04.24.2019

Jamie Metzl on the Future of Genetic Engineering

Author of “Hacking Darwin,” Jamie Metzl, warns genetic engineering threatens the very things that make us human and could descend into a new form of arms race. He discusses what’s at stake with Hari Sreenivasan.

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> WHILE THE DEMOCRATS JOSTLE TO TRY TO SHAPE THE FUTURE OF THEIR PARTY, THE WORLD OF SCIENCE IS SHAKING UP SOMETHING EVEN BIGGER.

THAT IS THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY.

DNA IS K BEING A COMMODITY, ONE THAT CAN BE WRITTEN AND HACKED LIKE A PIECE OF I.T.

GENETIC ENGINEERING NOW THREATENS THE VERY THINGS THAT MAKE US HUMAN.

IN HIS NEW BOOK 'HACKING DARWIN' HE WARNS IT COULD BE HARN ESED FOR GOOD OR BECOME AN ARMS RACE.

RIGHT NOW WHEN YOU ARE PREGNANT, THERE ARE SCREENING TOOLS AVAILABLE TO FIGURE OUT IF THERE'S A HORRIBLE DISEASE OR HARDSHIP THAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO FACE.

YOU HAVE A TOOL IN THE BOOK WHERE YOU LOOK FORWARD INTO A FERTILITY CLINIC 25 YEARS FROM NOW AND YOU KIND OF LAY OUT THE SCENARIOS.

HELP OUR AUDIENCE EXPLAIN WHAT THAT COULD LOOK LIKE.

RIGHT NOW MOST PEOPLE WHO ARE PREGNANT IN THE UNITED STATES HAVE NONINVASIVE PRENATAL TESTING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE EMBRYO THAT THEY ARE CARRYING.

AND IF THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS, THOSE PARENTS, THOSE MOTHERS, ARE OFTEN FACED WITH A VERY DIFFICULT CHOICE.

AND THE CHOICE IS TO CARRY THAT EMBRYO TO TERM OR TO ABORT.

AND WHATEVER ANYBODY'S VIEWS ARE ON THE POLITICS OF ABORTION, THAT'S AN EXTREMELY PAINFUL, EXCRUCIATING DECISION FOR PARENTS.

BUT WE ARE MOVING INCREASINGLY TOWARD USING A TECHNOLOGY THAT ALREADY EXISTS FOR PRE-IMPLANTATION GENETIC SCREENING.

SO, RATHER THAN HAVING TO MAKE THAT DETERMINATION ONCE THE MOTHER IS PREGNANT, LET'S SAY YOU HAVE 15 FERTILIZED EGGS, ALSO CALLED ZYGOTES, AND YOU CAN SCREEN ALL OF THOSE AND YOU CAN FIGURE OUT WHICH ARE THE ONES WHICH ARE PERHAPS CARRYING DEADLY DISEASES AND NOT IMPLANT THOSE?

AND THEN GOING FORWARD INTO THE FUTURE, BECAUSE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION, SO MUCH MORE UNDERSTANDING ABOUT OUR OWN COMPLEX GEE NOMICS, THE CHOICES WE'RE GOING TO MAKE IN THE CONTEXT OF DECISIONS MADE AT FERTILITY CLINICS IS NOT JUST ABOUT DISEASE STATES BUT ABOUT ALL KINDS OF TRAITS.

AND THEN BEYOND THAT, AND CERTAINLY WITHIN THAT 25-YEAR TIME FRAME, WE'RE ALSO GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING THAT WE ALREADY CAN DO BUT NOT WELL WHICH IS MAKE A RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER OF GENE EDITS ON THESE PREIMPLANTED EMBRYOS EITHER TO ELIMINATE RISKS OR PROVIDE ENHANCEMENTS.

THERE'S THE ELIMINATE RISK QUOTIENT THAT I DON'T THINK MOST PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEM WITH.

BUT THERE'S THE ENHANCEMENT IDEA WHERE PEOPLE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT.

RIGHT.

YOU CAN START TO SELECTIVELY SAY I WANT TO GO AHEAD AND IF I HAD -- IF I HAD FIGURED OUT THE GENE COMBINATIONS OR LONGEVITY OR HEIGHT OR IQ, PERSONALITY --

YEAH.

-- WELL, I WOULD LIKE TO ENGINEER MY KID TO GIVE THEM AN EDGE OR AT LEAST MAKE THEM BASELINE IF THAT'S WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING.

