Synthetic Biology: Drew Endy video


24 Responses to “Synthetic Biology: Drew Endy video”

  1. Village Idiot says:

    Let’s not talk about it, let’s actually go do it, and then let’s deal with the consequences

    Yeah, just like with GMO crops. It’s so much easier to just put new gee-whiz technology out there ASAP and then go back and try to figure out how to save the land-race corn species in Mexico that have been/are being contaminated by GM pollen from other parts of the world thanks to the Jet Stream (among other, um, issues). Hidden variables can be such a pain in the ass when they reveal themselves, and rest assured they will…

  2. trimeta says:

    A response to all the “OMG, ‘let’s go do it’ means ‘fuck the consequences’”: He isn’t saying “let’s take this stuff out of the lab and screw up as much of the environment as we can, to ensure future scientists a job;” he’s saying “let’s actually do this stuff in the lab.” Many of the people working with his system only do the design aspect, drawing up complex plans on computers without actually pipetting anything. “Let’s go do it” probably means “Sure, your design might not be perfect, but we’ll never know that if you don’t try to actually build it.” It means “Let’s go into the lab and do the research, and worry about the IP consequences later (after gene patents have been ruled unconstitutional, hopefully).” It means “Let’s ignore the fundies screaming ‘stop playing God’ and just build whatever we want in the lab, with proper protocols to ensure it doesn’t escape.” Seriously, if you guys actually read what he’s proposing, you’d be on his side.

  3. yer_maw says:

    i this what he is saying is that you cant stop progress with fear, because that fear is usually unfounded.

    Anyone can imagine millions of different outcomes for genetic research, but how many would actually come true? Look around you, nature has been playing about with this stuff for millions of years and we are all still alive.

  4. Village Idiot says:

    #14: Well, the rest of the quoted sentence paints a slightly different picture than what you have read into it, so what do you think he meant by the word “consequences?”

  5. Pyros says:

    It will be a success, and there will be nothing we can do about it so it is pointless to try. Not to worry though. It will be a boon. The human race is on the precipice of unbounded joy never before experienced.

  6. Takuan says:

    and who is to say that this isn’t the natural order of things? One old theory about the apparent failure of SETI was that intelligent species discovered nuclear weapons before they discover intelligence.
    Perhaps this is just meta-evolution and we are supposed to wipe ourselves out with gene tinkering.

  7. Takuan says:

    said the one green bud on the evolutionary bush covered in brown stubs

  8. zikzak says:

    Let’s not talk about it, let’s actually go do it, and then let’s deal with the consequences

    I admit I haven’t looked deeply into this research, but I’m not the only one who thinks that quote is terrifying, right?

  9. trimeta says:

    @#15: I think he means “how an ownership sharing and innovation framework needs to be developed that moves beyond patent-based intellectual property and recognizes that the information defining the genetic material’s going to be more important than the stuff itself and so you might transition away from patents to copyright and so on and so forth.” Like I said, IP stuff. And the biosecurity things he’s saying are basically an extension of the RepRap movement that everyone here loves: give people the power to create stuff. Note that he’s still not giving them the power to make gray goo, or even viruses; did you look at that list of genes? If you really want to cultivate your very own bacteria which glow green in the presence of high concentrations of caffeine, go knock yourself out.

  10. toastandlove says:

    Like…biological erector sets?

    Will there be home-kits where you can make tiny dinosaurs or subservient monkey butlers?

    Could – dare I dream – the monkeys be given a humanoid larynx in order to sass back?

  11. magicbean says:

    Nature has been playing for millions of years, but that’s the thing: MILLIONS of years. That kind of slow, patient evolution gives ecosystems time to respond and adapt to a change…time lets species reproduce over generations, lets landscapes change, allows ecosystems to renegotiate themselves.

    Evolution from a lab doesn’t give ecosystems time enough to respond and evolve, and humans never take the time to observe carefully what the real impact is. We just demand to research our next change, like petulant toddlers in a knife store. Hubris is the right word.

  12. kattw says:

    Dealing with the consequences later is, in fact, a terrifying proposal. As it is, bio-science is going fast enough that people are patenting the genome, which is terrifying in and of itself. How can someone ELSE own total access to the genes in each of our bodies?

    But the science itself is pretty darn nifty.

  13. Pyros says:

    @ Toastandlove

    Yes, it is true, all of these magnificent things you write about will be possible, and so much more! One day we will all have our very own living menagerie to play God with. Imagine an entire race of breadcrumb humans that you could keep in your pantry. I mean, totally forget about WOW at this point.

    And yes, we have things the monkeys need, and the monkeys have things that we need, no doubt about it.

