Genome Imperfection and the Garden of Eden
The DNA sequence and initial analysis of the human genome have been published in 2001. Today we can determine the exact order of the A, T, C and G letters/nucleotides along the human chromosomes in a matter of days. We have developed a good sense of what the genome landscape looks like across a broader population and also in earlier hominids. Already in the original Nature study the authors pointed out what lies beyond this genetic blueprint of the human: “the science is only part of the challenge. We must also involve society at large in the work ahead. We must set realistic expectations that the most important benefits will not be reaped overnight. Moreover, understanding and wisdom will be required to ensure that they are implemented broadly and equitably.” A decade later thousands of genomes have been sequenced, including the one of the speaker, which is available online. Tools have been developed that could in theory change the genomes, in many species, including humans, with many potential applications. We are becoming the first generation of living beings in billions of years that knows its genetic code and can change it and with it the fate of the planet. Is humanity – and life on earth – at a turning point? Are we walking towards the Garden of Eden or turning our backs forever to it? In his talk Giulio Superti-Furga will outline the new, historical responsibility and argue for the necessity of a wider genetic literacy and that may turn out to be nothing less than philosophical literacy.