Monday, June 3, 2013

Birthing our Successors?

I've been completely fascinated with the whole biological computer concept. Instead of silicon chips, these living computers, also known as DNA computers or biocomputers, uses biochemistry and proteins such as DNA to process information it receives.

And recently, two different research teams from Stanford and MIT have designed genetic receptors for living cells. These groovy devices work as transistors inserted into living cells. These tell the cells to "light up" when certain defined criteria are met.

So, is it goodbye silicon-based pc? Do we rush out to greet our new organic laptops? LOL, I hope our organic tablets don't get motion sickness.

Yuck. Anywho, well, maybe someday. I'm not too concerned with the very Bradbury style future. This is one of those advancements where the near future opportunities are just as cool as the futuristic ones.

A couple ideas mentioned in the source articles sounded intriguing. A genetic transistor injected into a cancer patient that notifies any cancerous cells to destroy themselves. Water sources that monitor their own health and notify technicians if there is a problem. Even the amazing chance that construction engineers will grow buildings and bridges instead of building them.

My fictional, over imaginative mind immediately screams, "Biological weapon!" This could be provided with sniper-like pinpoint accuracy instead of mass destruction. Transistors will tell the healthy cells of a political or government enemy to destroy themselves. Ooh, or maybe something more sudden. Brain aneurysm, clot-causing heart attack. Imagine, assassinations remotely done in complete silence.

Even if we were mature enough to stick with only humanitarian endeavors, which I highly doubt, there is cause for concern. I mean, we are instilling intelligence in basic living things. How will these simple functioning cells react to consistent, long-term transmittal of "intellectual instruction". For all we know, human intelligence evolved from some kind of spark of intellectual guidance.

As a fellow member of a species unique to all other species on Earth, I'm not sure I suddenly want to compete with some other species with special consciousness.

By giving basic biological elements the path to "conscious problem solving" are we potentially paving the future evolution of those biological elements? Right now it's reactive... but at what point could it become proactive and evolve independent thought? I can't help but think we might be birthing something that'll be bigger than a computing machine.

What did David say in Prometheus? "Big things have small beginnings."

Maybe someone needs to make sure the researchers are aware of the Three Laws and suggest for them to design something similar for their biological device as Asimov did in the positronic device as they go along their merry scientific way.



  1. One does wonder if the scientists pushing forward with these advancements bothered to pay attention to the warnings included in the sci-fi that preceded these real-life breakthroughs. Like Guy says in Galaxy Quest, "Didn't any of you ever watch the show?"

    1. I know, right? I just really hope that the scientists in charge used to be the science geeks and not the serious science nerds. Trust me, there is a difference... oh hell, what am I sayin', you all know.

      I also hope their intentions are ethical, and not with the intent of advancing the intellectual conscious of another species, creepy Dr. Frankenstein style. *shivers*

      (Love the Galaxy Quest reference by the way!)

  2. As technology continues to advance, there are always ethical issues to be considered. The important thing is that scientists do stop and consider the ramifications instead of plowing forward. Allie's quote above from Galaxy Quest is true. There are many shows, movies, and written works of fiction that have already looked at the results of such technology.

    1. Exactly!. Scientists are so caught up in the "can we do it" that they don't pause to think how it'll turn out 7 or 9 steps of progression down the road. Or they don't think of the possible other roads that might become of that one discovery/advancement. (What's that Jurassic Park statement the chaos theorist says? They were so caught up in the "if they could" that they didn't stop to think about "if they should", or something along those lines.)

      The science community, in recent years, have started taking the SF world a bit more serious as repercussions to science advancements things in the 60 and 70 SF books are starting to come to fruition. Let's just hope that respect we've been garnering retrospectively transitions to more of a proactive thought process/reflection.