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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July 4, 2015 - To all my American readers a happy 4th of July. As a researcher bent on understanding the future and where humanity is going I seldom think about this within a cosmological context. But there are a whole bunch of people who called cosmologists and they have given us the Big Bang, the expanding Universe, and the big physics that governs how it all works.
July 3, 2015 - For humans to successfully endure a voyage to Mars and back NASA wants to have a better picture of where to land. So they want to deploy an airplane to fly over the surface.
July 2, 2015 - The United Nations has received commitments from 44 countries and the European Union (28 countries) so far in advance of the Paris climate change conference planned for December 2015. China, Brazil, South Korea, Iceland and Serbia are the latest to announce plans to decarbonize their economies over time.
July 2, 2015 - Today's guest blogger is Roy Rasmussen, co-author of the book, Publishing for Publicity. Roy is a freelance copywriter who focuses on ways to help small business get more customers through focused messaging.
July 2, 2015 - A mere two days before the United States celebrates its Independence Day, the Republicans now have 14 definite candidates and 2 to 6 probables who want to be the next President of the country. Of these one, although not a scientist, has stated that global warming is a human problem. That's Senator Lindsey Graham.
July 1, 2015 - It is Canada Day here north of the 49th parallel, the 148th year of the nation's birth. So today I went to watch my Toronto Blue Jays in action and have just returned to post the first of its kind blog here at 21st Century Tech. The collaboration is with Jessica Oaks, who has been a regular guest contributor.
June 30, 2015 - Just in case you were worried that we didn't have enough data traveling through fiber optic cables, engineers at