Object 3: picture of researcher working with Crispr-Cas9 system in a Berlin lab, 2018

June 2, 2021


This is an image of a researcher performing a CRISPR/Cas9 process at the Max-Delbrueck-Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin during May of 2018.

CRISPR technology is a prime example of how a presumed improvement upon past knowledge can be considered a failure depending on the lens through which the knowledge is perceived. Although the use of the CRISPR-Cas9 system for gene editing by the Transgenic Core Facility at the centre has shown the potential to revolutionise gene therapy and eradicate hereditary diseases, if misused, it can generate off- target and unintended consequences and be used for biological attacks and genetic enhancement- insidiously bringing to life an undesirable part of science fiction. The ethical dilemmas raised by CRISPR counteract its wide applications in the medical field and is indicative of the ways in which ‘we know’. The researchers themselves have opposed the unquestioning adoption of this technology and conduct in depth research to find editing techniques that don’t lead to misediting in unintended regions of the genome. This shows that humans’ criterion for improvement isn’t dogmatic, but instead constantly developing according to new findings and insights.

Moreover, attitudes towards ‘improvement’ can differ depending on several factors such as the potential benefit from technology etc. An example is economics status. Individuals from a lower economic rung have lower access to CRISPR technologies and it is virtually impossible for them, financially, to partake in gene therapy. Due to the issue of economic disparity, for them, CRISPR isn’t an ‘improvement’ from previous medicinal technologies as they are unable to access it and hence, can’t benefit from it. This enriches the exhibition by showing the role ‘fairness’ plays in our improvement criteria, as new knowledge can never be ‘improved’ if it only favours a certain demographic, while exacerbating inequality for another.

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