In the majority of these Possible Futures posts, I’ll talk about wondrous things that will make our lives better and easier. But not all possible futures are so rosy. For example, I’ve talked about genetically modified plants to produce items to be used around the home. (See Firewood trees and Plastic plants.) While I do believe that genetically modified organisms could – and hopefully will – drastically change life for the better, I don’t want it to seem like I’m complete blasé about the matter and that genetically modified organisms could only be used for good. And that’s a key thing I think many people forget when it comes to genetically modified organisms. Technology is neither good nor bad, it’s how it’s used. For example, a rocket that launches a weather satellite to help better predict the path of hurricanes, could also launch a nuke to anywhere in the world.
Genetically modified organisms can be used to increase food production, create medicines, provide useful items around the house, and they could be used by some nutjob to unleash a plague. Biological warfare is not new. In days of old they’d catapult the corpses of plague victims into a besieged town, but nowadays it’s a bit more sophisticated. As the technology to modify organisms gets better, and cheaper, the day may come when the guy down the block stops making meth and downloads the DNA of Ebola and gets to work. You may say that there are rules and regulations about biological agents, but what happens when the “arms” we’re allowed to keep and bear are extended to mutated anthrax, you know, for duck hunting?
An earlier version of this post appeared on Persona Paper in January 2015.