Genetic Engineering

Internet DNA Podcast

How will genetic engineering effect us and will the perfect person really be that perfect? Is the ethics about improving ourselves as a human being or penalising those that have not been enhanced as they are more likely to become ill, be less intelligent, less sporty...technology is neither good nor evil.... it is the way in which it is use. Regenerative medicine, robot rats, spying moths and internal micro-bbbbbots. Oh, and surely it is easier to turn humans into robots than robots into humans?

 

Transcription

(this transcription is written by robots… so don’t be surprised!)

Yes. Yeah. But okay. Okay. Hello about this. To me it's all right with me, Abby and meet them this week. [inaudible]

discuss genetic engineering and I hope it's going to be crystal clear as a way of [inaudible].

Yes. Won't be if you do that would that was,

oh, but they're not as sexy as the old headphones there, but luckily no one can see me. Right. I look more like a receptionist now before I look like quite a core gamer. So genetic engineering, yeah. Is

Do you want to know about it?

The messing around with our genome, is that correct?

Yeah. Obviously we've sequenced the genome, which means we know what every gene is. We don't yet know what every gene does, and especially we don't know it when it's in combination. AI and machine learning will help us discover that by basically being able to look at massive data sets for patterns in and around the gene. So we have to assume that within the next 30 40 years we will have a much better understanding of which genes promote which traits in people. Well, those traits are always good. Are they? Because you may have a predisposition to diseases such as cancer or heart disease.

Well, we don't all have the same gene.

No, absolutely not. Otherwise we'd all be exactly the same. Not In personality because then you're getting into the nurture versus nature debate.

Yeah. I see. That's an interesting thing, isn't it? Obviously we know about Dolly the sheep and cloning a living being, and if we think cloned sheep and cats and dogs and fish, then we can obviously cleared human beings. But it is morally and ethically wrong. So you're not allowed to, in spite of the guy in I think North Korea who said he had, but he hadn't

[inaudible]

correct. But the odd thing is, yeah, you're cloning the DNA and the cells and sort of starting as a baby. So even if it was a new me, it wouldn't be the same age as me.

No, it wouldn't be the same age as you. And also it would probably have different life experiences. Yeah,

well that's what I was going to get to. Well. So if you can cook, clone every cell and make a body exactly the same age as me, which is what I'm sure we'll get to and all our Scifi films tell us we were already there. So then it'd be identical. To me, it still wouldn't think like me because it hasn't had the same life experiences unless you give it my memory.

Okay. And now we are moving out into psi phi in [inaudible] cuts the chase. Yeah, let's cut to the chase. Yes. Jeez, great to Saifai. So you've watched altered carbon where they have this idea where you can store your personality and everything about you and you can upload it as a backup and then you can download it into anybody else's body, which they call asleep. So if you're very rich you can just buy bodies as and when you need them to replace your own mind. Obviously you can buy whichever body you like because you don't want to buy a beggar's body. You want someone who was fit in that letter. I don't think that genetics is going to be particularly the answer to that. I think genetics is probably a lot closer.

I'm jumping ahead because I then want to go into bio engineering and then I would like to go into, okay. How do you clone a brain? Did you know I was going to go into these?

No, I had no idea. I thought we were talking to you about genetics, but anyway, it's fine. This is all good stuff

that start at the beginning. What is genetic engineering?

There are lots of diseases, let's say like Huntington's disease and certain forms of breast cancer that are indicated by a single gene. There's just one gene that either turns out oh no off. It probably could be fairly soon that we can take a genetic map of your unborn fetus at a very early stage and say this child has the gene for Huntington's or breast cancer. Would you like us to switch it off and replace it with another one? Now obviously that's very dangerous when you don't understand the interactions of all these genes. I don't think there's any one that moment where we genetically engineer a trial to go, this child has the following gene makeup. It is an indicator of bad things. Would you like us to change it because then that opens up

immediately open. Yes.

A hole. Yeah. Would you like your child? Would you like your child to be cleverer? Would you,

yeah, so that's the interesting thing you were saying earlier that all runners who do a hundred meters in less than 10 seconds have a certain gene.

Yeah. ICT n three gene and they have an expression of it, which is called the five 77 double r and this basically allows your muscles to twitch faster than other people,

but in the future if you go right, I'm wanting my child to be around so you stick that gene in.

