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The Ethics of Designer Babies

The concept of “designer babies” as presented in Biotechnology and Society has many advantages for the individual employing the technology, but carries with it many social implications that may prove extremely problematic depending on how the technology is managed within society. At the moment the technology is largely preventative, in essence guaranteeing a “normal” offspring. IVF and “screening of embryos” find embryos clear of certain conditions and discard the others. The PGD tests used typically focus on diseases and “defects” to essentially find a clean version of a child. Ethically this can be seen as just like any other medicine we use to prevent disease, however the definition of “normal” is very much up to the standards of a given society, which could lead to a discarding of otherwise “normal” traits.

The economics of such an operation is also a large social factor. Stevens notes “People will continue to want the best possible or healthiest possible babies and be willing to pay for the privilege, regardless of any attempts to halt the use of this technology.” (p. 271) In America, the free market largely dictates medical advancements, it would seem natural that the technology has started developing in the direction of finding the “best” versions of an offspring on standards beyond preventing disease. Already, “Advertisements promise $50,000 for eggs harvested from certain women (usually specified as young, healthy, athletic, tall, white, and with a high SAT score).” (p.273). This industry is clearly airing towards a very socially constructed view of what is “best”, from Anglo-American beauty standards to certain intellectual markers. While this could likely perpetuate existing genetic divides based on class, it could also start weeding out many of the traits that truly make an individual and community successful in favor of more superficial ones. In a group, you would clearly lose much of the intellectual diversity crucial to democratic systems, and in an individual you could create a genetic bias towards the intellectual standards of certain exams, regardless of their real world application. Regardless of the issues of utility, it also creates a social dichotomy that would reinstate lines of prejudice in this country. “The problem with most unregulated markets is that they generate inequalities- haves and have-nots.” (p. 274) Eugenics was a “scientific” defense for racial prejudice, however in media like Gattaca the concept of designer babies creates a new genetic hierarchy in a similar fashion.

While this perpetuates the norms of upper-class society and solidifies them as more pronounced in the gene pool it is in many ways just accelerating an evolutionary mating process that has existed, either consciously or subconsciously, in human societies across the world and throughout time. Agricultural societies put a greater emphasis on brawn in terms of mating, metropolitan societies put a greater emphasis on beauty, and the particularly suburban upper/middle class would likely have a greater emphasis on intellectual capacity. This is a very simplified distinction made on class lines but the same applies to traits embraced by different cultures such as aggression, humor, good-temperedness, etc…

In this evolutionary sense a population would be susceptible to “shocks” to the environment just like any other. While this may not necessarily be as acute as an apocalypse driving everyone to become hunter/gatherers or farmers, It could be something as simple as the labor market shifting to value creative thinkers to a greater degree rather than the memorization style thinking valued by competitive schooling methods. This would thereby shift the class structure regardless of who is natural or “designer”. On this account I think we should question the treating of genetics like a commodity, even when it may be seen as an unmistakable positive. The author recognizes, “This drive for consumerism is a central part of the American dream- that is, the notion that you can spend you way to happiness. We have moved from designer jeans to designer babies; but it is part of the same quest for happiness that has created the market demand for perfectible offspring.” (P.275) I would question whether consumerism has ever been the core of any American’s happiness and making a new breed of Americans the consumer goods themselves will do nothing but perpetuate this trend.

 

Eugenic Dystopia

In the World State, embryos are grown in test tubes; people are genetically programmed to have certain traits, fit into predetermined social castes, and are conditioned to behave in certain ways. Eugenics and social conditioning are used in the World State to create stability within the society. This world envisioned by Aldous Huxley, in the novel, Brave New World, presents the idea that science and technology could be advanced to a point where they can be used as tools to implement order and exert complete control over a society. Huxley wrote Brave New World as a critic saying that we might be headed toward a dystopian future resembling that of the World State. However, one could argue that we have already reached such a dystopian future or are extremely close to it. With the advancement of reproductive technologies, such as the advent of designer babies, we are currently taking our first steps into a world of eugenics defined by order. Continue reading

An Imperfect Utopia

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, set in England, describes a “perfect” world created by a Director at the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre. At the center children are created from modified embryos and are geared towards certain disposition. While this idea of creating children in bottles and forcing upon them various dispositions and morals may seem far fetched, the practice is not that foreign to current day science. However, the desire to artificially create life shows humans need to claim control over a process in which they once had no control over.

 

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The Impact of Mechanizing Low-Skilled Labor

Title: The Impact of Mechanizing Low-Skilled Labor

Thesis: The automation of low-skilled labor will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency and profits, however it will trigger an immediate spike in unemployment and ultimately lead to a transformation of the US workforce.

Critical Question: What societal and economic ramifications could result from mechanizing low-skilled labor jobs? OR As technology increases, will humans become crowded out of the labor market?

Description: For my research topic I intend to look at potential effects of automating or mechanizing low-skilled labor positions. I am going to examine the effects that this shift would have on our nations economy as well as our society. Massive layoffs in industries like agriculture and restaurants could lead to the advent of entirely new positions and trades that we have not yet seen. This large percentage of the US labor force will inevitably land somewhere else and I am interested to learn where that will be. Advancements in technology and mechanization go hand in hand. I will study the history of mechanization and how it affected the economy in the past and use that knowledge to gauge what the future holds in store. This will allow me to determine the likely plans of recourse for the laborers recently crowded out of the market.

Outline:

  • Introduction: Introduce the issue of mechanization, describe what that actually means
  • BP 1: History of mechanization and it’s effects on the workplace
    • Assembly line + cars
    • Factories + machines
    • Robots
  • BP 2: Discuss the current threat of mechanization (industries expected to evolve)
    • arguments for it/reasons why it’s being discussed
  • BP 3: Arguments against
    • economic/societal consequences
    • how many people will lose jobs
  • BP 4: How will the workforce readapt
    • where will laborers work
    • what will they do for work
  • BP 5: Analysis –> Is this a good thing? Bad thing? Natural Process?
  • Conclusion: Summarize findings/impact include analysis

Bibliography: I will draw from sources such as the New York Times, studies conducted by UPENN Wharton, and other scholarly publications

  • http://budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu/issues/2017/8/8/the-raise-act-effect-on-economic-growth-and-jobs
  • http://www.nber.org/chapters/c5249.pdf
  • http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/22/3/388.full
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