As the science matures longer term, gene editing with tools like CRISPR and, crucially, follow-on technologies won’t be limited just to preventing or fixing health disorders. Controlling for a baby’s traits (“designer babies”) — a choice made freely — will likely be humankind’s future, encompassing an expanding range of cognitive and physical qualities.
That doesn’t mean cookie-cutter sameness in the human population; there’ll be variety. Such capabilities might seem forbidding, spurring welcome caution. But history is replete with developments in science and technology that went from alarming to routine.
Mother Nature allows us to improve the cards she dealt us; humankind is curious and visionary. Parents, wanting to advantage their children, have routinely done so through various other types of interventions — medical, behavioral, lifestyle. Access to gene editing will, in turn, become increasingly affordable and thus democratizing.
No one wants a Wild West of gene editing. Ethicists, policymakers, scientists, and the public will need to debate regulations — and rights and obligations — as part of deliberative family planning and the advancing science.