I want my child to be a sports, but I'll have some type so I would like five eight, seven double on. The promise of it is that you'd be able to design your child to have all the greatest traits. And then what you would probably do is that there'll be a set of menus where you can say he can either be like a four or he can be a c seven or he can be a B six and all of these will have slightly different traits because obviously there's a combination of genes that will, it's unlikely you can go for double a, which is everything is just optimized because what, you're fine,

that's the superhero. Yeah.

Yeah. Cause what you'll find is that by turning some on, you create issues. So I think it's sickle cell anemia that Africans get a lot because in Africa where there's a lot of malaria, that gene actually protects you against malaria, which is more important than having sickle cell anemia because there's not enough sun in Europe. So you can see why that genes expressed in Africa with lots of Sung, when you bring them to Europe where there's no malaria and very little sun, that gene becomes a liability. So it's not as if you can just go, I want everything positive and nothing negative. What will happen is that there will be trade offs,

but when we start to be able to make jeans

when we can make jeans,

yeah, why can't we make,

I've got a feeling and I'm not, I'm not an expert in genetics. Imagine we found the optimal human being gene. That was basically pretty much all the positives and none of the negatives

apart from you could say, actually, but I want this perfect person to have brown hair and I want that one to have blonde hair, so that would be it.

I find that by having blonde hair, that's not a positive thing that actually, oh, I'm going, hey, I blocked myself. So just say quite fine. That having blonde hair and blue eyes, it makes you more susceptible to a disease. You may find that in big data, it may be very minimal, but pure green for the optimum human being. You might end up in the, I can't remember which book it is, right? He's actually walking around in a virtual world, but everybody looks like a Jane or or John Cause everyone's just using the same avatar, the standard up tall.

Well surrogates, the film does that.

So you might end up in a situation where everybody looks very, very similar. If it's the line out of the incredible, everybody super than nobody is, all you've done is just lifted the media and up, but you haven't actually created an advantage for your child. Obviously there's this idea that everyone's gonna just tend towards the norm because if that's the most optimal version, then that's the optimal version. One will assume that that optimal version will be more expensive and therefore what you may end up with is a socioeconomic differentiation of your ability. And that's quite scary because that's basically locking in. If you're one of the rich at the moment that that happens, your family will always have the advantage of always having the best genes and our poor family will never have the advantage of having the best gene.

So that starts to answer my question, which was going to be what's wrong with trying to make better human beings? I know it's ethically and morally wrong, but why wouldn't we want to better ourselves?

Yeah. And why is ethically and morally wrong? I don't know. But it is at the moment. Okay. 70 questions. So let's not go too far down this road because I think it opens up a lot of questions as best answered in a book. Okay.

Festival. What's the difference between ethics and morals?

Ethics, I believe is practice. I think your morality is a little bit more based on your social moral compass. So the society around you creates your morality, is your own sense of good and bad. Ethics is more codafide. It's the laws in and around the practice of whatever you do.

Ethics refer to rules, as you said, morals refer to an individual's own principles regarding much, right? So morals of mind. Ethics is the world.

So you could say that cloning or genetically engineering children or genetically engineering and nothing is ethically incorrect. Morally, it may well be perfectly fine. You may be totally cool with it. I don't know where I am with it really, because I think the more you open it up, the more you go. Okay. There's a bunch of other questions that we have to answer before we can really come to that. So perfect. One is if we know everybody's genetic code before we even start engineering it, if I'm an insurance company, can I say I want to see your genetic code before I insure you because I want to make sure you are not one of those sorts of genetic people that are going to be expensive or we're not going to allow certain people with certain genes to breed. And so I think that's where it opens up the morality and the ethics questions.

If we can design everyone to be the best human being they could be and then it's up to them whether they're going to take advantage of that. I think that's pretty much why wouldn't you? But having that knowledge out in the public arena, that starts to get into, uh, your judging me without actually knowing me. The better gene sequences are going to be more expensive for obvious reasons. The, actually what you're doing is those people will have lower premiums, lower insurance, better health care, and they're the people that need at least. And then the people that really need it, who only could get like a, an f seven those people or get paying higher insurance because you know, they're not as optimized, they're more likely to be able. And so then it gets quite into a sort of a fairly unpleasant zone. I think

the ethics is not whether we should do it, it's if it becomes possible, really it should be a blanket rollout so that everybody starts this brave new world at a level playing field.

Yeah. And the problem with that is obviously I'm not going to spend my time researching it if I'm not going to make your money out of it. So unless China do it, which is quite wonderful. Very possible. Yeah. Yeah. And also China might have a very different idea of what an optimal human being is to a European or an African. The issue will come in and around. What can you enhance? We may find that you can start to unlock abilities that people don't have now because that gene sequence never has occurred because it would be very difficult for evolution to get there because the halfway stage is almost permanently death. The way that your gene sequence works is by evolution. So it splits and it recombines with another half of DNA from someone else and that will set out your genomics sequence and off y'all go.

That'll be you. Now, if you're not the best that you can be or you're below halfway, the likelihood is in evolutionary terms, you're going to get eaten or you're going to die early, preferably before you can breed. And so the ones that survive and the ones that can breed, they get pushed forward and the ones that die are too weak to survive or are the easiest ones to eat, then they don't get to breed. And that's how evolution works. The fact that if you can see a little bit better, it really helps if you're a predator, but it also really helps if you're the predated cause you can avoid the predator. So their better eye ones get away better or the faster ones can run faster away. And so the ones that don't have those genes tend to die out. Now there will be certain that would have killed you anyway either because you would never have been born because it's not a viable genetic set. And therefore it may do that. It locks certain avenues down there which are viable, but you can't get past. Have you ever read long earth?

No.

So the idea of long earth is you can make a little potato machine and you can jump into the Polyverse so you can jump to the next earth and the next earth or the next earth. But sometimes you get to an earth and it's just gone. It's not that for some reason it was destroyed in that universe. But obviously if you jump to, you get past the, the exploded one, you can get to the next one. So it may be that certain gene secrets is a locked out because there's a single void space where you can't cross it. And the ones afterwards are perfectly fine. But you may find that we start engineering gene sequences that would not naturally occur.

Going back to what you said about if China's understanding or a different type of what they felt was the perfect person compared with what someone in the West would. We talked about how they have the surveillance and if you do good things you get good points and if you do bad things you get bad points and is being rolled out nationwide now, which is terrifying. I thought it was years away is the obvious one. Like you're not allowed say anything against the party, but some of the bad things were things that I thought were perfectly normal, but I was very surprised by what they suggested was angry. Yes. So yes, there's the difference between what is the perfect human being and to whom is that the perfect human being.

It may end up a bit like cars, you know some people like size and types of cars and other people, like other types of cars and actually it will be a choice, but it could also be that there is one clearly better one and that may be clearly better for your ethnic group. It may not be clearly better for another ethnic group. So that may play into it as well. But I think that part of it is kind of less scary to me than it's a government knowing your all, not just the government, but government companies knowing your genetic sequence in order to adjust how they deal with you. If an insurance company knew that you had a higher propensity for any one thing for we can even engineer it. So let's say now everyone gets their gene sequence and then suddenly your insurance company comes in and goes, actually your medical insurance is going to be very expensive because we know and roughly within the next 10 years you're going to have the following episode. Whatever your lifestyle is. That leads into a very sort of odd place where people get marginalized and placed out of the thing. Now some people will say, well that's fair enough. Other people shouldn't be paying for your weaknesses. Yeah.

If you'll wait, this is a things like this. So this is what you'll get penalized for in China, which is terrifying. Everyone thinks, oh well, you know, if I'm good then that's great. I get rewarded. How bad or not. But being bad is 10 computer being a Tibetan Buddhist. Yeah. Not playing your debts, criticizing the government, failing to sweep your sidewalk, slow smoking, playing loud music on trains, Jay walking. So it's just like, yeah, it really is George Orwell coming and, and what you're saying, or what's becoming apparent across each podcast that we're doing is that every bit of new technology is going to be used by businesses to make money and dump it. So when you say surveillance, will, this event will be used to see if you've done something bad and then if you've done something bad, then you can't have this or you'll go to prison. Yeah.

Well it affects your social score. Yeah.

And now we're saying if we can change our genes then they again will be used to insure us or offer us a house cause they'll basically know how long we're going to live. And so everything that we do to make ourselves augmented

ends up in a slaving us.

