorders caused by multiple genes will take longer to come to fruition. However, in the future, genetic engineering could be used for more than just curing genetic disorders.
Future Innovation: Genetic Enhancement
In the future, genetic engineering will be used to enhance a person's physical and mental abilities. This is where things get difficult. I personally think that the first application will be for the military. We will see supersoldiers come about that fight in the military in times of war. This will revolutionize warfare. However, once such a war ends, it only a matter of time before the technology is adopted by civilians. This will lead to the creation of designer babies. When that happens, I do not think this will be like what is seen in the movie Gattaca where there is genetic segregation. Laws will be created to prevent. Of course, in the future, genetic engineering will have cosmetic applications.
Future Innovation: Expressive Augmentation
In the future, nanotechnology will be used in medicine. It is not just delivering drugs to target cells. It is also about using nanobots to manipulate DNA. And by the late 21st century, it will be possible to change a person's appearance through genetic manipulation. Plastic surgery will be a thing of the past. In the future, we will probably see anthropomorphic animals, people who look like aliens or mythical creatures, or even people who have changed their skin colors to non-natural tones. Anything can be possible with expressive augmentation. In the future, however, this could go even further.
Future Innovation: Eternal Youth
Immortality is living forever. It is also virtually impossible to achieve. Eternal youth, however, is not. There are many ways for this, like cryonics and caloric restriction. However, genetic engineering combined with nanotechnology will almost certainly allow for people to stay young forever much like in the anime Sailor Moon. Humanity today can live to be 120 years old. Genetic engineering will likely extend that. Of course, eternal youth is just one thing that could be achieved.
Future Innovation: Resurrecting Extinct Life-forms
In the future, it might be possible to resurrect extinct life-forms like in the movie Jurassic Park. However, resurrecting dinosaurs is impossible unless they are birds. However, it will be possible to resurrect prehistoric mammals like the Woolly Mammoth and the Saber-Tooth Cat. It will probably take synthetic biology (discussed in the next article) before we get dinosaurs. However, genetic engineering will lead very far.
Future Innovation: Transhumanism
All of this will lead to transhumanism. This will allow humanity to evolve beyond what is currently possible for humans. We could even see humans evolve into god-like beings. This will be possible within the 22nd century. We could even see posthumans thousands of years in the future. This is where genetic engineering will take us.
Genetic engineering is still in the early stages. What it holds in store may surprise us. In the final article, we will look at local digital manufacturing which 3D printing, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology.