The Pursuit of Biohappiness

Washington Post, October 16, 2003.


By all accounts, we are entering the golden age of biotechnology. Advances in genetics, drug discovery and regenerative medicine promise cures for dreaded diseases and relief for terrible suffering. Advances in neuroscience and psychopharmacology promise better treatments for the mentally ill. Techniques of assisted reproduction have already allowed more than a million infertile couples to have their own children. Without such advances–past, present and future–many of us would lead diminished lives or not be here at all.

But our desires for a better life do not end with health, and the possibilities of biotechnology are not limited to therapy. Although most biomedical technologies are developed for therapeutic purposes, once here they are quickly available to serve many other ends, good ones and bad. And the powers they provide to alter the workings of body and mind–the very essence of biomedical technology–are attractive not only to the sick and suffering but to everyone who desires to look younger, perform better, feel happier or become more “perfect.”