Having just two biological parents is so 20th century. In the not-so-distant future, developments with gene-editing technology could make it possible for children to have more than two biological parents.
That’s according to Amy Webb, a futurist and founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Webb explains how scientific developments could dramatically change the way humans procreate. Using CRISPR gene editing, it would be theoretically possible to create a child that features the genetic traits of multiple different people. This technology could also make it possible for people to have children late into their life.
“Forty years into the future, I think it may be the case that there are many parents to one child, or that a 70-year-old and their 60-year old spouse decide to have a baby,” she explains.
“What we’re talking about here is a technology that unlocks our ability to be more selective and to intentionally design life. Maybe that means one person using their own genetic material to bring an embryo to term; maybe it unlocks opportunities to select traits from more than two parents. We don’t know how it will look, but I believe the possibilities can be very good. What all of this means is optionality,” Webb adds.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a relatively new technology that can be used to edit genes with greater precision than before. It has world-changing potential, but it also brings up some huge ethical questions. If an ill-meaning government utilized this technology, for instance, what is stopping them from creating a eugenics-inspired nation of gene-edited “superhumans?” Back in the non-hypothetical world, the creation of the first CRISPR gene-edited babies in China has already raised a huge amount of controversy and ethical concerns.
Webb recognizes this technology will raise worries further down the line, but she argues the positives will overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives, at least in the short term.
“All roads on this path lead to eugenics,” Webb Jokes. “The fears that it’s going to be ‘Gattaca’ – nations can intentionally design populations. Look, we need to acknowledge the geopolitical advantages that some countries might try for by elevating their population’s intelligence and physical traits,” she explains.
“But the thought of making pregnancy easier for people who really want to become parents is something we should be embracing. Right now, creating a child relies on chance and serendipity, or enough money for a lot of IVF cycles. It’s shockingly difficult in the year 2022 to make a baby. It shouldn’t be that way.”