Yes. Which is, I mean we've said that computers have saved us anyway from the very beginning and then my take is that now we're coming into this era when finally they're beginning to work for us, not make us do the work, but maybe that's not true. As we get further and further and they get more and more intertwined with our being not something that's, that we can pick up and put down, it's both isn't it? The going to become easier and freer. But also,

I don't think we've talked about this a lot, which is as you get enhance, as you get your genomes optimized, you have cyborg elements that say you know where you've got inbuilt technology that you are enhanced by and all of these sort of things that the quid pro quo of that is people know more about you and they can control more of what you do and see. You know we were talking about this when we were talking about was it your little assistant that told you who to marry and then we actually discussed what if you believe this machine actually it can tell you whatever it likes and in many ways be allotment was talking about which is we don't even realize how much we're controlled because the messaging to us is so managed. The best way to stop people from talking about stuff is not to mention it.

I'd like to move on to bio engineering. Similar but not similar. It's looking at ourselves as opposed to our genes isn't it, and how we can change cells to be better. Like we're talking about changing genes to be better, and this is the area that I find fascinating and almost could do more good or more harm because if we think that we can correct genes, but we can also correct bad cells, and not only can we correct bad cells, but we can add things to the cells, or we can add things to a group of cells or a very, very tiny fetus that could augment it. Again, you could put a chip in it, you could put a micro robot in a group of cells or an Amoeba, the clothes with a grain of rice, and suddenly you started having an enormous amount of control over cells and what they can do for anything that being be that plant.

Yeah. Or just, if you think about it from a point of view of let's say people who have amputations now as we know, lizard can regrow its tail. Yeah. So you could probably activate a bunch of cells to just rebuild. You rebuild yourself when you cut yourself. It's not like you can't rebuild yourself and you just build at that scale,

a fetus can regrow. Yeah, parts of it. And if you look at the child up to the age of two or so, if they chop the end of their finger off it regrows so we start with that ability and then we stopped

and probably for a very good reason, which is that level of mutation. It's very bad for you in a permanently switched on sentence. But if you could find a way to say, actually we need to switch this on again in this area because we need to rebuild this leg or we need to rebuild the hand. Yeah. And then we'll switch it off again because you'll probably find the reason why it switches off is things like cancer, which is the reason we get older, I believe, is that we have these things called telemarines in our cells and every time they divide it, it just lops one off. And the shorter the telemarine, the less good the cell reproduction is. And the reason for that is to stop cancer from running away. And so it's a reason it's there. But if you could control that with let's say genetics and enhancements that you're not likely to get cancer anyway, then you can start to switch those off and say, actually we can live to 250 without getting cancer because we don't have a predisposition to cancer anymore.

I think that regenerative aspect of bio engineering is fascinating along with organ farms, the ability from your own cells so you don't reject them to grow as a new organ for yourself. That can then be put in. What's incredible is some of this is already happening and you can see that sounds disgusting. You can see animals have had chips put in them at birth and so these cameras and things are just part of their body and it's extraordinary. Not Very nice for them, but they know no different. And so it is extraordinary how you say genetic engineering is probably the closest, but actually this bio engineering is already happening and yes, it can be used for warfare and it can be really bad because if you start using flies or moths as the ability to spy and also these micro insects that can get anywhere. So everything can be used in a good and a bad way. But to have these micro micro bio bots that could go in and fix stuff in your body without having to open you up is America. It is all moving towards the fact that we're never going to die. And that again causes its own problems. Yeah. But I find it absolutely fascinating, especially the regenerative aspect of it, of regrowing limbs, which if our body is already able to do it, it just needs a certain something to make it go overdrive. I mean God's, it's,

I think one of the things that they do do, I think it's the American army that do this, is that if you get seriously injured, that this may be [inaudible]. If you get seriously injured, they basically put some form of gas over you and it triggers hibernation. All the mammals hibernated at some point. And so they put you into a hive, cognative state, almost like a coma. So they can get you off the battlefield to a battle station. Cause the thing that kills you is that your body goes into hyperdrive.

Imagine that possible.

Say Yes, but I think one of the things that we keep running against is old Robert Oppenheimer's attitude, which is technology is neither good nor evil. It's the way in which it's used. It could be used for either process, so it's very difficult to go, oh, that technologies are bad. [inaudible] it's being used in a bad way. It's not necessarily a bad technology.

That side of things I think is fascinating. Again, going back to genes, could we put genes into robots or would they be of any use?

