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Elvia Wilk is a writer and editor living in Berlin, covering art, architecture, urbanism, and emerging technologies. She contributes to publications like Frieze, Artforum, e-flux, die Zeit, the Architectural Review, and Metropolis. Currently she's a contributing editor at Rhizome and publications editor for transmediale festival for arts and digital culture.
CRISPR, a tool that allows genome editing, is one of the most exciting scientific advancements of the century, and also the most unpredictable. Given the capability to alter ourselves and the natural environment to a seemingly limitless extent, how will we decide what’s allowed – and how will we enforce those decisions?
In a recent debate, one scientist, Kevin Esvelt, has proposed stopping Lyme disease by using CRISPR to genetically engineer mice that carry the illness to make them Lyme-resistant. While people who have struggled with the disease are jumping on board with the plan, politicians and other scientists are alarmed by it: “They wanted the mice to be 100 per cent mice.” And they argue that such large-scale modification could have unintended ecological effects.
Esvelt understands the concerns but is adamant that his research can do good, as long as his team (and scientists everywhere) are completely transparent about their research in this field. It has such a high potential for harm and unexpected consequences that he believes the public, and scientists around the world, should all be aware of what’s happening and how. But he doesn't think that the incredible possibilities for doing good should be hampered in the process.