PARIS — Half-animal, half-human? The astounding developments in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) are posing problems that we thought only existed in science fiction.
Recent studies have brought us closer to Planet of the Apes, written by French novelist Pierre Boulle in 1963. In three experiments, the last one of which was published in Current Biology last month, scientists have improved the intellectual capacities of mice by modifying their DNA sequences with segments of human chromosomes or by injecting them with human brain glial cells.
These modified animals have bigger brains and can perform difficult tasks more quickly. The DNA sequences that were successfully modified are involved in language and brain size in humans. This comes after a study on successful genetic modifications on two small monkeys was published in Nature in March of last year. Meaning that the success of cognitive improvement of mice will soon be verified in monkeys.
These manipulations were achieved with DNA-modifying enzymes. For about $12, a biology student these days can create these enzymes and conduct genetic engineering, making it incredibly cheap to create animal-man chimeras. Decade after decade, new findings and experiments will have breathtaking consequences.
DNA-modifying enzyme — Source: Zephyris/GFDLHow will we prevent some animal lovers from ordering a more intelligent, more emphatic, more "human" dog? There will always be room for indulgence in relation to cognitive enhancement of animals. Society will be presented with a fait accompli, as it is now with same-sex couples buying children from surrogate mothers in foreign countries.
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