We keep coming back to this robot's thing and I was thinking earlier, surely it is easier to turn humans into robots than robots into humans.

Like make zombies.

No, what I'm saying is we will just enhance ourselves. Technology logically to a point to a point where really all you are human being or are you a machine? I mean it's really difficult to know when. Yeah, but actually you really are human. You were born. Yeah, or just dated in some way, but half of you is mechanical or electrical. Mechanical and the bit that we've retained or the bits that we've like the human mind is a very interesting thing. Now. It may be that it's actually just a function of you build a computer fast enough, big enough with enough learning, then it will become conscious. That may well be a point. It may be that consciousness is just an emergent property of being able to 200,000 days, millions of years to develop it to that level because obviously we started off as an Amoeba, an evolution of take us down a path that ended up with us going, we're not very fast, we're not very strong.

We might as well be pretty clever. Otherwise we're all gonna die. That's kind of highway in a really sort of top down way, so I'm very skeptical about robot robots in any sense other than reinventing the wheel yet. If you're making calls or you're doing some repetitive job, even if it's quite complex, repetitive job because then I can totally understand why it'd be easier to build a robot to do it. It doesn't have to think that much. It just has to do, you know, if you're trying to make a robot like a human, it would seem to me a much easier approach to make a acumen more like a robot because all the bits that are really difficult, you've done already and that you're just doing all the easy bits up, say easy, but you're bolting on a few extra [inaudible].

I want to finish off with one final thing. And that genetic engineering is very much used in plants in crops or ID, which is an ethical [inaudible] challenge.

That's a moral challenge I think more than anything else.

Well, it's illegal in some places and not in others or it's illegal to do certain things but not other things.

But when you actually look into those laws, you will find that a lot of them are driven out of morality, not out of real ethics as in people being scared about them

and with good reason because they end up killing bees and things.

They may have ended up killing bees. Yeah. I mean most of that's pesticides that they use for those plants.

So I don't know whether this is a claim to fame or something that I will be crucified for, but I designed Monsanto's logo many years ago. I remember that. And they're the only company that ever flew me first class. So that probably says it all. Yeah, I've got notes. We might need to go.

Well, what, just while we're talking about that point about plants, obviously genetically modified plants, I have a huge potential because if we can start to grow food in places where it doesn't grow for whatever reason,

and also the fact that we are not going to have enough food to sustain the growth of humans that is happening at this current rate

and we could maybe solve that by, we can just print me rather than growing animals, which I think they're already doing the fake burger. Is that the no meat burger?

Yeah. Now that tries to fish.

Yeah. Maybe that could be an ecological salvation. We say that meat-eating is the largest driver of climate change. Then if you say we can just print it out in factories, you want to stay, that's fine. We'll print steaks out. In fact, we just print a long retriever state and cut into one in segments and that's absolutely you would not know the difference. In fact you wouldn't know the difference because you'd know it was better then I think that's fine or it may be fine. It's like plants. People are like, oh they genetically engineer plants. Yeah, but there are times where the advantages of that plant on much higher than the disadvantages and there will be times where the disadvantages of that plan are much higher than than the advantages. And I think this is the problem with applying blanket. It's wrong. Well maybe it's in this circumstance

genetically modifying plants has been happening for centuries. We just haven't thought about it in that way. Every time you splice a plant and create something else, you are modifying it. And if you look at old fashioned carrots or old fashion tomatoes or any of the vegetables that we know, they look nothing like the vegetables. We know nothing like, yeah. And so it's already been happening. But just in a more steam engine way.

No. Will we be selectively bred dogs, chihuahuas. That's what all these dog shows are about, which is choosing what traits about a dog you really want, and we do it with plants, we do it with animals. Wheat is just a selectively grown grass and we've just grown and grown and grown to make it have a bigger seat,

but it's not new. It's just how and at what point

does it need regulation, like everything changes. Accelerating evolution, which is what we have historically been doing by saying, we want to breed it this way. We want to breathe it that way, and the changes artificially changing the genetic makeup of something that is a change. It's no longer a natural process that you're altering. It's actually an artificial process that you're injecting. On that note, I'm going to have to say goodbye and myself, I much prefer these headphones. I didn't buzz as much today.

Good. Well, I will do with looking like the secretary, just sort of Debra's speak next week.

Dan & Abi work, talk & dream in tech. If you would like to discuss any speaking opportunity contact us.