AND A LOT OF PEOPLE IF YOU ASK THEM HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GENETIC ENGINEERING WILL SAY EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAID.

THEY'LL SAY I'M COMFORTABLE WITH THERAPEUTIC APPLICATIONS, AND I'M NOT COMFORTABLE WITH ENHANCEMENTS.

BUT WHEN YOU PUSH THEM, WHEN YOU SAY ALL RIGHT HELP ME DRAW THE LINE BETWEEN WHERE A THERAPY ENDS AND ENHANCEMENT BEGINS, IT'S REALLY DIFFICULT BECAUSE THERE'S A GRAY AREA IN MANY, MANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

LET'S SAY SOMEBODY LOOKS LIKE A CHILD IS GOING TO BE THREE FEET TALL.

PEOPLE WOULD SAY THAT'S REALLY SHORT.

IT'S HARD TO LIVE IF YOU'RE THREE FEET TALL.

THERE'S A LOT OF DISCRIMINATION.

THERE ARE HEALTH ISSUES.

DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO USE SOME KIND OF GENETIC ENGINEERING TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE A CHILD THAT IS TALLER THAN THREE FEET TALL?

AND I THINK PEOPLE WOULD SAY MAYBE THAT SOUNDS RIGHT BECAUSE BEING THREE FEET TALL IS A DIFFICULT WAY TO LIVE.

YEAH, BUT NOT EVERYBODY WOULD SAY THAT.

AND THEN YOU SAY ALL RIGHT, FOUR FEET TALL?

OR ARE WE GOING TO DEFINE A SPECIFIC HEIGHT WHERE THAT'S BELOW THAT HEIGHT, THAT IS A THERAPEUTIC APPLICATION, AND BEYOND THAT HEIGHT IS ENHANCEMENT?

AND YOU CAN GO TO MANY, MANY TRAITS.

BUT DIFFERENT SOCIETIES WILL HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWS.

SOME SOCIETIES WILL VERY LEGITIMATELY SAY WE ONLY WANT TO ADDRESS THE MOST DANGEROUS GENETIC DISEASES AND THAT WILL BE FINE.

BUT OTHER SOCIETIES SAY HEY, WE RECOGNIZE THAT THERE ARE BENEFITS TO BE HAD, THAT WE THINK AS A SOCIETY THAT MAYBE IT'S BETTER TO HAVE A HIGHER AVERAGE IQ AMONG OUR POPULATION.

WE THINK THAT WILL MAKE US MORE COMPETITIVE.

WE THINK THAT WILL HELP US HAVE NEW INNOVATIONS THAT WILL MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR EVERYBODY.

SO, THERE'S NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER, BUT THESE WILL BE REAL CHOICES.

ONCE YOU START DESCRIBING KIND OF THE AGGREGATE IMPACT OF WHAT THESE TINY GENETIC MODIFICATIONS CAN DO, I THINK THAT GETS VERY SCARY FOR PEOPLE TO SAY WELL, THIS IS WHAT I READ ABOUT IN COLLEGE.

THIS IS A WORLD LIKE DESCRIBED IN THE MOVIE 'GATICA,' ALL OF A SUDDEN WE HAVE A SOCIETY OF HAVES AND HAVE NOTS BASED ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE ACCESS TO THE TECHNOLOGY.

IT'S NOT GOING TO BE EQUALLY DISTRIBUTED TO THE WHOLE WORLD AT THE SAME TIME.

SO, DO WE HAVE A CLASS OR COUNTRY OR COUNTY THAT HAVE ACCESS.

AND A GENERATION LATER YOU HAVE 6 FOOT TALL AND HIGHER IQ AND A WHOLE COUNTRY THAT DOESN'T HAVE IT.

I'M SENSITIVE ABOUT THERE ISSUE.

I COME FROM KANSAS CITY.

MY FATHER AND GRANDPARENTS WERE PLACED THERE AS SURVIVORS AS NAZIISM.

THE NAZIS SAW THEMSELVES APPLYING DARWIN'S PRINCIPLES.

AS A CHILD IN MANY WAYS OF THE HOLOCAUST AND VICTIMS OF THE HOL K COST, I'M MINDFUL THAT THIS COULD BE A FORM OF EUGENICS.

THAT'S A BIG DEAL.

THEN YOU TALK TO PEOPLE AND SAY WOULD YOU, IF YOU COULD CHOOSE FROM 15 OF YOUR PREIMPLANTED EMBRYOS AND YOU KNEW TWO OF THEM WAS GOING TO HAVE A GENETIC DISEASE THAT WAS GOING TO ENSURE THEY DIE BEFORE THEY'RE TEN YEARS OLD, WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO IMPLANT THOSE EMBRYOS.

