Almost a year ago, I collaborated with Future Crimes visionary Marc Goodman and bestselling author and writer Steven Kotler to speculate how the advances in personalized medicine could be co-opted for less than altruistic purposes. We submitted the article to the Atlantic Magazine. The article appears in November 2012 issue, on your newsstand now. (Here’s the online version.)
The piece was founded on super-exponential advance in genetic technologies (DNA sequencing is outpacing Moore’s law by up to 500%) and the fact that legions of scientists are working on new technologies to better target and kill cancer cells. My thesis is that if we have the technologies to selectively target cancer cells in an individual, where there is a small genetic difference, we can target a particular individual in society (a relatively large genetic difference). We drafted a future scenario whereby this could be done using technologies that are already here although not widely disseminated and then backstopped the scenario with a review of genetic advances and exponential technologies, something we were all comfortable with given our relationships with Singularity University.
It’s been a long haul getting this article published. The Atlantic staff was incredibly thorough. It sent out the submission for external review and fact checked every statement. We had to address over 170 comments in the manuscript. I am very thankful to the editors, fact checkers, and reviewers for their diligence. I hope that you enjoy reading the article as much as Marc and Steven and I enjoyed writing it and that it gets you thinking and talking about our genomic future.
This future is coming fast. Just a couple of weeks ago, the President’s commission on Bioethics published their latest report on genomic progress and privacy. Heady stuff. Last April, another White House report announced a blueprint for the emerging bioeconomy. Clearly, these technologies are important to national and international interests. They’re also becoming available to just about anyone that’s interested.
This is easiest seen in the direct-to-consumer DNA sequencing and analysis market, recently profiled in Time magazine. But it’s also just around the corner on the genetic engineering front, too, with online DNA synthesis companies, community biotech labs and, soon, home kits. This is reminiscent of thirty years ago, when digital computers became more accessible, eventually revolutionizing the way we do routine tasks, communicate, share, and buy. Now biotech is going mainstream, too. Where will this take us is in detail is unknowable but the broad sweeps seem apparent enough. These technologies are going to cheaper and easier, and more and more people will begin to use them. Overall, biotech is shaping up nicely to be the next IT industry.
There will be hiccups along the way. We’re talking paradigms shifts here and these are never easy. They also tend to take a lot longer than expected to develop roots, often a generation, and they can be scary. I’ve maintained, however, that the scariest outcome of all is that our fears hold us back from being world leaders with these tools, and that our experience with computing (and all the dynamics therein) will help illuminate the way.
About the Author
Andrew Hessel is a futurist and catalyst in biological technologies, helping industry, academics, and authorities better understand the changes ahead in life science. He is also the co-founder of the Pink Army Cooperative, the world’s first cooperative biotechnology company, which is aiming to make open source viral therapies for cancer. This post originally appeared on his site AndrewHessel.com.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
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This is my last posting for the next few days. I will be taking my office apart so that we can move to our new apartment downtown next Tuesday. I will be unplugged and disconnected except by tablet. Expect me to be back in the saddle before the end of next week probably in time to provide you with some more headlines. In the interim these are the stories I share with you this week:
Today, literally thousands of alternative transportation vehicles are coming out of the woodwork and they nearly all have the same problem – no place to drive them. Most are banned from biking and hiking trails, and they are neither licensed, nor licensable, for use on the streets. I’d like to discuss some new possible solutions and why Colorado is poised to take the lead in the alternative transportation marketplace.
In a recent conference promoting not only their latest gizmos but their company's animating vision as well, Google executives declared they were working toward a future in which technology "disappears," "fades into the background," becomes more "intuitive and anticipatory." Commenting on this apparently "bizarre mission for a tech company," Bianca Bosker warns that their genial and enthusiastic promotional language masks Google's aspiration to omnipresence via invisibility, an effort to render us dependent and uncritical of their prevalence through its marketing as easy, intuitive, companionable.
Occasionally during meetings one of my staff – an avid birder – will elbow me and I’ll look up and glimpse a bald eagle. Each time, I am in awe. I live in Washington State, which is home to a plethora of eagles, where pods of Orca ply the waters near the San Juan Islands, and where roads are sometimes blocked by herds of elk.
In this month's Report on Business Magazine, a supplement that comes with The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's national newspapers, Stanford University's Mark Jacobson provides a best case scenario
According to The Hollywood Reporter, celebrity tech CEO Peter Thiel is upset that movies like The Matrix and Avatar make technological innovation seem "destructive and dysfunctional."
A team of researchers are asking the public to help them locate and count all the sources of CO2 coming from power plants on the planet.