Tags: gene | editing | human | engineering

Americans Wary of 'Gene Editing,' Other Med-Tech Advances

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By    |   Wednesday, 27 Jul 2016 10:20 AM

Most Americans think scientific and technological innovations bring positive changes to society, but fear such advances do more harm than good when they are used to make people smarter, stronger, or healthier, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The nationally representative survey of more than 4,700 U.S. adults examined public attitudes about the potential use of three specific emerging technologies for "human enhancement":
  • Gene editing techniques designed to give babies a lifetime with much reduced risk of serious disease;
  • Brain chip implants that potentially can give people a much improved ability to concentrate and process information; and
  • Synthetic blood Transfusions of that might give athletes much greater speed, strength, and stamina.
The findings indicated that a majority of Americans would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene editing (68 percent); brain chips (69 percent); and synthetic blood (63 percent).

In addition, no more than half say they would be enthusiastic about each of these developments.
The big picture While some Americans are both enthusiastic and worried about these new technological advances, concern outpaces excitement over all.

"Developments in biomedical technologies are accelerating rapidly, raising new societal debates about how we will use these technologies and what uses are appropriate," said lead author Cary Funk, an associate director of Research at Pew Research Center.

"This study suggests Americans' are largely cautious about using emerging technologies in ways that push human capacities beyond what's been possible before."

Among the key findings:
  • More Americans would not want enhancements of their brains and their blood — 66 percent and 63 percent, respectively — than would want them (32 percent and 35 percent.
  • U.S. adults are split on the question of whether they would want gene editing to help prevent diseases for their babies (48 percent would, 50 percent would not).
  • Majorities say these enhancements could exacerbate the divide between haves and have-nots. For instance, 73 percent believe inequality will increase if brain chips become available because initially they will be obtainable only by the wealthy. Seven in 10 predict each of these technologies will become available before they have been fully tested or understood.
  • Many people say they are not sure whether these interventions are morally acceptable. But among those who express an opinion, more people say brain and blood enhancements would be morally unacceptable than say they are acceptable.
  • More adults say the downsides of brain and blood enhancements would outweigh the benefits. Americans are a bit more positive about the impact of gene editing to reduce disease; 36 percent think it will have more benefits than downsides, while 28 percent think it will have more downsides than benefits.
  • Opinions are closely divided when it comes to the fundamental question of whether these potential developments are "meddling with nature" and cross a line that should not be crossed, or whether they are "no different" from other ways that humans have tried to better themselves over time.
  • More religious Americans are, on average, less likely to embrace these potential types of enhancement. Six in 10 of very religious people consider these potential enhancements crossing a line that should not be crossed (gene editing 64 percent; brain chip implants 65 percent; and synthetic blood 60 percent). By contrast, the majority of non-religious adults say each of these enhancements would be no different from other ways humans try to better themselves.

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Most Americans think technological innovations bring positive changes to society, but fear such advances do more harm than good when they are used to make people smarter, stronger, or healthier, according to a new survey.
gene, editing, human, engineering
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2016-20-27
Wednesday, 27 Jul 2016 10:20 AM
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