Thursday, August 18, 2005

It has begun.

The potential here to transform our lives is gigantic. The amount of information encoded in three-dimensional protein folding is truly enormous (several distributed computer projects have been built to deal with this problem), meaning the possiblilities for biological innovation are equally enormous.

Evolution is billions of blind drunks stumbling around a room full of power tools for billions of years, almost always bumping into sharp, deadly things and killing themselves but occasionally finding something useful. Now Mankind has entered the room and begin setting up lights and labelling the tools.

I’m really looking forward to the day when they can grow and implant “accessory organs.” You know, something to keep me thin and healthy and attractive no matter how much I eat or how little I exercise, a backup for my heart, lungs, liver, etc., an organic Weblink so I can access Instapundit and Wikipedia directly from my brain (the combination of the two is often useful) without all this tedious typing and clicking, maybe some antioxidant organelles to prolong my life a few decades…

And the best part is, the coolest stuff probably hasn’t even been thought of yet.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by.

The thing I've always found attractive about bioengineering versus other transformative technologies like nanotech is that much of the work is already done for us; understanding how to bioengineer things we want is mostly a data processing/modelling problem, and the growth of those capabilities has been governed by Moore's law. While nanotech still has immense materials science and engineering problems to overcome, the evolution of life on Earth has provided billions of examples of tiny biological factories that (obviously) already work in real life. Once we can model protein folding, it could be possible to design an entire organism virtually, then code the instructions into a single cell which would build itself into what you wanted, exactly like what happens with a fertilized human egg. No exotic materials required, just the same stuff we're made of.


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Anonymous triticale said...

I was invited several years ago to join a SETI-style distributed background project to run cancer-related protein-folding computation. My computer at the time was eating processor fans so I preferred to shut it off when not in use. Good to see that they got somewhere without me.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Paul said...


Good post, but would you really want all those lazy ass people to be able to look like us weight lifter/workout fanatics without doing any of the work? I mean I have to starve myself practically so I can still drink beer and stay lean. I have to admit I'm not really attracted to that idea (unless I am the only one that can have the technology of course).

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece.

I like your optimism.

Wouldn't mind some more details in a follow-up post.

Evil Social Conservative
Eric R. Ashley

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does the term 'idiotarian' refer to the relgious right too? Because if they had their way, this is the kind of thing they'd stop. And the way it looks, Bush is one of 'em.

10:17 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Does the term 'idiotarian' refer to the relgious right too?

Sure does.

And the way it looks, Bush is one of 'em.

Argh, don't even get me started on that.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous J said...

I remember a journal club meeting a couple years ago where the paper discussed was about an RNAi virulance factor in a virus.
One of the profs there said, "Huh, not too long ago, we would have thought that was junk in our cloning."
If you don't think we should be cautious when playing with fire, don't come crying when we get burnt to the sum of millions of dead corpses or worse.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous J said...

Dead corpses is redundant.

5:01 PM  

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