Drawing of a fish in a helmet, with a bird body and human feet

Genetics as driver of global change

Genetics change the way we understand life itself

Genetics is one of the research, product and science areas where most money is invested and most resources spent today. A few global corporations are dominating the field in fierce competition with universities, army and state facilities all over the world

Drawing of a fish in a helmet, with bird body and human legs
Genetics many hope this driver can save us and the planet

It is the quest to solve the riddle of life, in hope that we humans can get our hands on the blueprint of our own code, to manipulate, profit and learn from it.  If we can grasp the genetic code, the hope is that we will be able to do anything from bringing mammoths and dinosaurs back to life, to stop aging, to grow food on Mars and make us indestructible to any disease or threat, that might hit us.

There are a few global companies that are very ambitious and working extremely hard to patent the genetic codes of as many plant and animal species as possible all over the world. Something that will make it possible for them to charge anybody and everybody as much as possible for any food, medicine and cures, they can extract from these codes, that people might need in the future.

Genetics It is an ongoing race with a few very well known names up front from Bayer to Google and Goldman Sachs – companies with more money than whole countries, pouring some of them into being able to control and restrict, manipulate and navigate the biological data that is the foundation of life here on Earth. A few organisations are in opposition to them, but most of us just don’t understand what it is all about, if it is good or bad, or haven’t got the time, resources or guts to face such giants.

How genetics can change our near future

The dream of designing humans with magical abilities
Once in a while a human is born with a small mutated difference in its genetic blueprint. Most of the time these small mutations is doing more damage than good, limiting our natural capabilities or odds in ways that makes life tougher and shorter. But sometimes the genetic change creates a better blueprint. It is basically what evolution is about, using the good genetic stepping-stones to a better place or better fit. And now science is making huge advancement in the genetic understanding of how to create such stepping-stones ourselves.

Every day our techniques to manipulate and create new genetic blueprints improve and at the moment a lot of experiments are unfolding to find out what works and what doesn’t as we find ways to understand and design new stepping-stones.

We are not only using DNA from our species, but also combining the DNA of other species, experimenting with things like copying the ability to glow in the dark, that some sea-living jellyfish have, and inserting this code in the DNA of pigs, to create pigs that run around and glow in the night.

Making people who light up the night is not any harder or different. We can technically do it now. Alter our genes in strange ways to give people abilities from other animals and plants that few would believe possible just fifty years ago.  We get closer and closer to create humans with both strange and super abilities.

From a national security perspective genetic engineering can both be seen as an interesting chance and a huge challenge, depending on if it is ones own soldiers that get these new genetic modified super powers, or if it’s other countries that jump ahead and start to make gene-modified armies that are much stronger, can withstand infections, bullets, chemical warfare and biological weapons in new ways.

The genetic difference between us and the other species on the planet are very small 

We humans share more than 98% of the our genetic code with our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, the gorillas and the chimpanzees. ( link: Wikipedia )   The main difference being that we humans have one pair of chromosomes less than they do (so our code is somehow a bit more limited 🙂 )

Actually we also share a lot of genes with very different species, like daffodils ( 33% )

For the genetic engineers it means that only small changes can make a huge difference. and that a lot of code on the planet that can be re-used.

Genetics and the code metaphor from computer science

The whole understanding of genetic code is very inspired by computer code, but in reality there are huge differences between our understanding of how life is created and works, to how even our most advanced computer programs are build and function.

We still have only very rough ideas about what very essential things like sleep and emotions are. And still can’t figure out how to stop or slow down or speed up many of the processes that dictate how long we live, or how well.

Still more and more scientists, philosophers and theoreticians are very puzzled about the similarities between life on Earth and advanced computer programs that simulate life, evolve, learn, develop strategies, adapt and reproduce themselves in the digital reality.  Discussing the ethics, possibilities and limitations about artificial life and perspectives in creating new digitally enhanced human 2.0 versions of us.

Genetics in food production

How to alter and design new kind of humans are far from the only area the genetic engineers are looking close at. Food production is a very huge and rivaling area in genetics. Creating super plant species that can grow in the desert, catch their own water from the air, be programmed to go into hibernation, if the environment gets to hostile, or are more resistant to attacks from pests and animals.

Another direction is to alter the natural nutrition values of plants an animals, finding ways to code new extra abilities into them, to create new variants and species with extra proteins, vitamins and even patented drugs, so people can get their antidepressants and Viagra coded into their morning oatmeal breakfast in the future.

The dream of feeding a world of super-humans, with gen-modified plants and animals

Farming is a long ongoing story of gene-modification, and for millennia our ancestors have been taking wild animals and species from nature and domesticating them, breeding less wild, higher yielding and more suited variants of plants and animals to better suit local needs and limitations. Tiny workhorses for the Shetland islands. Wheat, barley and potatoes that can give much larger yields. Coffee, bananas and rice that can grow in new areas and are more resistant to fungus.

In the 1950 ties was a huge leap forward, known as the green revolution, where scientists managed to create new variants that was much, much better for farming. Creating a huge jump in the size of the yearly global harvest from Mexico to India and China. It was seen as a breakthrough, something that helped a lot to make it possible for the world population to jump from 3 billions in 1959 to more than 6 billions in 1999

But nobody has been able to create a similar revolution since, and the growth in food production today are mostly created by using more fertilizer, larger amounts of harmful pesticides and antibiotics, and cutting down rain-forests to bring new land into farming.

Still many hope that advancements in genetic engineering will be the solution we need to supplement and fill the gap, when and if our small stressed out planet collapse under the pressure of fulfilling our larger and larger needs. At the same time giving us new fairytale abilities