Opinion

OPINION: 4 Shocking Consequences of Scientific Progress

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Scientific progress around the world is leading us into vastly uncharted territory. What we are witnessing goes beyond anything we have ever seen before … but scientific “progress” is not without grave consequences.

In labs all over the world, today’s advances threaten to fundamentally change our everyday lives — and the lives of generations to come. Curious about some of the most horrific consequences? Read on to discover five shocking results of pushing scientific boundaries, excerpted from Dr. Michael Guillen’s “The End of Life as We Know It: Ominous News from the Frontiers of Science.”

Facebook Live: Live Streaming the World’s Atrocities.

Today, the web is going where no TV camera has ever gone before. The web’s complicity with our darkest, most gruesome, most degenerate behavior arguably began with a group of Pakistani terrorists in 2002.

After kidnapping Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, they beheaded him on camera and posted the video on the web. Since then, terrorists — most notably, members of ISIS have beheaded, torched and drowned multitudes of innocent people, always promptly posting videos of the heinous executions on the web.

Snuff films are nothing new, but the web has enabled them to go mainstream.

Things got even grislier after April 16, 2016, when Facebook launched a new app called Live. Zuckerberg painted a rosy picture of the new technology, the quintessence of scientific hype: “‘Live’ is like having a TV camera in your pocket … when you interact ‘Live,’ you feel connected in a more personal way…”

It didn’t take long before Zuckerberg’s newest profit center served up live, streaming videos of a twelve-year-old girl hanging herself from a tree; an eighteen-year-old boy being tortured; a thirty-three-year-old aspiring actor shooting himself in the head; a fifteen-year-old girl being gang-raped; a jilted man murdering a random, seventy-four-year-old stranger in cold blood; a father hanging himself and his eleven-month-old daughter … The litany is long and sickening.

On Periscope — the live-video streaming app launched in 2015 — a nineteen-year-old French woman live-streamed her suicide; she threw herself under a moving train.

Self-Driving Cars: Allowing Robots to Determine Which Life Matters More?

In Tempe, Arizona, on March 18, 2018, a driverless Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle operated by Uber hit and killed forty-nine-year-old Elaine Herzberg. She was walking her bike across the street at night and the driverless car, going 40 mph in a 45 mph speed zone, failed to see her.

And what about the split-second, life-and-death decisions driverless cars will need to make, even when they do spot trouble ahead? For example, what does a headless car do if one morning an oncoming truck suddenly crosses into its lane while driving past a mother and small child waiting for the school bus?

Sebastian Thrun, a highly respected engineer who launched Google’s self-driving project, thinks he knows the answer. In a video interview, he tells a Bloomberg reporter — with body language that says it’s the simplest problem in the world to solve — that “if it happens where there is a situation where a car couldn’t escape, it’ll go for the smaller thing.”

Yikes — as in the small child? Thrun’s smug but trite thinking on the subject shows how very, very far we must go before driverless cars can be trusted over human drivers, even with our imperfections.

“As human beings, we have hundreds of thousands of years of moral, ethical, religious and social behaviors programmed inside of us,” observes Frank Menchaca, chief product officer at SAE International, formerly Society of Automotive Engineers. “It’s very hard to replicate that.”

Pig-Humans: Using Human DNA to Make Rational PIGS?

In 2016, the “MIT Technology Review” pulled back the curtain on renegade genetic engineers who are creating pig-human and sheep-human chimeras. Please note: whereas transgenic animals often have their DNA supplemented with human genes, these chimeras have actual human cells.

Their vital organs aren’t just human-friendly but actually human. As I write this, the far-out creatures are quietly being created by at least three teams in California and Minnesota against the wishes of and without any funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The scientists see themselves laboring for a noble cause (not to mention a Nobel Prize), namely, creating a limitless source of body parts for people in need of them.866 But others are concerned about the possible dangers.

What if, for example, the human cells in these illicit chimeras proliferate beyond their vital organs—to their brains, for instance? The resulting creatures, possibly capable of human thought, could no longer be considered just pigs.

“We are not the island of Dr. Moreau, but science moves fast,” warns David Resnik, an ethicist at the NIH. “The Spector of an intelligent mouse stuck in a laboratory somewhere screaming ‘I want to get out’ would be very troubling to people.”

Genetically Selected Babies: Creating Babies Like a Build-A-Bear Workshop

Many scientists and bioethicists are deeply worried that tinkering with the DNA of a human embryo to fix one disease could inadvertently create other genetic diseases. Such unimaginable mutant afflictions could forever infect the human gene pool.

“When you’re editing the genes of human embryos, that means you’re changing the genes of every cell in the bodies of every offspring, every future generation of that human being,” notes Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California. “So these are permanent and probably irreversible changes that we just don’t know what they would mean.”

There’s also a great concern embryo-hacking research will inexorably lead to a booming business in designer babies.

“In a world dominated by competition, parents understandably want to give their kids every advantage,” says the eminent NYU bioethicist Arthur Caplan. “The most likely way for eugenics to enter into our lives is through the front door, as nervous parents . . . will fall over one another to be first to give Junior a better set of genes.”

Being able to create designer babies, says Darnovsky, raises the specter of a grim future, indeed.

“If we’re going to be producing genetically modified babies, we are all too likely to find ourselves in a world where those babies are perceived to be biologically superior,” she warns. “And then we’re in a world of genetic haves and have-nots. That could lead to all sorts of social disasters. It’s not a world I want to live in.”

There are deeper questions we must answer, says Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. An urgent question crying out to us, as we race to bring humans and all creatures great and small under our complete control. As we rush pell-mell to redesign life in our own selfish image.

“The real question facing us is not ‘What do we want to become?’” he says, “but ‘What do we want to want?’ Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven’t given it enough thought.

I completely agree — and hope that The End of Life as We Know It will give you, my dear reader, plenty of food for thought.

Michael Guillen is an Emmy award-winning science journalist.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.