Muck, money, and knowledge, it is all the same

“Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.” (Francis Bacon)

This is actually true for knowledge, so much more useful when it is spread than kept for yourself. However, many politicians won’t agree, but they are in politics, and I am not. Knowledge about technology and innovation needs to flow, not only within but also between industries. A discovery in biology can be the solution for a network problem. Often, the analysis of a historical event provides guidelines for solving a world problem we are facing today.

But that is not all. Developments in one sector also influence the mindset in another sector. The algorithms we know from the computer world have inspired a trend in biology where an organism is seen as a set of algorithms that determines its behaviour. Deterministic but also worth looking into. If so, we can free up massive brain power by skipping thinking about the free will and redirect that brainpower to building machines that do exactly what living organisms would do. And we would not have to worry about the muck they produce. This, in its turn, is good for our CO2 emissions. So the future is full of opportunities and threats depending on how we link them together.

In this and following posts, I will shallow dive into technology trends from article quotes that I enjoyed reading. These articles, especially the quotes, express my thoughts clearly and brightly. As you might have noticed, I am not a native English speaker, so finding the correct words in another language is something that can keep me busy. Although these are snapshots of thoughts, the common thread is innovations that can trigger enormous changes in today’s society. Here comes the first one. Enjoy.

Ethical approval massacres

“Karl Campbell is a craftsman bedeviled by bad tools. He’s a middle-aged, medium-size, muscular Australian with a five-day beard and an intense gaze who seems perpetually coiled, even angry, when at rest. He’s smiling and relaxed only when his body is in motion — preferably fixing something, building something, or killing something.” (Process of elimination — Fastcompany)

When I read this, it looked like the start of a crime novel involving a PTSD diagnosed Australian veteran. This promised to be a story full of killing and explosions. The killing was there, but no explosion. We all have heard about accidentally introduced species in closed ecological systems like rabbits, rats, and swine in Australia, resulting in the extinction or near extinction of native species.

The battle to eliminate these unwanted side effects of Western colonization is still going. In this article, probably the only ethical approval massacre is described. If certain species are not exterminated on some isolated island, it will impoverish the diversity of biological species. This story deals with the quest of an Australian veteran who wants to use the new gene-editing technique called Crispr Cas9 to breed sterilize mice on a massive scale so they cannot reproduce and become extinct on Galapagos island.

Crispr is a much debated and controversial tool that can cut out unwanted genes from DNA strings and alter organisms. This opens the possibilities to create superorganisms. But as the above example shows, it can also be used to control imported and unwanted species. In this discussion, you quickly travel on a slippery slope. Ethics, not technology should decide which way to go. Do we aim for a completely controlled world and manipulated by humans in gene-laboratories? Do we offer nature a helping hand to overcome the decline in biodiversity? Or should we stand down and let life finds a way.

However, we ourselves are still subjected to evolution. An article in the Dutch newspaper “ De Volkskrant” wrote about the Bajou people. They can stay underwater for a more extended period of time thanks to their enlarged spleen. All Bajou people, also the non-diving ones, have this enlarged spleen by natural selection over time. We ourselves are still subjected to evolution.

The subject of gene editing and biodiversity deserves more than a quick snapshotted thought. For those who want to deep dive into it, I can recommend Neal Stephenson’s novel Seveneves. Genes and gene editing are the central themes in this excellent story. When the earth is destroyed after the moon breaks into pieces, humanity escapes to space. There they succeed to survive thanks to mastering gene technology. It’s up to you to decide whether this is fiction or science reality?

Sources:
Process of elimination by Emma Marris
Seveneves by Jared Stephenson
Bacon quote from: The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money are Challenging the Global Economic Order by Michael J. Casey and Paul Vigna
Volkskrant, April 20

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Jan van Boesschoten

Jan van Boesschoten

As an educated historian, entrepreneur and self taught technologist I like to connect the dots of technical, social and economic developments.