I don't usually tend to spread apocalyptic predictions, but this is something that I think we should all be concerned with. I urge you to pay close attention to what is written below and also to spend the 16 minutes or so, it will take you to carefully watch the attached TED talk. I know it may be a bit tough to understand if you are not a biology major, but I hope to get you to at least understand that something of epic proportions is going on, and doesn't get anything close to enough public attention. So here is the TED talk, and please watch it carefully before you read further
OK, so let me just recap that for you: CRISPR is a technology that makes gene editing almost as easy as cut-and-paste in a word processor. Even more, in a recent breakthrough, scientists discovered that they can make sure that the modified genome will be inherited by 100% of the offspring of a modified organism, which is never the case in natural sexual breed. Although CRISPR is a remarkable achievement of science, that can bring hope, not just to people with genetic disorders but also to mankind in general ( by eradicating mosquito transmitted diseases, for example ), It is quite clear that it bares some significant and rather frightening risks. And although the ones that come first to mind are alarming enough ( Imagine for example, how easy it now becomes to perform genocides and ethnical clearances ), the one that I find the most concerning is a bit more tacit. CRISPR works very much like computer code modifiers, that is malicious software like worms and viruses on one hand, and computer protection software on the other hand. This fact did not escape the attention of genetic engineering entrepreneurs. In fact, I know of at least one bioengineering startup that develops tools for "Genetic engineering as a service". Remember also that in order to spread modify genomes, there is no need to spread actual biological material. Genomes can be spread as computer files to labs where the actual genetic material can be generated at the very last moment with gene sequencers. I feel that this is a good point to pause and remind ourselves that we are not talking about science fiction here. This is all existing technology that is put to use in these very days. A technology that is a game changer not only for mankind but for all of life on earth. We are now capable of eradicating a whole species at will and of creating new life forms, and it is as easy as writing computer code. True, we still don't know how to manipulate complex things which are probably not completely genetic, such as behaviour, in a controlled manner - a fact that is used by scientists to downplay the risks that CRISPR bares, but to understand why I think we should still be very concerned, we have to consider another factor: Privatized warfare. Privatized warfare is not a new thing of course. Mercenaries, Pirates, Private armies and cell based terror organizations have existed since the beginning of civilization. But in the internet age, it became a major factor in the map of organized threats. This is very much evident in the realm of cybercrime and it's related criminal activities. Private and for-profit organizations, as well as lone wolfs, co operate with states and state like organizations trough a complex network of interests and conflicts, in a way that is very difficult to control and predict. Although so far the damages caused by this modern privatized warfare were limited, they are growing in alarming pace, and now with CRISPR based genetic engineering at play, with its close similarity to software engineering, the possibilities for evil dowers, already well established and highly proficient in the ways of privatized warfare are endless. I don't usually spread apocalyptic predictions, but in this case, I think there is a real reason for concern, especially when fear, hatred and other kinds of ill thought based ideas dominant so much of our public landscape, which set the stage to justification of all kinds of horrible things. In view of the possibility that governments may be tempted to cooperate with private warlords in a tacit, dirty biological warfare, we should at least demand that a serious open discussion will take place.