MOST PEOPLE SAY NO.

AND THAT'S -- WHATEVER THE WORD IS, THAT'S A FORM OF EUGENICS.

SO, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE CHOICES.

IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT GENETIC INEQUALITY IN THE FUTURE, THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO IS WORRY ABOUT INEQUALITY NOW.

BECAUSE IF THIS IS THE WE, THE WE WHO LIVES THE WAY WE DO, WHERE WE'RE PERFECTLY OKAY FOR PEOPLE TO BE BORN WITH VERY LITTLE OPPORTUNITY, PEOPLE BORN LIKE THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC WHO IN EFFECT HAVE BRAIN DAMAGE BECAUSE THEIR MOTHERS ARE MALNOURISHED, SO THEIR CHANCES AT SUCCESS AT LIFE ARE SO MUCH LOWER THAN OUR KIDS, IF WE'RE OKAY WITH THAT NOW, HOW CAN WE EXPECT THAT WE ARE GOING TO BE DIFFERENT IN THE FUTURE?

ARE GOVERNMENTS ANYWHERE CLOSE TO CREATING SOUND POLICY AROUND THIS GIVEN THAT NOT EVERYBODY UNDERSTANDS THE UNDERLYING SCIENCE?

YEAH, SO SOME GOVERNMENTS ARE DOING BETTER.

SOME GOVERNMENTS ARE DOING WORSE.

AND SOME GOVERNMENTS ARE DOING NOTHING.

WHEN I LOOK AROUND THE WORLD, I WOULD SAY THE UNITED KINGDOM IS PROBABLY THE BEST JURISDICTION IN THE WORLD WHERE THEY'RE ADDRESSING THESE ISSUES VERY THOUGHTFULLY.

THEY HAVE NATIONAL FORUMS ON THINGS LIKE MITOCHONDRIAL TRANSFER, THEY HAVE THE EMBRYOLOGY AUTHORITY THAT OVERSEES MANY OF THESE ISSUES, THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT HAVE O ES ISSUES LIK MITOCHONDRIAL TRANSFER.Y HAV AAH SERVICE WHICH A RATIONAL DECISIONS TO BE MADE ON A NATIONAL LEVEL.

HERE IN THE UNITED STAT THE AS CER AN EXCELLENT AND WORLD-CLASS AGENCY, BUT WE DON'T HAVE THAT LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT-WIDE BUY IN, LET ALONE POPULATION-WIDE BUY IN.

WE DON'T HAVE AS INFORMED A PUBLIC ON THE ISSUE.

THAT CREATES A DANGER.

THERE ARE SOME COUNTRIES THAT HAVE NOTHING.

THE DANGER IS THAT CERTAINLY IN COUNTRIES LIKE OURS WE NEED TO DO A LOT MORE.

BUT AS THESE TECHNOLOGIES BECOME MORE WIDESPREAD AND COME TO BE SEEN AS MORE BENEFICIAL, EVEN IF THEY DON'T PROVE TO BE, PEOPLE WILL GO TO WHERE THEY CAN GET THESE BENEFITS IF THEY PERCEIVE THEM AS BENEFITS.

IT SEEMS LIKE TO ME THERE'S THREE GROUPS THAT ARE LIKELY TO ABUSE THIS.

ONE IS DICTATORS WHO WANT TO CREATE AN ARMY OF SUPER-STRONG WHATEVER PEOPLE.

ANOTHER IS ROGUE SCIENTISTS WHO DON'T REALLY CARE FOR THE ETHICAL STANDARDS.

AND WE ARE STARTING TO SEE A LITTLE BIT OF THAT NOW.

AND THREE IS PARENTS LOOKING FOR AN EDGE.

SO, LET ME QUICKLY DISPEL THE FIRST TWO AND FOCUS ON THE THIRD.

I HAVE ADVISED THE U.S. MILITARY ON THIS AND HAVE TALKED TO THEM.

THEY BROUGHT A GROUP OF FUTURIST THINKERS TOGETHER.

MY FEELING IS THE REAL COMPETITIVE EDGE ISN'T JUST SUPER-SOLDIERS.

MAYBE THAT WOULD BE POSSIBLE, BUT IT'S KIND OF A WASTE.

IT'S COMPETITIVE SOCIETIES.

