Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared for the September 8, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Between the Lines
Some speakers, when we seek to interview them before their talks, are
nervous that an article could diminish the firepower of their speech.
It rarely does. For instance, on August 25 we had Chris Mario’s
fascinating 3,000 word story on Gregory Stock, and Stock’s provocative
speech on September 2 duplicated nothing.
Stock, the CEO of Signum Biosciences and the keynote for the U.S. 1
Technology Showcase and the Princeton Chamber Trade Show, spoke to a
sold-out chamber luncheon plus more than 60 U.S. 1 readers who crowded
into the Westin’s dining room.
We are living in the most exciting of times, said Stock, because we
are in the middle of two revolutions – the silicon/artificial
intelligence revolution and the genomic revolution that will help
change our offspring’s genes. Most people are drawn to the latter: "We
are human. We want to use technology in ways that we think will
improve our lives."
Look no further than page 10 of this issue for an illustration. An
infertility doctor can do genetic tests on an eight-cell embryo in a
petri dish. Right now the testing is limited to whether the future
child will be healthy, but soon, Stock says, parents will be able to
choose physical, emotional, and intellectual characteristics.
Princeton is a hotbed for the genomic revolution, and we get to watch
it, says Stock. "We are the architects of the revolution. What’s so
different is that we are also the objects of these changes."
Stock took a straw poll, based on the premise that parents could
choose one of eight embryos with different personality traits. How
many people would want to choose? Half the room voted to choose, 30
percent voted for random selection, and 20 percent stayed on the
This was a surprise to Stock. Ivy League communities, in his
experience, generally vote for random selection by an overwhelming 80
percent, whereas in one predominantly Roman Catholic working class
community, 80 percent said they wanted to choose. (Stock attributes
the Ivy League vote to political correctness, but it could also
demonstrate their confidence in their own genes.)
"Direct genetic intervention is in sight," said Stock. "Public policy
makers are saying ‘Let’s slow it down,’ but they are dreaming. The
question is, whether we have courage to face the possibilities of the
future, or whether we will turn the technology over to younger,
braver, regions of the world."
"What are we afraid of? We are afraid it will actually work and
succeed gloriously. It would force us to face our real fears,
ourselves. It will force us to change our view of who we are."
Re Richard K. Rein’s column on September 1: I would like to send all
good wishes to Rich’s favorite pair of scissors. As a late night
editorial assistant in the early ’90s, it is from both of them that I
learned to make quick and decisive cuts.
Executive Director, Mount Dora Center for the Arts, Florida
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