Should Bio-hacking be legal? Exploring the Possibilities and Risks.

Should Bio-hacking be legal? Exploring the Possibilities and Risks.
Vedant Agrawal  
Vedant Agrawal

Introduction

 Envision a world, overrun by the extreme fear of bio-weaponry, where, by simply treading a few steps one could draw the ire of emotionless cyborgs and perhaps bacteria, exterminating millions in their wake; a world where CRISPR has destroyed the very fabric of the human genes, giving rise to countless deformities and malformations in bodies, a world where peace has been rendered but a hapless dream. In this vast expanse of space, will our world find itself to be a biblical utopia or perhaps a cruel dystopia, if biohacking were to be legalised in societies and humans were to commence their experiments on this precarious subject? When we mention biohacking, we mean a way of enhancing one’s body by using scientific experiments and inventions to augment the body with human enhancement skills. The idea is to connect human biology to a scientific world and sometimes even construct a human with the essence of a cyborg or perhaps to give oneself a super-power, all whilst aiming to improve performance, health and wellbeing through strategic interventions. It’s a recently invented technique that has had an astounding impact on mankind, because of its capabilities and implications which at first glance, might look fancy and apocryphal, but will more often than not, have devastating effects if not properly understood and executed. This essay will talk about how this beguiling technique can affect the human race adversely

CRISPR and its effects

CRISPR or Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats is an extremely intricate gene editing tool engineered by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna that contains an outstanding potential of changing the globe. This tool has brought a revolution to the fields of molecular and genetic biology because of its site-specific nucleus system which allows the scientists to make small cuts in a DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence or insert certain DNA sequences at specific genetic locations to change the structure of the DNA itself. Although the tool has infinite implications, scientists iterate this kind of modern gene-editing technology poses some severe risks. One of the major risks being off-target mutagenesis (the production of genetic mutations) which can produce multiple cells to mutate into other unwanted cells that can cause extremely adverse and unpredictable effects on the body like mental or physical deformities, malformations, cancer, etc. This process if done wrong can cause genetic diseases like Down-syndrome, Sickle cell anaemia and many more which can impact and impair the future generations as well. In some special cases like the “Columbia Experiment” the loss of chromosomes or huge chunks of them have been seen, which reinforces the point of body malfunction and incomplete growth. From an ethical perception, this technology can be employed to obliterate a certain race of people, by meddling with their DNA structure and changing those traits which do not befit that certain creed or dogma.

 Resurgence of Racism and Xenophobia

Furthermore, assuming that biohacking was a legal practice, then and now, several travesties would have happened, the major one being the obliteration of entire races or genders. During the Aparthied in the continent of Africa, when the blacks were under the oppression of the white, scientists could have used biohacking (provided they were successful in harnessing its power) to edit their genes as per the favoured skin complexion; white, and rid themselves of the entire black race. Similar event could have occurred during the slavery movement when the blacks were being trafficked to America, to work under the white householdsa as servants or slaves. For a long time, the female sex was thought of as the weaker and the inferior sex, where they faced discrimination and objection in every point of their life, if biohacking would have been legal during that period and we were able to use it effectively, then perhaps to elude themselves of this insult, scientist could have used biohacking to make more males instead of females

Military Implications

Today militaries, across the world toil day and night without fail to strengthen their base and construct a dominion over other nations, but what if one sole power is unchallengeable. Wealthy and powerful countries like the United States of America, Russia, China etc, all possess the weapons of mass destruction, yet the trigger of those weapons are only a few inches away from their fingers waiting to begin demolition. Some countries like Russia, are popular for their experiments with humans to enhance their soldiers and create a more dominating empire. Humans can be attached to metal exoskeletons that are connected to their spines giving them super strength , they can be made into cyborgs through various scientific interventions and they can be augmented with super senses to fight harder and more relentlessly in wars. This can create an utter imbalance in power amongst nations, as whilst some would prosper with this technology strengthening their armies,  other LEDCs (less economically developed countries) would suffer the deficiency of power and the world may fall into the autocracy of stronger nations.

Impact of Bio-Hacking on Sports

Sports is something that brings the entire world together, to celebrate the victory of the great athletes who have brought laurels to their nation. But, what about the victors who have gained those exceptional feats through pure injustice. Doping is a way in which athletes consume drugs to improve their performance while training or competing. One of the most common performance-enhancing substances used by athletes are androgenic agents that include anabolic steroids and stimulants. Anabolic steroids are those substances which act as natural “male sex harmone”, Testosterone and in high doses, build muscles and increase body mass, thus allowing athletes to train or compete more vigorously. These work by turning small cells into larger cells for a temporary period of time so that the body mass can be increased and they can get more aggravated, yet there is no change in agility and speed of the athletes. Stimulants are those substances that directly trigger the central nervous system (CNS) and seem to have “psychotropic effects that are ergogenic in nature” thus allowing the athletes’ to work in a more intense and hot-blooded manner. They increase the heart rate and the blood pressure of the body that has several impacts on the body: Increased alertness and aggravation of the athletes, reduction of fatigue, decreased appetite, and the improvement of endurance. While stimulants cause all this, they also impair the same athletes in various ways; by rendering the athletes exceptionally nervous and prone to irritability, lowering their concentration, causing them Insomnia, getting them addicted, etc. Athletes, in the dilemma of increasing their sense of competitiveness and training, also do something called “stacking” in which they take in several kinds of drug (stimulants, steroids) at once, but what they are oblivious to is how harmful these are to the body in the long run.

Emergence of Biohacking in popular media and culture

As dangerous and unpredictable biohacking is in reality, its peculiarity and never ending implications have certainly made a long lasting impression on cinemas and movie productions, as every day more and more movies seem to be getting released that deal with the concept of biohacking as the chief engine of interest generation;  a prime example of which would be Deadpool, a movie which in extreme detail deals with the aftermath of off-target mutagenesis (gene mutation) and how it puts the victim in gruesome circumstances. The victim has been portrayed as a being of unusual and uncharacteristic powers which instantly cuts his connection with the outer world and makes him dwell in his own realm. His body is turned hysterical, as he suffers through multiple mental breakdowns throughout the movie. Although these movies are fictional and possibly never to project themself in reality, who is to say, that one day these movies might transform into a known reality, with humans born with countless genetic deformities because of our unnecessarily risky experiments with biohacking.

Conclusion

Earlier we saw how risky the entire operation of biohacking is, as mankind currently holds less than little knowledge about the subject which renders us more prone to danger if anything goes wrong during the operation. Biohacking as stated earlier, is a technique which from its outset appears to have multiple advantages and uses, though when we dig deeper into it, the risk factors it possesses are unveiled. Throughout the course of this essay, our focal point remained on the risk factors of Biohacking and whether it should be legal in this modern era, where by simply a press of a button, a nuclear war can be triggered, and the world could fall into an apocalypse. What we elaborated in this essay was: CRISPR and the risks of gene editing, including off target mutagenesis and genetic deformities in the body, the non-stop usage of drugs like anabolic steroids by athletes in sports, to enhance performance and compete with more vigour and strength, whilst simultaneously harming themselves in several ways, the utilisation of cyborgs in defence systems leading to a complete unbalance of power amongst nations. Lastly, the mark biohacking has left upon cinemas and popular media. To conclude, biohacking should not be legalised.

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