What does DNA mean to you? #6

What does DNA mean to you? #6

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 21, 2008 in Meaning of DNA

dna dundeeWhat does DNA meant to you?

Thomas of Aminopop tells us:

I’ve always been a technologist, a hacker. For me that inclination has played out mostly in the arena of computers and software, but the larger Hacker Ethos — of using existing technologies in new or unexpected ways, or of combining new and old technologies in surprising ways — keeps leading me towards DNA. And DNA seems like the most hackable substance on the planet at this point. For me, that insight started with an interest in Genetic Algorithms — a programming approach that leverages raw computing power, profligate mutation and fitness selection over traditional software design. Once I started to grok how GAs worked, I started getting this strange, gut feeling for the billion-year, mondo genetic algorithm derby that is Life On Earth. Here’s this linear data stream — the genome, or better yet, all the genomes — written in this foreign language, totally protean in expression, capable of transforming a planet… I mean, infotech is great, but it’s really nothing next to the power of sequenced protein. How can you not be just totally hypnotized by that awesome power? And once people harness it, I think it’s going to make the infotech boom look like a tea-party. And I’ve always been kind of a closet Life Sciences geek, so that suits me fine. So that’s it: to me, DNA represents the Next Great Hack — maybe the Last Great Hack; who knows what the world — what humanity — will look like on the other side of the biotech boom?

As an investor, DNA means opportunity: huge leaps in efficiency, innovation, design and scale of drugs, foods, fuels, manufactured hard goods, even information technology. Hard to even imagine all of it. I don’t think people generally get it, yet. That’s why I’m doing my blog, Aminopop.com — as a regular discipline to try to get a handle on it all. I don’t even feel like I’m very good at it, yet, but not to try seems kind of insane, especially at this moment in history. So I just jump in.

As a humanist, DNA suggests a moment of truth, historically speaking. Wresting our ongoing genetic definition from the mostly cruel forces of natural selection is going to be a profoundly defining moment. What is human? It’s what we say it is — and what we write that it is, when we master the glyphs, grammar and syntax of the genome. It’s the ultimate act of existentialism. (I know, I know; maybe I saw Blade Runner too many times…)

(4 comments)


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4 Comments

Comment by Kevembuangga Subscribed to comments via email

I think it’s going to make the infotech boom look like a tea-party.

I entirely agree with this statement, NOT with the optimistic conclusion:

As an investor, DNA means opportunity: huge leaps in efficiency, innovation, design and scale of drugs, foods, fuels, manufactured hard goods, even information technology. Hard to even imagine all of it.

Where does the design and assessement of all those gimmicks will come from if not from the output of some infotech?
If we jump straight into all this tinkering with DNA we are headed for a disaster due to complexity mismanagement (blindness to unexpected side effects).
Not that I fear Gree n Goo like the silly Singularitarians do, the HUGE complex system of life has shown amazing resilience thru billions years and I am certain that it can withstand another catastrophic impact, some life will keep going on, but the cost, economic or otherwise (loss of life forms including the human one), can be dear.
The “impedance mismatch” between the variety of the wannabe “controllers” and the variety of the purportedly controlled system will strike hard.
I commented before on this elsewhere.
Hard to even imagine all of it, indeed, cretinous monkeys!

 
Comment by Andrew Yates

Hey hey, what about Ghost in the Shell? Way better than Blade Runner…

 

[...] editor Thomas Scoville weighs in for Eye On DNA’s question, “What does DNA mean to [...]

 

[...] of Aminopop, when asked what DNA means to him by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei at Eye on [...]

 

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