Although months have already passed since his death, Stephen Hawking has managed to cause controversy with his latest book of essays, to be published this week, by suggesting that a new race of superhumans could be developed from rich people who choose to edit their DNA and that of their children.
A few days ago the last of his scientific articles were published, and now, this compilation of essays, brief answers to the big questions, which is announced as his last message to the world, shows a clear and controversial prediction of a future that threatens the end of the human race as we know it .
In the work, Hawking warns that genetic engineering can inevitably alter the trajectory of human evolution. “Now we are entering a new phase of what could be called self-designed evolution, in which we can change and improve our DNA We have mapped the DNA, which means we have read ‘the book of life’, so we can start to write corrections, “writes the British physicist, according to The Guardian.
In the early stages of these enormous capabilities, enabled by gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR, Hawking suggests that genetic changes “will be limited to the repair of genetic defects.” But the complete and absolute manipulation of our physiology, like the impulse of human intelligence, for example, will take more time and control to master, since a larger and more complex gene arrangement will be involved.
Risks of genetic engineering
Despite the barriers, as science and technology improve, Hawking predicts a world in which people’s capacity for self-design ultimately divides society, rather than helping to unite it. “I am sure that during this century people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts as well as aggression,” he writes.
Although he anticipates enacting laws that go against genetic engineering in humans, the physicist believes that wealthy people could soon choose to edit the genetic makeup to create superhumans with improved memory, disease resistance, intelligence and longevity. These elites, whom he calls superhumans, will come into conflict with normal humans.
“Presumably they will become extinct or no longer important, but instead there will be a race of self-designed beings who are improving themselves at an increasing rate,” Hawking writes, adding: “Once such superhumans appear, , there will be important political problems with the unimproved humans, who will not be able to compete. “
However, from their point of view, these improved humans will not be the greatest threat to humanity, but artificial intelligence with dangerous capabilities and objectives that are not compatible with those of humans; or some kind of planetary disaster that extinguishes life on Earth before humans have had the opportunity to jump.