Foreign Policy on Human Engineering

From Foreign Policy: The Next Big Thing: A New You, by Juan Enriquez.

As countries and industries grow increasingly overwhelmed by wave after wave of bankruptcies, layoffs, restructurings, botched contracts, and embarrassing bonuses, they might lose sight of a second, much larger set of tsunamis gathering force over the horizon. While the economy is melting down, technology is moving forward at an even faster rate. The ability to adapt to the accelerating pace of change will determine who survives.

To use the current bailout jargon, at least three major technologies are shovel-ready: the programming of tissues, the ability to engineer cells, and robots. As these breakthroughs and others converge, we are going to see a massive restructuring of global economic power….

How is this playing out, internationally?

Over the past few decades, the ability to code digits created an unprecedented burst of wealth, a large-scale restructuring of industries, and the rapid rise of once poor countries (Ireland, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and some regions of India come to mind). Something similar is occurring in life-literate countries. What began in the mid-1990s as an obscure subspecialty related to pharmaceuticals has become a key component of national development plans….

Clearly, Enriquez is not a man who’s shy about making grand predictions. And absent from his analysis is any hint that there might be risks — let alone that the risks related to any particular technology could conceivably outweigh the benefits. As readers of this blog may have noticed, I’m generally optimistic about the future of biotechnology. But that’s not the same as believing in it uncritically. But yes, exciting times, to be sure.


About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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