Cognitive Enhancement through Genetic Editing: a New Frontier to Explore (and to Regulate)?
Not too many years ago, the possibility of cognitive enhancement through genetic engineering interventions seemed to be not only very distant, but also a dead end. In few years the situation has changed: today we have available new generation of genetic editing techniques—in particular CRISPR-Cas9—which allows to cut and paste with precision into the coding sequence of bases of a single gene, yielding results that were previously unthinkable in terms of simplicity and applicative accuracy (science fiction excluded). On the other hand, recent studies have identified some genes that can play a very important role in controlling specific cognitive functions. In this article, in addition to accounting for these advances in research, I examine, from a neuroethical perspective, some emerging critical issues related to enhancement via genetic editing. First of all, I consider the safety of the practice. Secondly, I address other ethical issues, some of which seem to suggest that we need extreme caution before embarking on the path of genetic editing. Finally, I discuss the parents’ will to give their children better cognitive skills. In general, faced with the prospect of a radical and sudden change in cognitive endowments, the most pertinent course of action seems to be to identify the individual and social factors of human well-being that are most shared, and assess whether cognitive enhancement through genetic editing goes in that direction.
KeywordsNeuroethics CRISPR Liberal eugenics Parental genetic shaping Biohacker
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
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