Monday, February 16, 2015

Genetic Engineering, Our Shared Responsibility

h I ! h A p P y  M o N d A y !

This is for Nancy, someone I met at Starbucks yesterday and had a chat with her and her friend about synthetic biology.

My current occupation is DNA construction, synthetic biology. I'm working on an AI engine of my invention to slice and splice DNA. My next leap is to combine two separate synthetic strategies and pick a combined winner amalgamating the two.

My previous stint in genetic engineering was in report writing of drug metabolism. The idea there being coming up with the correct dosage of drugs based on a persons metabolism using genetic testing.

In both of these genetic engineering endeavors of work there arises the topic of ethics. Genetic testing will sequence your genome and the insurance companies will know everything about your health as is determined by your genetics. Synthetic biology is GMO food and someday people.

Should we?

Our generation has failed miserably to provide the ethics that go with technology.

Our generation, my generation, has done a bang up job inventing technology. Ahh, the wonders never cease and we crave more. Well, I do anyway. ha! However, what we sorely lack as result is as Martin Luther King Jr. put in back in the 1960s, "technological advancement today is such that we have guided missiles  and misguided men."

We have failed to embrace our national ethics, starting with missiles and men. Should we have spent money going to the moon or better spent that money feeding the poor?

Joseph Campbell tried to wrestle with this dilemma back in the 1940s. America was ethically caught with its pants down when we dropped the atomic bomb. Was dropping the atomic bomb right? Was it wrong? Campbell posited that if we are ever to get out in front of science ethically then we need speculative fiction. Joseph Campbell lobbied and won for science fiction to become its own Dewey Decimal classification system. We believed, at that time, we should attempt to get ahead of the ethical debate.

What are the correct ethics with genetic engineering? super computers? robots? Cyborgs? over-population?

All of these topics have been covered in great detail in speculative fiction as to possible ethical positions. Where are we today? Where we were when science-fiction first started: the literature establishment still to this day vilifies and denigrates sci-fi.

Well screw them. Literature critics will someday be looked back at in history and attributed as having done a  great harm to the cause of science and the cause of humanity; all for snobbery of good prose. Literature critics have brought us nothing and yet managed to damage us greatly. Screw them. I have no respect for literature critics. None. Anyone who thinks science-fiction is simply childhood fantasies knows nothing about the topic at all or even why science fiction was given its own classification in the first place.

Should we proceed with uninhibited abandon with computers? Will AI destroy humanity as told in the movie "Terminator" when computers become self-aware? Should we program every robot with Asimov's three rules of robotics?

Should we embrace genetic engineering?

I'd like to recommend a book on this topic, Roger Zelazny's Hugo Award winning "The Lord of Light." In "The Lord of Light", Zelazny tackles two great issues: genetic engineering and accelerationism.

  1. Genetic engineering:

    Zelazny took Campbell's mandates seriously and engaged history, mythology and our best understanding of human nature to project into the future. His conclusion? If we are not careful the Divine Right of Kings claimed throughout all of history will become reality. If we are not careful only the very rich and the very powerful will be able to afford genetic engineering. Because of this they will use this advantage to enact tyranny. Over time these "super-humans" will be superior to enough to the average person that claims of divine blessings will appear to the lay person a proven reality.

  2. Accelerationism:

    Accelerationism goes hand-in-hand with Zelazny's genetic engineering prediction of the Divine Right of Kings. We face accelerationism today. Today we know that China and India cannot accelerate their day-to-day technological lives to those of the United States without seriously damaging the environment and Earth. Therefore we are morally obligated to prevent that acceleration of technological advancement. This is accelerationism defined. What we have today is a moral dilemma we refuse to discuss. Zelazny took this dilemma one step farther and posited what if the genetically superior were to destroy all technology today such that we reverted back to a pre-printing press level of technology then ignorance would abound and the genetically superior would be gods relative to the those born naturally.
Zelazy's conclusion is that a perpetual dystopia may ensue if we do not tackle these issues of genetic engineering coupled with accelerationism head on. We should not allow a technological environment where only the elite can enact genetic engineering because genetic engineering is illegal. And where are we today in discussing the ethics of either one of these issues? Literary critic shame. That's where we are.

What will be my generation's legacy? The legacy of a great blooming of technology or the legacy of a technology's resulting dystopian future about to follow because we, today, do not have the courage to embrace these great moral debates of genetic engineering and accelerationism?

Embracing these moral debates is what this blog, Irreni, is all about: morals world scale!

How thrilling!


The future is coming!

Well come! and well met!

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