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Tacoma resident chosen as a 2017 Rhodes Scholar

Associated Press Associated Press 20/11/2016

TACOMA, Wash. — A 23-year-old from Tacoma who plans to combine his knowledge of genetics and philosophy to help guide tough ethical decisions as advancing technologies make designing humans possible was selected as a Rhodes Scholar on Sunday.

Anthony W. L. "Wilder" Wohns says the pitfalls of human genetic engineering are many and varied and his studies at Oxford University will prepare him for that future.

"One of the big challenges facing society in coming years and decades is going to be the advances in human genetic engineering," Wohns said. "Studying the ethics of these advances and the consequences is going to be extremely important."

Wohns graduated from Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma in 2012 and from Harvard University in 2016, where he studied human evolutionary biology and computer science.

He's currently at the University of Cambridge studying for a master of arts in biological anthropology.

As a Rhodes Scholar, he'll pursue post-graduate studies at Oxford University in 2017. He plans to obtain a second bachelor's degree in computer science and philosophy.

He said having a background in genetics and philosophy will give him a unique perspective as humans confront the reality of being able manipulate cells to create "designer babies."

"I've been interested in the bigger picture," he said. "How do these advances that come out of the laboratory affect society?"

Wohns said the likely job he envisions for himself is one that currently doesn't exist, but will ultimately be needed as new organizations, international treaties and regulations come into being with advances in science. "I think we're already facing these tough questions," he said.

Wohns, who has extended family in Japan, is fluent in Japanese and has a black belt in taekwondo.

Some of his other pursuits include running, cycling and mountain climbing. He's also certified as a wilderness emergency medical technician.

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