The Rich Are Guinea Pigs for Biotechnology
Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D. is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics, Raymond Schinazi Distinguished Research Professor of Jewish Bioethics, Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Neuroscience and Biological Behavior, and Sociology, and the Director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. Dr. Wolpe also serves as the Senior Bioethicist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where he is responsible for formulating policy on bioethical issues and safeguarding research subjects. He is Co-Editor of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB), the premier scholarly journal in bioethics, and Editor-in-Chief of AJOB-Neuroscience, and sits on the editorial boards of over a dozen professional journals in medicine and ethics. Dr Wolpe is a past President of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, a Fellow of the Hastings Center, and a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the country's oldest medical society.Dr. Wolpe is the author of over 125 articles, editorials, and book chapters in sociology, medicine, and bioethics, and has contributed to a variety of encyclopedias on bioethical issues. A futurist interested in social dynamics, Dr. Wolpe's work focuses on the social, religious, ethical, and ideological impact of technology on the human condition. Considered one of the founders of the field of neuroethics, which examines the ethical implications of neuroscience, he also writes about other emerging technologies, such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and prosthetics. His teaching and publications range across multiple fields of bioethics and sociology, including death and dying, genetics and eugenics, sexuality and gender, mental health and illness, alternative medicine, and bioethics in extreme environments such as space. He is the author of the textbook Sexuality and Gender in Society, and edited and is a key author of the end-of-life guide Behoref Hayamim: In the Winter of Life.Dr. Wolpe sits on a number of national and international non-profit organizational boards and working groups, and is a consultant to academic institutions and the biomedical industry. In July, 2010, he testified to the President's Commission on the Study of Bioethical Issues in Washington, DC on ethical issues in synthetic biology. A dynamic and popular speaker internationally, Dr. Wolpe has been chosen by The Teaching Company as a "Superstar Teacher of America" and his courses are distributed internationally on audio and videotape. He has won the World Technology Network Award in Ethics, has been featured in a TED talk, and was profiled in the November, 2011 Atlantic Magazine as a “Brave Thinker of 2011." Dr. Wolpe is a frequent contributor and commentator in both the broadcast and print media, recently featured on 60 Minutes and with a personal profile in the Science Times of the New York Times.
There’s no doubt that there’s going to be an international market for biotechnologies. And you’re going to have consumers going from one place to another trying to find enhancement technologies. But the good news for that, I think, is that they’re not very good. So what’s going to actually end up happening is that the wealthy are going to end up being the guinea pigs. That is, they’re going to go out and buy this stuff. They’re going to be adopters and then we’re going to perfect those technologies on the backs of the people who can afford them.
By the time they trickle down to the average person, they’ll be cheaper and more effective. It’s one of the ironies of these kinds of technologies. We tend to think that we test everything on the poor, but actually, there are a lot of things we test out on the wealthy because when they first come out they’re too expensive for the poor to get.
And cellphones were a good example. The original cellphones were awful. And the modern cellphone is a thousand times better and it was the wealthy that spent a lot of money on those early cellphones who were the guinea pigs for early cellphones. And so, there is a kind of justice in some of this.
But it’s also true that as some of these technologies at least develop, they will be out of the range of affordability for large swaths of people all over the world. And wealthier countries are going to have them first. Wealthier people are going to have them first. I don’t really think they confer so much of an advantage, at least the ones we have now. Our attention enhancing drugs are only moderately effective. Our mood-altering drugs are only moderately effective. So I’m not sure that they will confer as great an advantage as people worry that they will.
But eventually, as they become more sophisticated and more reliable, I think actually the price will come down quickly and they’ll be available to everybody.
Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.
- Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
- 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
- On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.
We know the dangers of too little sleep. Now for the other side of the story.
- Western University researchers found that sleeping over eight hours per night results in cognitive decline.
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Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
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