THAT'S -- WHICH LEADS TO YOUR SECOND POINT OF DICTATORS.

IF I WAS THINKING -- I'VE WRITTEN SCI-FI NOVEL ABOUT THIS, IF I WERE A COUNTRY AND LET'S CALL IT CHINA, AND MY GOAL WAS TO BE HIGHLY COMPETITIVE IN THE FUTURE AND I WANTED TO USE THESE TECHNOLOGIES, WHAT MIGHT I DO?

WHAT I WOULD DO IS FIRST HAVE A NATIONAL GENETIC ENGINEERING PROGRAM FOCUSING ON EMBRYO SELECTION MAYBE WITH A SMALL AMOUNT OF GENE EDITING.

THEN I WOULD SORT PEOPLE INTO CATEGORIES BASED ON THEIR SUPER CAPABILITIES BASED ON THEIR GENETIC PROFILES, BUT NOT JUST MILITARY OR SPORTS.

IT COULD BE BUSINESS, ENGINEERING, MATH, ALL SORTS OF THINGS.

AND THEN PUT THEM INTO THE EQUIVALENT OF OLYMPIC SPORTS SCHOOLS BUT IN ALL THESE DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES AND SEE WHO DOES THE BEST AND HAVE A PYRAMID OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE A GENETIC LIKELIHOOD OF BEING GREAT ATG SM.

THEN YOU GET A NUMBER OF SUPER STARS IN THOSE AREAS AND INVEST HUGE RESOURCES IN BUILDING NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.

SO, ROGUE SCIENTISTS, WE'VE SEEN THAT IN CHINA LAST YEAR, HO JONG QI WHO WAS A ROGUE SCIENTIST DOING EXTREMELY IRRESPONSIBLE WORK IN MY VIEW OF GENETIC ENGINEERING, WHAT BECAME THESE TWO CHINESE GIRLS.

BUT THEY WON'T HAVE THE INCENTIVE TO DO, TO MAKE THESE KINDS OF CHANGES ON A POPULATION-WIDE SCALE.

SO, THEY'RE GOING TO NEED SOME KIND OF MECHANISM BEHIND THEM WHICH LEADS TO YOUR THIRD CATEGORY WHICH IS PARENTS.

AND EVERYBODY WOULD AGREE THAT THE KIND OF STATE-SPONSORED EUGENICS OF NAZIISM OR WHAT HAPPENED IN THE UNITED STATES IS WRONG.

BUT WHAT IS GOING TO BE VERY DIFFERENT.

PARENTS ARE GOING TO DEMAND THESE SERVICES, PARTICULARLY ONCE THEY SEE -- IF AND WHEN THEY SEE -- THAT THERE ARE BENEFITS TO BE HAD AND THESE BENEFITS WOULD BE REDUCING THE ROUGHLY 3% RISK THAT PARENTS NOW HAVE THAT THEIR CHILDREN WILL HAVE SOME KIND OF HARMFUL GENETIC ABNORMALITY.

THAT WILL BE A BIG DRIVER.

BUT ALSO CONFERRING CERTAIN KINDS OF AT VANTAGES.

I HAVE A FRIEND IN KOREA.

HIS 11-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER HAS 12 TUTORS COMING TO THE HOUSE EVERY WEEK.

IN KOREA THEY HAD TO PASS A NATIONAL LAW CLOSING THEIR CRAM SCHOOLS AT 10:00 P.M. BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE HAVING THEIR 7 AND 8-YEAR-OLD KIDS GOING TO THESE CRAM SCHOOLS 7 DAYS A WEEK PAST MIDNIGHT TO PREPARE FOR COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMS THEY'RE GOING TO TAKE A DECADE INTO THE FUTURE.

WHEN I ASKED THIS FRIEND, I SAID IF YOU COULD SELECT YOUR PREIMPLANTED EM BEE YOS TO GIVE ABOUT A 15% IQ BOOST TO YOUR KIDS, WOULD YOU DO IT?

HE LOOKED AT ME LIKE I WAS SOME KIND OF IDIOT.

I SAID HOW ABOUT EVERYBODY YOU KNOW, WOULD THEY DO IT?

AGAIN HE LOOKED AT ME LIKE -- IT WAS LIKE OBVIOUSLY WHO WOULDN'T DO THAT.

I'M NOT SAYING IT'S RIGHT OR WRONG.

I'M JUST SAYING SOME PEOPLE AND PARENTS ARE GOING TO WANT TO DO THIS, AND SOME PARENTS AND MAYBE COUNTRIES WON'T.

