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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Breaking the seals of Life

The future is today. And that does not only applies to economics, Keynesian or purely Liberal, but also to technology, obviously.

But this technology is a bit too daunting, I fear. Making life out of four bottles of chemicals (sic) really hits hard on our sense of life, existence and even triggers instincts of self-preservation, an imprecise but deep fear.

The sensation is that a cosmic seal has been broken, that this door should never have been opened.

But of course rationality steps in and reminds that after all it is something that would have happened sooner than later. That this is what intelligence and knowledge carry with them. That Nature has been doing exactly that forever and that therefore it can be considered a precious gift from our mother: the ability to manipulate her very matrix.

The fear is after all one of acknowledging that the child, Humankind, is not mature enough for such a power, that it will most probably misuse it, causing much grief and maybe self-destruction.

But that's how things are. We don't get gifts from Nature anymore, we open our path quite ruthlessly through her secrets and guess that's alright for her, as long as it guarantees our survival... and if it does not, this other extinction, ours, will only make Mother Nature stronger in the long run anyhow.

The case, you may know by now, is that US researchers have managed to create bacterial DNA from scratch, insert it into a DNA depleted cell and get it to live and reproduce. They have created life out from scratch.

The same team, J. Craig Venter and his Institute managed to create a virus from scratch in 2003 and had already synthesized the bacterial genome from mere computer programs and chemicals in 2008 but then they failed to get it to work.

Considering the speed of research of this biotechnology, I can estimate that full human beings may be ready by 2050. Let's see: amoebas by 2017, simple multicellular beings (coral or fungus) by 2024, simple plants and animals by 2031, complex animals by 2038, humans by 2045.

What then? I can imagine the likes of Monsanto patenting brand new species of plants in few decades, animals soon later and then even, who knows?, artificial humanoids to serve as slaves or whatever.

Scary? Pretty much, I'd say.

More details on this shocking advance at:

· J. Craig Venter Institute
· The Guardian
· Science Daily

... and probably in most of your usual news sites.


Manju Edangam said...

Scary? Pretty much, I'd say.
You are not a doomsday prophet but you are a doomsday seeker.

Maju said...

Possibly I'm just a doomsday panicking one. :D

This post has a doomsday feeling to it, I used more or less consciously terminology that relates to biblical mythology (Apocalypse/Revelation). Some in me resisted that tendency but the discovery and its implications really incites such kind of thought.

It's breaching into what was till recently considered the exclusive realm of the Divine or Nature (depending on your cosmogony) and it does threaten very directly our identity and maybe even our existence as human beings.

I'm not really judging because it cannot be judged (it had to happen, so to say) but I'm officially scared.