Author: Rohit Paradkar
As college acceptance rates continue to decrease and the stakes become higher, the United States continues to promote ultracompetitiveness in our education system. Due to this, an increasing number of students continue to hunt for the best GPA, standardized test scores, and any statistic that will make them stand out on an application. But one of the main issues with this, is it directly hurts the low-income people who don’t have access to quality education or the resources to get accepted to the top schools. To quantify the disparity, the Sacramento Bee says that students coming from families of wealth in the top 10% are about 10 times more likely to get into a highly selective college than those who are less wealthy. Now what if this disparity became worse, and the rich continued to become richer while the poor continued to sink to the bottom of America’s wealth hierarchy. This is a very serious possibility as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and other gene editing and enhancement technologies continue to become realistic methods to improve the capabilities of the next generation. Though a noble idea and a potentially revolutionary technology, these upcoming advancements come with major ethical implications that must be addressed now.
While a seemingly high tech and futuristic technology, the concept of designer babies - babies that have been genetically modified to remove potential health defects and flaws and increase cognitive and physical abilities - is not new. In fact, the first designer baby was born in 2000 and had been modified through a method called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. One of the major problems that comes with the rise of gene editing applications is its expected cost. As the technology becomes more advanced, it seems apparent that the costs will be through the roof. This means that, unless regulated by law, CRISPR would only be accessible to the wealthy. The already established disparity between the wealthy and the poor will be emphasized by designer babies. The state of health and potentially increased problem solving, reasoning, and educational ability could drive the gap between the rich and the poor even further. In an already broken and unfair system, enhancement technologies will only continue to benefit the rich and take away the opportunities for low-income children to succeed and achieve their goals. This makes it necessary to engage in an open dialogue and form solutions to give everybody access to these potentially earth-shattering tools.