Saturday, October 07, 2006

The War Against Lucifer

Bio-hackers. Wrap your mind around that concept. Unlike nuclear weapons technology, biotechnology is relatively cheap and hard to monitor – a lot like the underground culture of Web crackers. I don’t believe the "Singularity" is near, but I do believe that changes in the next decade or two will be coming fast and piling on. This article points out the arms control problems when you have Al Qaeda with Bugs.

People do not give enough credit for the determination and wisdom, care and caution, dare and gumption, that went into winning WW III, the "Cold" War. An incomprehensible mesh of lifetime efforts mixed with angst-ridden decisions will never be completely understood. Make no mistake, no one lost this war except the taxpayers, and they got good value for their money. The states of the former Soviet Empire will all, eventually, be better off than they were, and the abatement of risk bodes well for Humanity’s long-term survival. It also bodes well that we can solve such enormous problems, because future problems will be of comparable severity.

… Other technologies have appeared almost out of nowhere, moving rapidly from fundamental research to applications. These include RNA interference, which allows researchers to turn off certain genes in humans or other organisms, and synthetic biology, a fledgling field recognized only since about 2002, intended to allow engineers to fabricate small "biological devices" and ultimately new types of microbes.

Between 1990 and 2000, the speed of DNA synthesis increased more than 500 times. …

The nature of future problems is such that we currently do not have the social structure to deal with them. The aggregation of 50 states in relatively uncontested lands took two hundred years of monumental efforts, combined with immense happy accidents. We have faults. We are what we are, but we are on the whole, a very good thing. Unified effort, however, a prerequisite to solving world problems, remains such a difficult thing that despair is a justifiable temptation. Canada and the US, sister states with a great deal in common and extremely little friction for the present, are unmotivated toward, and incapable of, designing a sensible political conjunction. The European Union is motivated, but even less capable. The Puerto Rican independence movement remains alive and strong after a century despite the advantages Puerto Rico has found as part of the US. Most of its citizens are as comfortable on the mainland as they are on the island, but nothing happens. How many proponents will it take to make Puerto Rico a state?

I was reading about Simon Bolivar the other day. He endeavored to unite Spanish speaking South America. He was widely admired, just as Vacslav Havel was in Chechoslovakia, but accommodation could not be made. He gave up in despair and went home, or rather away, to Spain. There were subsequently wars among the states of Peru, Chile and Bolivia, which despite its landlocked status, defiantly retains a navy that will return to the sea one day, one day when Arthur returns perhaps. Despite all the shared history, they could not find a way to unite.

That is the nub of things. How do we meld our separate superorganisms into a united network? Frightening as all this new biotechnology is, social science is where the real action is going to take place -- at least if we plan to survive.

10/7/2006 1:05 PM

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