BUT THERE WILL BE REAL CONSEQUENCES FOR THOSE DECISIONS.

ONE OF THE THINGS YOU KEEP COMING BACK TO IS PRE-IMPLANTED EMBRYOS WHICH LEADS ME TO ASK WILL WE JUST BE HAVING SEX FOR PLEASURE AND NOT PROCREATION.

THERE ARE ARTICLES ON THE END OF PROCREATIVE SEX.

30 OR 40 YEARS FROM NOW, CONCEIVING A CHILD THROUGH SEX WILL SEEM AS DANGEROUS TO PEOPLE AS NOT VACCINATING YOUR CHILDREN IS TODAY.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, NOT VACCINATING YOUR CHILDREN, THAT'S VERY NATURAL.

NATURE DIDN'T INVENT VACCINES.

WE DEVELOPED THEM.

AND AGAIN, CONCEIVING OF A CHILD THROUGH GOOD OLE' FASHIONED SEX IS VERY NATURAL.

IT'S ACTUALLY BEEN A GREAT STRATEGY FOR OUR SPECIES AND ALL SEXUALLY REPRODUCING SPECIES.

BUT THERE ARE DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH SEXUAL REPRODUCTION.

AND WE ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO REDUCE AND IN SOME CASES ELIMINATE MANY OF THOSE DANGERS.

AND THAT WILL BE A CHOICE.

AND SO RIGHT NOW, PEOPLE ARE CARRYING DISEASES THAT WON'T EXIST 20 YEARS FROM NOW OR 30 YEARS FROM NOW.

JUST LIKE WHEN YOU SEE SOMEBODY WITH POLIO, A CHILD WITH POLIO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

YOU DON'T THINK WOW, THAT'S TERRIBLE FATE THAT THAT KID HAS POLIO.

YOU THINK SOMETHING WENT WRONG BECAUSE KIDS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO HAVE POLIO.

AND THERE WILL BE LOTS OF GENETIC DISEASES AND DISORDERS THAT IN THE FUTURE IF YOU SEE SOMEBODY WITH THAT THING YOU'RE GOING TO SAY WAIT, HOW DID -- WHERE DID THE SYSTEM BREAK DOWN?

BECAUSE HUMANS IN LARGE PART AREN'T GETTING THOSE DISEASES ANYMORE.

THERE'S GOING TO BE SOMEONE WHO SAY, FOR EXAMPLE, LIVES WITH A FAMILY MEMBER WHO VZ DOWNS SYNDROME THAT'S GOING TO SAY LISTEN, THAT PERSON IS AN INCREDIBLE HUMAN BEING.

THEY'VE GROWN UP WITH THESE CHALLENGES.

AND THE WAY THAT WE'RE DESIGNING THESE SYSTEMS IN THE FUTURE, AREN'T WE VALUING THAT PERSON'S LIFE LESS THAN IN A WAY COMPARED TO A MUCH MORE PERSPECTIVE OR NORMALIZED PERSON WITHOUT ANY OF THE POSSIBILITY OF GETTING THAT, RIGHT?

IT'S SUCH A VALID AND IT'S SUCH AN IMPORTANT QUESTION.

AND I'VE SPOKEN WITH LOTS OF DOWNS FAMILIES IN PREPARATION OF THIS BOOK.

AND CERTAINLY FOR ANY CHILD THAT EXISTS WITH DOWN SYNDROME, THEY HAVE THE ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO BE GIVEN EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO THRIVE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.

AND MANY PARENTS ARE DOWN SYNDROME FEEL THAT THEIR CHILDREN ARE TRUE BLESSINGS, GREATER BLESSINGS, THAN OTHER CHILDREN.

AND THEY ARE -- THEY ARE RIGHT.

SO, I WOULD HATE FOR PEOPLE TO FEEL THAT WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT IN THE BOOK AND ELSEWHERE IS ANY WAY DENIGRATING PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME OR OTHER DISORDERS.

WE HAVE TO FLIP THE QUESTION BECAUSE THE QUESTION THAT PARENTS ARE GOING TO BE ASKING IS YOU HAVE 15 PREIMPLANTED EMBRYOS AND YOU COULD PICK TO IMPLANT ANY ONE OF THEM.

YOU HAVE ALL THIS INFORMATION.

AND YOU KNOW, LET'S SAY, THAT TWO OF THOSE EMBRYOS HAVE DOWN SYNDROME.

