Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

An Illusion Of A Future: The Implications of Genetic Testing: Does It Help or Hinder the Survival of Humanity?

Dr. Jeanne Wolff Bernstein.

With the completion of the Genome Project, geneticists have gradually acquired the tools to learn about the genetic origins of many diseases. They can manipulate genes to cure, or at least slow down previously uncurable illnesses. As a result of these new technological advances, humans can now literally reach inside themselves and change the very structure of their human nature.
While DNA technology has done wonders for the past, particularly with regard to the criminal justice system where wrongs have been re-written and innocent men have been released for crimes they did not commit, DNA testing risks to become a far more perilous tool when it is directed towards the future. In a few years, genetic cards will be given to parents at the birth of their offspring so that they can know from the beginning of their child's life to what diseases and afflictions their off-spring may be susceptible to. Informed with thus knowledge, they can take actions accordingly. As long as such decisions remain restricted to the prevention of diseases, it is one thing ,but once this genetic blueprint is readily available to the wider public, its uses and abuses can become manifold.
This paper will address among other questions the issue of how the human psyche will respond to and process these radical technological changes. It will also discuss how such basic human mental activities as forming hope, and creating illusion and fantasy may be fundamentally altered when the desire for change can be readily realized through genetic manipulation. What kind of humanity can we envision when the available technology allows us more and more "to play God"with our own bodies and psyches.


Dr. Jeanne Wolff Bernstein  (United States)
Personal and Supervising Analyst
Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California

Jeanne Wolff Bernstein, Ph.D. is a personal and supervising analyst at The Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, San Francisco. She is on the faculty of PINC, at the Wright Institute and at St Mary's Hospital, San Francisco. She is in private practice in Berkeley, California. Jeanne Wolff Bernstein has widely published on psychoanalysis and the visual arts (art, photography and film) in journals like "Psychoanalytic Dialogues", "Studies in Sexuality and Gender", "The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis" and "The Journal of Applied Psychoanalysis". She serves as a contribuing editor on several psychoanalytic journals. Dr. Wolff Bernstein has organized a variety of inter-disciplinary conferences, among them one on Technology and Psychoanalysis. Her paper for this conference is a result of some of the ideas resulting from this interdisciplinary discussion.

  • Genetic testing
  • Manipulating Genes to alter Human Nature
  • Diminishment of Fantasy
  • Illusion and Dreams
  • Playing God with one's Body and Psyche
  • Manipulation versus Creation
  • Predictable future risks
  • Fossilizing the Present

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)