The feeling of rarity is another crucial element in determining the value of something. The luxury industry bases its premium prices on the idea that the goods being traded are extremely costly and precious; therefore, are exclusive in number accessibility. What is the outcome if new technologies have the power to eliminate rarity as we know it?
Tina Gorjanc’s Pure Human project had been a popular highlight at Central Saint Martins’ Degree Show Two. She created a ground-breaking leather accessories collection using in-lab grown skin as opposed to skin from the slaughter. The cause for recognition? The skin was human. Whilst the project is conceptual, it is theoretically grounded on the availability of someone’s hair (dead or alive), alongside the technologies able to extract and reproduce the DNA, manipulating the genetic material. Imagine owning a biker jacket formed from your grandma’s hair or Beyoncé’s skin! All at once, exciting and endless potential applications are sparked; we might resurrect our loved ones or literally wear our favourite celebrities’ skin.
But what about the implications? As of now, there is not any legislation in place that seems to prevent anyone from practicing genetic manipulation. This initiates new complications in terms of business ethics, tapping into issues that are not yet fully covered by conventional commercial regulations. Gorjanc’s project aims to generate debate around the potential consequences of current legislation which do not limit the commercial usage of human genetic materials. One of her research areas exemplifies this; leukaemia patient John Moore filed a lawsuit in 1990 after his doctor had removed and patented tissue samples from his body. The court’s verdict however, was not in Moore’s favour. They had ruled the tissue samples as property of the institution that had extracted it and therefore, had not considered the ‘theft’ a criminal offence.
On what basis should the ethical debate arise? It might sound easier to take a stance on the gun control debate, but what about when it comes to genetic technologies that have the potential to save and destroy mankind?