WOULD YOU -- IF IT WAS A CHOICE, WOULD YOU AFFIRMATIVELY CHOOSE TO IMPLANT THE EMBRYO WITH DOWN SYNDROME WHEN DOWN SYNDROME WE KNOW -- WE KNOW THESE HIGH-FUNCTIONING CHILDREN WITH DOWN SYNDROME.

THERE ARE LOTS OF HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH DOWN SYNDROME.

THE LIFE SPAN IS ON AVERAGE LESS THAN EVERYBODY ELSE.

WHEN I FRAME THE QUESTION THAT WAY TO DOWN PARENTS, IT'S A DIFFERENT KIND OF CONVERSATION.

BUT I'M REALLY MINDFUL THAT I -- BECAUSE IF I'M SAYING OR IF THE IMPLICATION WHAT I'M WRITING ABOUT IS WE ARE GOING TO HAVE LESS INCIDENTS OF DOWN SYNDROME IN THE FUTURE WHICH IS JUST A FACT.

IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

WHAT'S THE MESSAGE TO PEOPLE WHO ALREADY HAVE DOWN SYNDROME?

WE JUST REALLY NEED TO BE INCREDIBLY SENSITIVE ON THOSE ISSUES.

WHO OWNS OUR GENES?

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S UNDERLYING ALL OF THIS IS THAT WE ALL HAVE TO BE SCREENED.

WE HAVE TO HAVE IT IN A LAB, ET CETERA, ET CETERA.

RIGHT.

WHO OWNS, I GUESS THE PARTS OF ME THAT MAKE ME WHO I AM?

YEAH, RIGHT.

AND HOW DO I HAVE SOME AUTONOMY IN GIVING THAT AWAY?

RIGHT.

SO, THE EASY ANSWER, BUT IT'S TOO EASY, IS OBVIOUSLY YOU OWN YOUR GENES AND NO ONE CAN TAKE THEM FROM YOU.

AND YET WE HAVE 10 MILLION PEOPLE WHO HAVE DONE THEIR CHEEK SWABS AND SIGNED A LITTLE FORM AND SENT THEIR GENETIC MATERIAL TO COMPANIES IN MANY CASES WITH NO PROTECTION AND THAT THESE COMPANIES ARE THEN SELLING YOUR GENETIC INFORMATION TO BIG PHARMA.

AND THAT'S A REAL ISSUE.

PEOPLE DON'T RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR GENETIC INFORMATION IS MORE VALUABLE TO YOU THAN YOUR BANK INFORMATION OR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION BECAUSE IN THE UNITED STATES WE HAVE GENETIC INFORMATION NONDISCRIMINATION ACT WHICH PROTECTS YOU AGAINST DISCRIMINATION IN YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE BUT NOT IN YOUR LIFE INSURANCE.

SO, IMAGINE IF YOU SENT IN YOUR CHEEK SWAB AND YOUR LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY BUYS IT AND THEY KNOW MORE THAN YOU KNOW ABOUT WHEN YOU MAY DIE, WHETHER YOU'RE LIKELY TO HAVE A LONG LIFE OR A SHORT LIFE.

THAT'S REALLY VALUABLE INFORMATION.

SO, A COUNTRY LIKE CHINA THAT HAS POOR PRIVACY PROTECTION COULD CONCEIVABLY HAVE A TREMENDOUS ADVANTAGE IN ACCESSING THESE BIG DATA POOLS.

SO, THERE'S A CONFLICT BETWEEN THE PERSONAL NEED FOR PRIVACY AND THE SOCIETAL NEED FOR THIS INFORMATION TO BE SHARED.

THE REASON WHY I'VE WRITTEN THIS BOOK IS THAT WE NEED TO BEGIN IMAGINING WHERE WE'RE GOING BECAUSE WE HAVE HUGE DECISIONS THAT WE'RE GOING TO NEED TO MAKE NOW.

AND WE'RE REALLY GOING TO NEED TO THINK DEEPLY ABOUT WHO ARE WE, WHAT ARE OUR VALUES, HOW ARE THOSE VALUES EXPRESSED IN THE DECISIONS THAT WE ARE MAKING TODAY THAT WILL IN MANY WAYS TERM DETERMINE HOW THESE TECHNOLOGIES PLAY OUT IN THE FUTURE.

JAMIE, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

MY PLEASURE.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Dimitri Simes in an exclusive interview; and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham about withdrawing all National Guard troops from her state’s border. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Jamie Metzl about genetic engineering.

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