“Yes,” says Bill Gates. And in the new book BIOPUNK a summary of what’s happening in the field of science, genetics, and engineering offers up a peek at that future. There are surprises, as hackers and tinkerers tweak what is known to discover what is possible. That is also how science works, from Cambridge to the University of Arizona. Scientists have always been tinkerers, as shown in “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsch. The search for better explanations is a rocky path, but the method is to avoid past mistakes while making new ones. Without curiosity and risk there is no progress. In Biopunk, author Marcus Wohlsen chronicles a growing community of DIY scientists working outside the walls of corporations and universities who are committed to democratizing DNA the way the Internet did information. The “biohacking” movement, now in its early, heady days, aims to unleash an outbreak of genetically modified innovation by making the tools and techniques of biotechnology accessible to everyone. Borrowing their idealism from the worlds of open-source software, artisanal food, Internet startups, and the Peace Corps, biopunks are devoted advocates for open-sourcing the basic code of life. They believe in the power of individuals with access to DNA to solve the world’s biggest problems. This goes “against the grain” of fears inherent in a revolt to GMOs. It is interesting to note that the history of technology is such that if anything is possible it will be used. Now, despite fears of nuclear power, new and advanced nuclear power plants are in the works that do not work on the water cooled model. (This is necessary, as populations increase—with increased demand for power—due to the climate effects of coal powered plants.) So too, GMOs are needed to supply disease resistant crops to prevent starvation in the third world. This, despite whatever one feels about the greed of Monsanto and other giant corporations. And then there is artificial intelligence. Will the singularity of quantum computing result in creating a master race of robots that out-think us and may possibly destroy us? That is what Hollywood has hyped. The truth, as with alternative scifi thrillers like 2001 and Arrival, may be quite different. Higher intelligences (whether robotic or alien) will certainly have different views of both us and everything else. Our ego is derived from self illusion and experience. Without such egos or experience, it cannot be otherwise. So no one really knows. Yet. Thoughts?
J. Lowe 414 Words