A collection of newly published essays written by Stephen Hawking before his death reveal the iconic physicist believed wealthy people could create a new race of “superhumans” by editing their children’s DNA.
The collection of articles and essays, which has appeared in part in the Sunday Times, will be published in their entirety as a book called: ‘Brief Answers to the Big Questions’, due to be released on October 16.
Hawking, who died in March, writes that he is sure breakthroughs in genetic engineering will allow people to create a superhuman race within this century. He also predicted that while laws will try to prevent it, the rich and greedy will be unable to resist the temptation.
“I am sure that during this century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,” he wrote.
“Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.”
Hawking added that the emergence of a superior race will soon lead to implications for “unimproved humans” who he presumed will eventually “die out or become unimportant.”
He also warned that “once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete.” His dire prediction continued that those being outpaced in the human development race will either die out or become unimportant, leaving “a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.”
Hawking’s predictions stem from gene-editing technology that already exists. The Crispr-Cas9, invented six years ago, is a DNA-editing system that allows scientists to modify bad genes or add new ones, and it has been used to treat children that were predisposed to serious illnesses such as an otherwise incurable cancer.
pic © Reuters / Lucas Jackson