Memory enhancement, IQ boosters and drugs designed to attack genetic weaknesses may increase competition in the future and create a playing field that is far from equal, scientists at the World Economic Forum said Wednesday. But alongside such ethically complex issues, other forms of human enhancement — organ replacement, drug therapy and genetic mapping — could make the difference between life and death as well. Within a decade, many common illnesses such as cancer are likely to be pinpointed according to their genetic variables, and some others that have been difficult to crack — such as autism and bipolar disorder — might be better understood, Collins said. Also on the horizon is technology that will allow people to know their genetic makeup for about $1,000, he said.
Outside the big questions of whether humans should be enhanced and at whose and what cost is the perhaps bigger question of whether enhancement brings happiness, says Richard Matthieu, co-director of the Schechen Buddhist Monastery in Nepal and a molecular geneticist who also serves as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. Most recently he’s looked at how the brain changes when people meditate.
“Happiness can be enhanced but isn’t just about genomes,” he said. “It’s about the mind, which I think is vastly underestimated and underused.”