Growing up in the 21st century, post-millennials have been given the opportunity to witness many disturbing and debatable occurrences like pollution, mass shootings and different forms of discrimination, however a huge topic we have just recently become exposed to is the new advances in technology. The advancements in biological sciences and technology or more widely known as biotechnology are most apparent.
Perspective of Biotechnology
Francis Fukuyama, author of, “Human Dignity”, presents a plethora of possible problems that can derive from these up and coming biotechnologies. He first asks why we as human beings demand dignity. Throughout history, it has become apparent that the idea of having an equal amount of respect given to a 37-year-old, democratic Muslim woman and a 50-year-old Caucasian Republican is crucial to maintaining the peace in our society because every person not only has a need but is also deserving of recognition and respect. He then asks his readers what makes us as individuals deserve to be treated equally, or rather what part of us as people carry the one aspect that allows us to be considered ‘human’. He calls this aspect Factor X, which is a key component essentially made up of our morals, beliefs, and general ideas as a society. In other words, what our mortal bodies hold: our essence. With this futuristic biotechnology, Fukuyama predicted, along with many others, that it would create drastic changes in the community.
Some believed these advances could potentially provide some negative attributes to society like influencing the development of cloning. Others felt it could play a large role in the enhancement to the general public, based on our technological advancements today. If we use this innovation correctly, it will create more options that positively affect the community. In order to obtain this idea of a better society, conserving what we consider Factor X or human dignity, we must only use Biotechnology for health and medical purposes, disregarding any selfish uses like cloning and genetic manipulation in an indecent manner or aesthetics.
What is Biotechnology
When we think of biotechnology, the topic immediately diverts to unnecessary procedures like cloning and wrongful genetic manipulation. Today, many see biotechnology as a way to improve themselves, their future children or prolong their lifespan. With access to these incredible inventions, the likelihood of creating a massive split in classes would be inevitable. In today’s day and age, the most high-end and well-known procedures are also the most expensive. If genetic modification and cloning were revealed to the public, ideally only the wealthy would be able to afford these inventions. This leads me to believe that money and science can produce and maintain an even higher standard for the, so called, “upper class”. Fukuyama claims “… the “genetic lottery” guarantees that the son or daughter of a rich and successful parent will not necessarily inherit the talents and abilities that created conditions cohesive to the parent’s success.” (149). This outlines the core belief that allowing the rich and wealthy access to genetically modify their children will also provide only the rich and wealthy with wanted characteristics like athleticism, intelligence, attractive traits and much more. As the rich and better equipped part of society reproduce, the poor, in result, will grow in its negative attributes as the generations go on. This use of genetic modification is not only disgusting and disturbing but will also generate a new definition to the term ‘class segregation’, however this is not the only reason biotechnology should not be used this way.
Aside from wealth factoring into our growth as a whole, generalized selfish uses of biotechnology will only increase our thoughtless, self-centered tendencies in our egotistic society. Already many are accustomed to posting and posing for various types of social media, relying on looks, stature and vapid values to decipher who the better part of society is. It is safe to say we are not dumbstruck when another wannabe popstar or Kim Kardashian look-alike surfaces the internet, but what about those who are considered more of the weak links within the community. Currently, we are lacking in respect for the elderly, the opposite political parties, the mentally ill and anyone who isn’t regarded as the norm. Who’s to say that once genetic manipulation is produced, and people are able to morph themselves into the wide-spread definition of ‘beauty’, that respect or the idea of treating others with human dignity won’t change and be completely thrown out the door. As Fukuyama states, “They will look, think, act, and perhaps, even feel differently from those who were not similarly chosen, and may come to think of themselves as different kinds of creatures.” (149). This statement refers to those who will undergo any biotechnological procedures. They will perceive themselves as a superior, much more elevated species rather than any equal human being composed of factor X. Fukuyama also points out that “…the bright red line of universal human dignity will have to be reinforced by allowing the state to make sure no one falls outside of it.” (150). Once these events occur, the possibility of factor X, the element that makes us ‘human’, being redefined to something less dignified will be unavoidable. With this information, you must ask yourself if using biotechnology in such a crass way is worth the loss of our equal rights to be treated as human beings. Most would say there are better ways to implement this new advanced technology.
Rather than using biotechnology for unwarranted purposes, we can use it for medical and health reasons. We frequently see new diseases or viruses arise, usually discovered by scientists. Plague with these diseases, we still do not have a heavy portion of cures at hand. Because of this, we lose our loved ones daily. With biotechnology, Cases like multiple Sclerosis, Leukemia, hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, and Congestive heart failure can be easily cured. An example of this would be genetic manipulation in cell reproduction, helping to preserve muscle, brain and heart tissue. The options are endless and could possibly save millions of lives. Instead of destroying society with its uses, we can save and reconstruct it based off of building and healing, especially and specifically in the older generations. Helping the sick and easing their pain in place of tearing them down and neglecting them as people can become a priority. Fukuyama proposes that, “We should immediately ask what distinguished those within from those left out.” (148). He declares that the question of why there is a divide in society depicting normalcy should be asked but the real question is whether our differences matter. We must not question our differences but instead help one another in spite of them. In that, there lies one of the keys to preserving factor X. By tending to the elderly, mentally ill and those not considered normal with biotechnology, the people become more caring for those who are not like them. This process can be defined as a reconstruction phase for a person’s self-serving mentality. In simpler terms, rather than becoming the Grinch who steals Christmas, their hearts will grow three times its size, however in regard to biotechnology, that’s not the only thing that can grow.
Health Issues Today
A large sum of health issues in our community also relate to food. Food shortages, food poisoning, food growth and many more. It is more likely now to hear about a food shortage in a third world country or the fact that you can inject chickens, making them larger and able to be produced faster for high demand. With biotechnology, the ability to produce food for a more broad, extensive scale, maximizes. Cloning chickens or genetically modifying them to reproduce at a speedy rate and at a heavier weight can potentially save starving individuals globally. The same goes for vegetables, fruits, and other animals. They can also become genetically modified to grow in larger masses at heavier weights, however some believe this is not a good idea for the environment. Fukuyama expresses that, “…hostility is driven by the stronger environmental movements…against genetically modified foods.” (151). Though understandable as to why there is heavy concern about the environment and less about the human race, it doesn’t discount the fact that we as people also deserve to be protected. Ethically using biotechnology to a certain extent in plants and animals in a way that does not harm them is the best way to save humans and protect the environment. Allowing this to happen helps sustain the idea of factor X. It can also serve as a way to help the sick and more than anything pushes many human beings to overlook the superficial uses for biotechnology and allow them to care more for their community and society.
Biotechnology can not only preserve human dignity and factor X, but it can also magnify the good in people as well. Though our first thoughts are to clone and genetically modify for the wrong reasons when we first hear about biotechnology, we can disregard those uses and utilize this incredible invention for the betterment of society. Using this innovation medically could possibly save many lives, allowing those who lack respect for the human beings that are considered ‘normal’ to grow as people in understanding. Curing several diseases, we may also be able to bring the community together rather than tearing it apart if biotechnology were used for superficial purposes. It could also be put to use in the food industry for food shortages and other food related problems, restoring the health to many starving people in third world countries. All in all, the use of technology, specifically biotechnology, can sustain our factor X but knowing this, how will we go forward in building awareness to the masses before it’s too late?