Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BioShock


I'm not one to vote against new developments. I'm not arguing the stupid "We shouldn't tamper with God's design" crap. If we are able to take things further in a given intellectual genre, whether it's the arts or sciences, we should do that.

God does not see good or bad inherent within an object itself, but rather in the will behind its use. I also think that, in the foresight of major offenses, we should build equally strong defenses.

Drew Endy, a synthetic biologist and assistant professor at M.I.T. is in the process of building a new programming language. Terms and words used, however, will not be for the purpose of designing computer programs, websites, games or machines. They will be used to create and manipulate certain DNA. DNA in plants, bacteria. Your body.

These are "BioBricks", DNA segments with links on the ends that allow them to attach to other DNA strands. The programming language will command these strands to bend, fold, change, color, or do whatever the user asks.

Some feats achieved according to the GOOD magazine article: "For example, Endy's colleague Jay Keasling has found a way to reengineer E. coli so that they naturally produce an anti-malaria drug."

"In 2006, one [MIT student team] made bacteria that changes color when it detects arsenic in well water."

Endy says he envisions large-scale cities grown from bacteria, and houses grown from gourds. Of course, these developments and visions are beneficial from all kinds of angles, but objects destroy on the same scale that they build.

He's opened the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, which is an open-source collection of DNA strands that anyone can add to or borrow from. So, as Endy pursue his cities and houses, someone else somewhere else could be very well in the midst of creating the next Black Plague. According to Endy, however, this is the risk that has to be taken. If the technology and science is to develop quicker, scientists need to be exchanging ideas with each other.

Given that someone will, either purposely or accidently, create a new lethal virus or plague with this new bridge or science, scientists should be hard at work on programming the BioBricks to raise as much as an immunity to such things as possible. Perhaps they can program the body produce stronger inflammation (biological defense against pathogens) that can deflect almost any kind of new virus or disease.

We won't know where this will go until we know. A quote from a research book: "You cannot just shape and shift things, germs, and expect everything to just go on it’s merrily way. The changing of a DNA strand varies in its effect, and has more than one effect."

3 comments:

  1. Don't Feed The PixiesMay 16, 2008 at 4:27 AM

    "God does not see good or bad inherent within an object itself, but rather in the will behind its use."

    I totally agree about the intent of use - the problem with any technology is that someone will always abuse it. But does that mean that we shouldn't create it in the first place? That's a question that worries us all.

    I personally believe that, wherever possible, testing and products should be created without harm to animals, but if it means destroying third world poverty am i against testing on animals? I really, really don't know

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  2. Interesting post - I hadn't heard about this. Wasn't there a scientist (Einstein?) who said we should look at not CAN we create things, but SHOULD we create things ...

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  3. The Clandestine SamuraiMay 19, 2008 at 8:38 AM

    Perhaps, but I disagree. If we can advance in technology, I think we should. I just think we should design our policies to reflect good moral use of the technologies.

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