  14. Takuan says:

    I want DRM that’s a lethal virus with only one person in the galaxy immune to it

  15. David Pescovitz says:

    @TOASTANDLOVE (#3), One of the researchers I interviewed actually referred to snapping together the biological components like Tinkertoys! So your Erector Set analogy is right on target.

  16. David Carroll says:

    Am I the only person who thinks that in ten years I will need a daily injection from Symantec BioVirus 2018 just to keep my limbs from falling off? I bet that will cost more than 69.95 a year!

  17. yer_maw says:

    ray kurzweil is an idiot.

    This guy isnt.

    end of transmission.

  18. Tom says:

    Biologists are such slackers. My lot went from the discovery of the neutron to a hundred thousand dead in less than two decades. After thirty years not one synthetic biology WMD has been used against a civilian population.

    C’mon guys: you’ll never replace physics as the queen of the sciences without a higher body count than you’ve got now. Keep on with the “just do it and deal with consequences later” attitude and you just might be able to catch up, though.

  19. Jeff says:

    Evolution can happen in a flash! I happen to count asteroids smashing into Earth as part of the evolutionary process, since it seems to have allowed us to evolve. So maybe we cause things to suddenly happen once in a while; that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good thing. Or we’ll all die horribly.

  20. ashabot says:

    “Let’s not talk about it, let’s actually go do it, and then let’s deal with the consequences”

    Endy’s level of recklessness redefines hubris. His arrogance is not only mindboggling, it is terrifying.

    “Anyway, you guys should love Endy’s work, he’s all about open source.”

    So that justifies everything? How absurd.

  21. Jeff says:

    Modular bio-systems engineering? I thought that was called a gene/DNA. I’m all for becoming a transhuman and hope I live long enough to be one. I want to be made of smart, dark matter.

  22. Village Idiot says:

    Anyone can imagine millions of different outcomes for genetic research, but how many would actually come true? Look around you, nature has been playing about with this stuff for millions of years and we are all still alive.

    I love it when people who likely have never spent much time in real wilderness tell others to “look around you” as if they’d seen it all. I’ve been taught and practiced living off the land (and do so every chance I get). I’m talking real hunting and gathering, with flint knapped knives and fire from bow drills, and one thing I’ve learned is how clueless most people are about the reality of the wild natural world. When a Wise Ass says “It’s all connected,” they mean it more literally than most people can imagine. There’s some profound philosophy in wilderness, and living entirely by your own hand, even for just a few months, will bring it to you.

    And here’s one of the millions of different possible outcomes of genetic research we no longer have to imagine: Genetic drift imperiling land race corn species in Mexico, a country that banned GM crops to try to prevent precisely that problem. The pollen arrived to contaminate the corn via the jet stream, a possibility that was apparently overlooked or somehow deemed inconsequential. If someone doesn’t understand why that is such a serious problem with potentially disastrous consequences, then I highly recommend looking into it.

    It’s always nature is this, nature is that, we’re from nature so everything we do is natural, yadda yadda yadda. That may be true, but some natural things are clearly smarter than others. Nature’s tinkering over these hundreds of millions of years probably didn’t concern itself with human comfort or the continued existence of our societies, and all I’m arguing is that humanity’s tinkering ought to. And to my knowledge, nature kept the tinkering within species, more or less.

    It’s hard to know where to draw the line until we cross it, and the things humans are now becoming capable of doing make crossing the line a very dangerous proposition. We’re not playing God (as if), we’re just playing with ourselves.

  23. magicbean says:

    Asteroids and other dramatic changes are part of evolution, but aren’t evolution in and of themselves. Biological response to that change is evolution, and that response takes more time than lab biology has patience to observe.

    When you remove biology from the field, and create change entirely in a lab, you are removing yourself from the feedback loop of evolution, seeing yourself as the master and commander of evolution, rather than a part of it.

    This is a frighteningly arrogant basis from which to advance biological understanding:

    From this stuff, to the wood itself, the materials here, even the air that we’re breathing, has been engineered for temperature and humidity, so that it is easier for us to deal with.

    Newsflash: it’s not all about engineering things for *you* and your momentary desires.

  24. trimeta says:

    Note, IAAB (I Am A Biologist):

    I’m actually pretty familiar with Endy’s work, too. He’s not yet to the level of building gray goo; right now, the goal is to be able to combine a few carefully-designed genes in arbitrary ways. These genes do things like “turn green,” “produce signaling molecule,” or “activate flagellum.” I don’t think control of the cell’s reproductive cycle has been worked on yet, and has been pointed out in the past, if bio-gray goo could take over the world, it would have already. (Insert “what do you think humanity is?” comment.) Anyway, you guys should love Endy’s work, he’s all about open source. Remember those carefully-designed parts I mentioned earlier? They’re all speced out in a wiki: Go ahead, take a look and see if anything there actually scares you.

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