It was, I imagine, just a matter of time before one of those assembled in the room at last summer's Master Class in Synthetic Biology started in on their jabs at Intelligent Design. After all, they are only human, and humans are jealous.
As I got into the second reel of the seminar, the tape jammed and got stuck on hourglass, right in the middle of the other inevitable ethics discussion. Some had proposes a system of licensing. But there was the flaw. As someone mentioned, any 14 year old can steal the car keys and wreck their parent's car, despite the licensing system we have in place.
In a world where Murphy operates side by side with the minions of the Devil, there is a non-zero chance of those nasties to be engineered to get out and propagate. It seems to me impossible to have great desire to innovate, open sourcing, cheap tools, low cost processes, unintended consequences and ethical prohibition. Instead we will deal more often after the fact, just as we do with police and the law and justice. Pre-emption is impossible. And yet, before the tape jammed, I had the distinct impression that there were of the many some who thought some Leviathan possible.
I like the idea of synthetic biology. I think, as with every other invention, for the elite amongst us the benefits will far outweigh the risks. For the poor and weak among us, the ways and means to be destroyed will be multiplied. But at some fundamental level it will elevate us all to some new standard of living and leverage us one more degree into a complicated society made that much more complex by our new found abilities.
I'm not sure the flirtation it has with hacker culture, and the similarities it shares with computers in its ability to duplicate itself is preparing our ethical appropriately. I'm not sure the neo-Luddites will be considered so wrong. I don't see the shining new horizon yet. I just see newfangled solutions to today's problems and an undeveloped appreciation for tomorrow's problems.
'Biome' is my category for life in this new world of engineering. I am fascinated by the possibilities of understanding what it is we don't know, take for granted and consider perhaps unknowable. For example, what physically goes on when we laugh? Why is something funny? What kind of thinking is humor and what is its purpose? If we suggest that it's all part of some evolutionary biology and then find a way to re-engineer that evolution, what do we do with humor? Might we re-wire our limbic system to make those things that now generate fear become pleasurable? Super soldier there... or maybe, laughing in the face of death is an evolutionary dead end.