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For Some or All?

With CRISPR, gene editing is poised to make a sizable impact, writes Noah Smith in an opinion piece at Bloomberg, adding that it brings up the questions of economic fairness.

Gene editing is already being explored for a number of diseases, like blindness and cancer, and could expand to other conditions like heart disease or anxiety and even to aesthetic changes, Smith says.

Its expense, though, would likely only make gene editing available to the well off, Smith says, and widen a gap between the rich and the middle class or poor. "A future in which rich people are able to make themselves more entrepreneurial, smarter, more socially adept, or more charismatic than other people could lead to exacerbation of the recent trends of falling economic mobility and increasing inequality," he writes.

To prevent that scenario from playing out, Smith urges governments to consider making CRISPR-based therapies freely available. He estimates that if such therapy costs $20,000, providing it to 4 million 18-year-olds each year, would cost less than $100 billion, and says the cost would be offset by gains in productivity and happiness.