The fear with germline engineering is that since it is inheritable, offspring and all succeeding generations would carry the modified traits. This is
one reason why this type of engineering is currently banned- it could lead to irreversible alteration of the entire human species.
I think this is, by and large, a very temporary concern. Most Genomic scientists I hear speak, talk of creating not just designer babies, but designer
baby boomers. The problem is finding a vector to spread the modified DNA strain. We're currently considering retroviruses, but it's difficult
getting them to insert the new gene into the proper coding sequence. Since we're pretty much 95% junk DNA, that means 95% of the places that gene
could be inserted would be in non-coding regions. However, this could potentially cause a frame shift and produce deleterious effects in other traits.
Another solution would be precision nanomachines, but I'm not sure how close or far we currently are to creating a molecular assembler.
In either case, traits passed on though lineage would be rendered moot by malleability.
There would be no run-away Frankenstein scenario of damaged genes propagating across the species, because we would be able to modify our genetic code
several times throughout the course of our lives. Errors could be dealt with as they arise. It's interesting to note, however, that humanity will not
be free of Evolutionary process. First off, so long as replication, modification, and selection remain - we will continue to be subject to natural
evolution. However, this process would be augmented by a form of directed evolution via genetic modification.
I can easily see humanity "evolving" new and novel genes artificially via Genetic Algorithms and simulation.
Looking far, far into the future, could post biological entities have no form, but exist only as pure forms of energy? Is this our final destiny,
millions of years in the future?
Energy is a bit of a misnomer. While tautologically correct, it overlooks a co-requirement. Information. Could we one day abandon physical reality to
meld into the aether of our distributed networks? Possibly. We're already starting to take that step with online games and social networking. Indeed,
the fantasies presented in these mediums are so compelling that they often can cause psychological addiction and personal problems a result - be it
poor hygiene or divorce settlements. Even death in certain rare cases.
It would be great if everyone had the same memory as our parents and all the generations before them.
I actually think that's quite dangerous. It would stymie the growth of a unique personality and identity, eventually leading to less variability and
diversity. Appreciation of diversity is not just a PC PR movement, but it's a good policy to hold since diversity is one of the greatest strengths a
system can posses. It's why life is so resilient and robust - and why the Internet is the longest running machine in the history of mankind, having
never broken down even once since it's inception.
Maybe that's evolution. We have selected ourselves out of evolution by creating this race of souless biological machines and they only allow humans
to go so far in evolution and technology.
I rather see these developments as the next grand step in evolution. Evolution has had several "stepping stone" moments. The introduction of oxygen,
the first multi-cellular life forms, the invention of sex, etc. These new technologies could simply herald a paradigm shift in life from decent with
variation, to organisms which can adapt extremely quickly or take a constant and active hand in shaping their genetic fitness.
Machines will not replace humanity. There will be no disconnect between man and machine, organic and synthetic, because the two will merge. Our
technology is already augmenting human abilities far beyond our inherent talent. The only difference between yesterday and tomorrow, is their
proximity to the body. We are literally seeing the birth of humanities integration with our technology.
I also wonder if we create these beings, will they have a soul or will they be souless and extremely smart biological machines.
I don't see why not. I think that in-so-far as consciousness goes, structure matters far more than composition. There's nothing specifically unique
linking Neurons to Consciousness on the synaptic level. If a soul can rest between the Neurons, why can it not also rest between the transistors?