Fresh funding will be provided to gene editing and mRNA technology
Biotech is entering a new era, with massive US government support: last week the US Government signed an executive order that assigned $2 billion in government funding for ‘high risk, high reward’ biotech projects such as CRISPR gene editing, artificial meat and further development of the mRNA technology behind the Covid vaccine.
With this shift, as I noted last week, a new paradigm of “health” is emerging, not as a default state where doctors are on hand to help get us back to normal when something goes wrong. In the new, transhumanist vision, humans are a kind of meaty machine whose basic functioning can be engineered toward a vision of “health” that’s something more than the default, via biomedical interventions. And doctors are engineers we depend on in perpetuity to keep supplying new and better upgrades.
Last week’s executive order gave another signal that this dream of engineers with limitless power to upgrade nature is increasingly dominant within the world’s only superpower:
In the paragraphs that follow there’s plenty of throat-clearing about protecting against “accidental or deliberate harm”, and safeguarding “United States principles and values and international best practices”. But anyone who feels reassured as a result should glance again at the third sentence in the passage I’ve quoted, which makes it clear that this path of limitless upgrades will be open from the word go to commercial exploitation.
For we already have a well-worked example of how easily “harm” can be redefined, as “values” come under pressure from commercial imperatives: child gender transition. Consider, for example, the different perverse incentives in publicly and privately-funded healthcare systems where this protocol is concerned. In recent years, European nations with publicly funded healthcare systems have rowed back on paediatric gender medicine, for example citing severe side effects and lack of evidence. America, though, has an insurance-based healthcare system, where the incentive is for more and more advanced and expensive interventions — and here, perhaps coincidentally, senior public medical officials call the protocol “essential”, “life-saving” and “evidence-based”.
And while the NHS is closing its only child gender clinic, calling it ‘inadequate’, in the US “gender care” for children is an explosive growth area. The first such US clinic opened in 2007, and there are now (according to the HRC) 50 such institutions, though the real number is probably as high as 300 clinics providing biomedical upgrade services to children.
Of course it’s not just about following the money; it’s also about “values”. America has long valorised those who overcome odds or disregard limits to realise a seemingly impossible dream. So when new technologies promise to overcome our physiological limits, extending that American Dream to human nature itself, no wonder many are enthused. And from this perspective, the “harm” and violation of “values” consists in submitting to unchosen biophysical norms. Here, radical interventions are defended as a means of protecting children from the “trauma” of undergoing “the wrong puberty”.
We are plunging blindly into the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, guided by an ascendant paradigm that views “harm” as a refusal to intervene in what’s normal and “health” as structurally reliant on ongoing biomedical intervention. The reality, though, often falls short of this hubristic dream. There’s already no shortage of testimony from children who regret having interrupted their normal maturation and irreversibly surgically re-sculpted their bodies in accordance with the transhumanist paradigm of freedom-through-upgrades.
And when we extrapolate the now US Government-backed drive to accelerate biotech innovation, we can reasonably expect these children to be merely the first bow-wave of living collateral damage. If we continue on this path without any framework for defending our normal human organisms as right in themselves, without “upgrades”, there will be plenty more.