Thursday, July 17, 2008
I want to be a genetic engineer when I grow up...
Not that fluorescent fish aren't cool, but when are we going to really crack this genetic code? I know that we have sequenced a lot genomes, made clones, and of course made lots of creatures glow in the dark. I'm not talking about that. That's the equivalent of (if not worse) than my computer coding skills. I don't know how to write code. I know how to view html. I know how to look in the code and identify what bit of code does what, and then transplant that little bit of code into another bit of coding to usually get the results I want, but that's not actual coding. I'm not a computer programmer, and no one (yet) is a genetic engineer. Maybe there are genetic code manipulators, or genetic code transcribers, but there aren't any genetic engineers yet.
I'm talking about fully understanding the genetic code and using it to it's full advantage. I'm talking true intelligent design, not that baloney that the creationists claim. We are currently in the beggining stages of understanding genetics. Our genetic knowledge today is analogous to when we were building computers the size of rooms with less computing power than the pocket calculator of today. I'm not one prone to prophesy, but here is my prediction for the future; Our understanding of DNA is going to grow exponentialy. I envision buildings being not just organic and green, but actuall living creations. Our lights will be provided by living chemical reactions, our air purified and our water provided by our house photosynthesizing. Our fecal matter will be taken into the living house as fertilizer. Instead of buying a desk made from chopped up trees, you will grow a tree in the shape of a desk. Why build a guitar or violin? It would sound much better if it were grown as one single piece of tight grained wood. Instead of growing crops at a farm, and butchering animals for meat, your house will just grow fruits, vegetables, and juicy ribeyes.
Another serious improvement to life as we know it will be concerning our health. Have a gene that causes heart disease? Not in the future you won't. Genetic disorder? Nope, not in the future. Viruses, bacterial infections or allergies? Please, those were the first to go. Think I'm crazy? Sure, maybe now I'm crazy, but here in the future, crazy doesn't really happen all that often anymore. Wow, you were in a tragic accident and lost your legs? That's okay, we'll grow you a new pair. Don't even get me started on aging and death.
This kind of sounds utopic, but let's not get hasty. There are going to be some things that aren't going to be perfect. Genetic discrimination, genetic inequalities, and loss of genetic diversity. The way that marketing is, everyone would end up being identical if things played out wrong. Another important thing to consider is reproduction. We already can't feed everyone in the world, and we definitely can't sustain the current rate of growth. If life expectancy suddenly jumped to 300 years, we would have some serious overcrowding issues. There would have to be some kind of limitation in place to slow population growth. If it wasn't enforced, people wouldn't listen, if it was enforced, it would be considered an attack on our basic human rights, and people wouldn't listen. I suppose that if we are all genetically modified to be more intelligent, and less selfish than it wouldn't be that big of a deal. We are setting the stage for the possibility of real life distopias (my favorite type of book that I still want to blog about sometime) coming into existence.
Now, these aren't all original ideas, and even the ones that are original and creative from me, I'm sure someone has already had them. It seems that nothing in this world hasn't been thought at least once. I'm sure there is probably already a web page that talks about all of this in much better detail, and I'll get a link to it after I post this. That's cool though, that's whats great about the internet, anything you are interested in can be read about with just a little googling. So if anyone knows about a distopia book with genetic engineering, please let me know. Oh, and I don't mean Brave New World because cloning, birth control, and alcohol in the babies' test tubes isn't exactly cutting edge science (anymore), and I've already read it. :)