“We have within our grasp the technology to change evolution. This could change the course of biological life.”
— Paul Berg, Nobel Laureate and a pioneer of genetic engineering
In 2012, scientists in the U.S. and Sweden invented a technology as potentially life-altering as splitting the atom. One that you haven’t heard of—yet—called “CRISPR-Cas9”. This innovation with the cumbrous name allows biologists to edit DNA almost as easily as cutting and pasting words and letters on a laptop.
Scientists say that CRISPR-Cas9 may soon allow them to perform miraculous fixes to eliminate or alter mutations that cause everything from some cancers to Parkinson’s disease. More whimsically, the technology could be used to create, say, a unicorn, or a pig with wings; though it’s unlikely they could make swine fly. More nefariously, terrorists or the military might create pathogens that could harm far more people than splitting the atom has so far. Or, an accident could occur unintentionally.