In the ultimate pursuit of perfection comes the “designer baby.” Researchers at the privately run Genetics and IVF Institute in Virginia have created a test called karyomapping. The test operates by analyzing the genetic maps of parents. While the test functions to detect genetic disorders, it may grant parents the opportunity to chose other traits like eye color or even intelligence(Popular Mechanics). Inspired by Nancy Kress’ Beggars of Spain, I started to think about the art of perfecting the human race. I began to wonder what would happen if genetic alternation became a social standard? What are the social implications of trait selection if it ever becomes an affordable and normalized part of childbirth?
I see many problems with designer babies. Firstly, from an ethical standpoint, babies and thus humans would become mass-produced entities. Babies would become objects crafted to specific criteria. What would happen to individuality? The process of trait selection would equate child procreation to shopping. I can envision the catalogs of the future, pages and pages of glossy desirable traits. Moreover, as of today, our lives are perpetuated by hegemonic norms and social standards. Would the same “idealized” traits be selected for every child? Would we eventually all become the same? Would our gene pool be severely limited? While these questions appear extreme, I believe individuality is essential to our “human-ness.” The thought of becoming a senseless group of Oryx and Crake like Crackers is just a little bit scary.
In addition, I question what type of regulations would be placed upon genetic enhancement. Would there be bans on certain characteristics? Would those bans lead to an illegal black market of traits? Under the table deals? I also wonder if people who have to disclose their genetic enhancements when applying to things like college and jobs. If there were an illegal “trait” trade would there be mandatory testing? I think the very notion of perfection would lead to greed, corruption and instability.
Maybe I’m old fashioned but I think I’ll pass on the “designer baby” and leave some things to chance.