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Why The Future Doesn't Need Us
Atec February 29 2008 20:16:19


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Genetic engineering promises to revolutionize agriculture by increasing crop yields
while reducing the use of pesticides; to create tens of thousands of novel species
of bacteria, plants, viruses, and animals; to replace reproduction, or supplement
it, with cloning; to create cures for many diseases, increasing our life span and
our quality of life; and much, much more. We now know with certainty that these
profound changes in the biological sciences are imminent and will challenge all
our notions of what life is.

Technologies such as human cloning have in particular raised our awareness of
the profound ethical and moral issues we face. If, for example, we were to
reengineer ourselves into several separate and unequal species using the power
of genetic engineering, then we would threaten the notion of equality that is the
very cornerstone of our democracy.

Given the incredible power of genetic engineering, it's no surprise that there are
significant safety issues in its use. My friend Amory Lovins recently cowrote, along
with Hunter Lovins, an editorial that provides an ecological view of some of these
dangers. Among their concerns: that "the new botany aligns the development of
plants with their economic, not evolutionary, success." (See "A Tale of Two
Botanies," page 247.) Amory's long career has been focused on energy and
resource efficiency by taking a whole-system view of human-made systems; such
a whole-system view often finds simple, smart solutions to otherwise seemingly
difficult problems, and is usefully applied here as well

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