When she was outed as a fraud the other day, Florida’s three-breasted woman revealed a shift in the collective unconscious.
Jasmine Tridevil, purportedly a plastic surgery pioneer, turned out to be an attention-seeker with a prosthetic (now this year’s hottest Halloween costume). But like some ancient Vedic goddess, mixing fear and desire, she was also a vision of the strange future promised by science, in which any organ or tissue, from breasts to brains, hearts and eyes, can be grown from genetic scratch, and used for reasons that transcend mere medicine, such as eternal beauty and superhuman strength.
A key problem, as McGill genetic ethicist Bartha Knoppers said this week, is that medical ethics is ill-equipped to contain or thwart the rise of these “luxury” applications of stem cell science, which already loom in the popular imagination. Put together, the trends of stem cell technologies for beauty, strength and resilience point to a new era of human enhancement, not by integration with computers, but by exploitation of the genome’s eternally replicating power. They herald the age of stem...