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Imagine a world where, in one year, a war claimed 16 million lives and another 500 million were infected by a
;u pandemic, killing 50 million.
Imagine a time where only six
percent of Americans graduated from
high school. Imagine eight percent of
homes having a telephone and a three-minute call from Denver to New York
Imagine a trip from London to
New York taking ;ve days, and one
from Australia to London taking three
and a half months.
Imagine no more. That was 1918. A
mere 100 years ago. How things have
changed and at breakneck speed.
Consider that in 1956, 5 MB of
RAM cost $120,000 and you needed
a truck to move it. Today, one TB of
memory is only $99 and can easily
be lost in your pocket. That is a
10-trillion-fold price performance
Lifespans have doubled. Food
is 20 times cheaper. Energy is 50
times cheaper. Global income has
tripled. Connection to the internet is
1-million-fold faster and cheaper.
Such technological transformation
is a good thing.
And transformation is set on an
even faster track going forward.
Currently half the planet is connected
to the internet. In ;ve years, it is
expected the whole planet will be
connected, with unparalleled internet
This means that four billion more
minds will have access to vast amounts
of information, enabling everyone on
the planet to solve problems like we’ve
never seen before. It’s dizzying just
thinking about it.
But maybe it’s the risk manager in
me. The fun sponge. I trust technology.
But sadly, I do not trust all humans.
Eight billion minds transforming
our planet, all with good intentions …
Consider CRISPR, a powerful
new gene-editing technology. This
tool can manipulate genes and delete
undesirable traits with high precision.
It has the potential to eliminate
diseases, enhance the nutrition and
endurance of food and to help us fully
understand the human genome and
what each gene does.
This is revolutionary, but somehow
I feel we may need to pause and take a
breath. Do a little risk assessment.
I once saw an MIT experiment
where a kitten was born glowing in the
dark. I’ve also read of the successful
cloning of primates in China. I have
been shown a future where gene
editing could produce “designer
babies” with superhuman skills and
Here is where I struggle. Just
because we can do these things, should
we? I shudder at the thought of the
unintended risks and consequences
that could transpire from such gene
editing in nature. This technological
transformation train zooms ahead with
no governing ground rules and no
ethical frameworks to constrain and
guide us as a society.
Let’s take a collective breath. &
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in
innovative enterprise risk management
methods and implementation techniques.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY JOANNA MAKOMASKI