Yesterday evening, I was at the annual board members/fellows retreat of the New America Foundation and got into an interesting discussion with one of the institution’s supporters. He said he was at a meeting not too long ago in which people were discussing “what the world would look like in a hundred years.”
He said that while they talked about nuclear weapons, and bio threats, and massive continental super nations, no one talked about human evolution.
Human evolution? Isn’t that supposed to take thousands of years?
Not any more.
Probably the most important news in decades about mankind’s ability to sculpt his own evolutionary track was released today — and was about page A17 in most papers.
J. Craig Venter and his team have succeeded in creating the first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell.
The implications of this are enormous — and mean that eventually, humans will begin to shape themselves and their biophysical development in much the way that humans sculpt and fashion their external environment.
From a Bloomberg BusinessWeek report:
The first life form created entirely with man-made DNA opens the door to manufacturing new drugs and fuels, while raising the possibility that mail-order germs may one-day be available for bioterrorists.
Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, reported today in the journal Science that for the first time, they made a copy of a bacterium’s entire genome and then transplanted it into a related organism, where it functioned normally.
The culmination of 15 years of effort, the work provides a blueprint for making organisms that could be used to make better fuels, drugs, vaccines and sources of food, the institute’s researchers said in a statement. It also suggests that companies that can manufacture DNA should stay on guard, said James Collins, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-supported bioengineer at Boston University, in a telephone interview.
Read the rest here.
— Steve Clemons