What if you could create the perfect baby in a lab? Thanks to the wonders of modern science, that far-fetched concept may soon become a reality. The ability to manipulate the natural processes of nature, and to chart a new course for human evolution in the process, may well be within our grasp. The searching and revelatory new documentary series The Perfect Human Being, an ambitious production from the Dutch public broadcasting company VPRO, examines the full potential of these scientific possibilities, and investigates the moral and ethical considerations that come along with them.
Hosted by writer and interviewer Bas Heijne, the series delivers insights from a distinguished panel of renowned scientists, philosophers and technological innovators. Each of these experts provide a unique glimpse into the possible future of our species.
In one episode, biomedical gerontologist Aubrey De Grey characterizes the process of aging as the one disease which afflicts us all. In his view, medical science should work to reverse the effects of aging as it would with any condition that ultimately results in certain death.
Another episode takes us inside a fertility clinic in Turkey where couples are legally permitted to choose between various embryos to determine the sex of their child. This freedom of choice for parents-to-be has implications that extend far beyond the determination of a child's gender. As explained by philosopher and biochemist Julian Savulesco in a segment devoted to human enhancement, it may one day be possible to carefully craft our own "designer babies", and genetically alter an embryo to our exact specifications, including the implementation of personality traits, physical attributes and specific skills and talents.
The implications of these practices are vast and complex. At what points does our scientific curiosity pose a threat to the sanctity of the natural order, and is it our responsibility as a species to push beyond those boundaries? To its immense credit, The Perfect Human Being embraces these challenges yet offers no easy or definitive answers. In the end, the series explores what it truly means to be human, and the role we could or should have in reshaping that definition in the years to come.