21 May 2021

A Better World

I am writing to you from the year 2041. You are now following the A Broader Mind course at the VU. You are learning about and discussing genetic modification and biohacking. Your opinions on the topic are very clear: only use genetic modification to prevent and cure diseases. It totally makes sense that you think like that. Not much is known about the consequences of the techniques available and it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

This ‘message from the future’ is written by a student of VU Amsterdam, as an assignment in the A Broader Mind course. The interdisciplinary course focuses on personal development and involvement with complex social challenges like poverty, sustainability and the digital world. This series is about genetic modification.

However, I have not come to agree with you now. I have a story to tell that might change your mind. In the year 2031, genetic modification was legalised for medical purposes such as preventing cancer and curing HIV/AIDS. Some medical professionals did not take the law very seriously and started experimenting with what else genetic modification could do. They found that basically anything is possible. People doing this and people getting this done illegally were arrested. Then a war between opponents and proponents of biohacking arose in 2034. The governments of several countries thought they could easily take on the proponents, but what they didn't know was that there was a whole underground world of illegal biohacking and many, many people were already enhanced to be stronger, faster, smarter and so much more. The governments suffered defeat after two years, and biohacking for any purpose was legalised.

Some people even modified themselves so they could eat plastic and other types of waste

This was a scary, dark time. No one felt safe and a lot of people felt pressured to modify themselves in order to keep up with the rest of society. But then unexpected things started to happen. People started to modify themselves so they could fly, read minds, breathe underwater and heal people with nothing but their hands, and used these skills to help people in need. Sure, there are people who use genetic modification for evil and bad purposes, but so many people started to use modification as a way to make the world a better place. Some people even modified themselves so they could eat plastic and other types of waste and live off of that, in order to decrease the plastic soup in the ocean and the waste mountains on land. 

Of course, we don't know what the world would look like if genetic modification had never been legalised. Maybe the world would have improved either way and the legalisation of this weird but useful practice was not necessary. But I have to say, the way the world is now is not a bad one to live in.

I hope my letter will give you something to think about and remember that there is no right or wrong opinion on this topic. Keep reading, listening and learning and trust me, the future is not as bad as you're imagining it right now. 

Merel Kouwenhoven

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