Genetic engineering is likely to create a new species of superhumans that could destroy humanity, Prof. Stephen Hawking writes in a posthumous book, according to The Sunday Times.
In “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” Hawking suggests the wealthy will soon be able to edit their own and their children’s DNA to create superhumans with improved memory, disease resistance, intelligence and longevity.
“I am sure that during this century people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,” wrote Hawking, who died in March. “Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.”
Hawking insisted that “once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete. Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.”
Hawking’s comments refer to techniques such as Crispr-Cas9, a DNA-editing system invented six years ago that enables scientists to modify harmful genes or add new ones, according to The Guardian.
Some scientists said Hawking’s predictions are the best hope for saving Earth from destruction, while others disagreed, according to the Times.
“A sharp distinction exists between medical interventions that remove something harmful and deploying similar techniques to offer ‘enhancement,’” said astronomer Lord Rees, who pointed out that a sperm bank in California offering only “elite” sperm, including from Nobel prize winners, shut down due to lack of demand.
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