Secret Meeting on Synthetic DNA

Discussion in 'Science/Time Travel/AI' started by Debi, May 13, 2016.

  1. Debi

    Debi
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    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/14/science/synthetic-human-genome.html?_r=0

    Scientists are now contemplating the creation of a synthetic human genome, meaning they would use chemicals to manufacture all the DNA contained in human chromosomes.

    The prospect is spurring both intrigue and concern in the life sciences community, because it might be possible — if someone were able to create a totally artificial genome — to implant that genome into embryos and create human beings without parents.

    While the project is still in the idea phase, and also involves efforts to improve DNA synthesis in general, it was discussed at a closed-door meeting at Harvard Medical School in Boston on Tuesday. The roughly 150 attendees were told not to contact the media or to tweet about the meeting.

    Organizers said the project in some ways would be a follow-up to the original Human Genome Project, which was aimed at reading the sequence of the three billion chemical letters in the DNA blueprint of human life. The new project, by contrast, would involve not reading, but rather writing the human genome — synthesizing all three billion units from chemicals.

    But such an attempt would raise numerous ethical issues. Could scientists create humans with certain kinds of traits, perhaps people born and bred to be soldiers? Or might it be possible to make copies of specific people?

    “Would it be O.K. to sequence and then synthesize Einstein’s genome?” Drew Endy, a bioengineer at Stanford and Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at Northwestern University, wrote in an essay criticizing the proposed project. “If so, how many Einstein genomes would it be O.K. to make and install in cells, and who would get to make and control these cells?”

    Scientists and ethicists are already raising concerns about using new gene-editing techniques that could change individual traits in embryos. But it would be possible to make much more extensive changes by synthesizing an entire genome.

    Professor Zoloth said in an interview that the project could be risky without any well-defined benefit. She also criticized the surreptitious meeting. “It is O.K. to have meetings that are private, but it has not been characteristic of the field to have meetings that are secret in addition to being private.”

    George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and one of the organizers of the proposed project, said the characterization was a misunderstanding, and that in reality the project was aimed more generally at improving the ability to synthesize long strands of DNA, which could be applied to various types of animals, plants and microbes.

    “They’re painting a picture which I don’t think represents the project,” Dr. Church said in an interview. “If that were the project, I’d be running away from it.”

    The project was initially called HGP2: The Human Genome Synthesis Project, with HGP referring to the Human Genome Project. An invitation to the meeting at Harvard said that the primary goal “would be to synthesize a complete human genome in a cell line within a period of ten years.”
     
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  2. Debi

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    As with anything else in science, once they know how, they will. We've seen it before and the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. They will slowly introduce it to the public in increments, then make it mainstream and present it as a boon to mankind. It only takes one generation to change the mindset of the public.
     
  3. NobleHouse

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    sadly, must agree!
     
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  4. Lynne

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    This is scary. If they would use it to fix birth defects that would be great. But you know they will make monsters. Will they be soulless?
     
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  5. curandero81

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    CAFÉ DE TACUBA Tacuba 28 Col. Centro, 06010

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    I, when reading of this type of science both man made biological or artificial computer generated, always always wonder how human consciousness is related...or not...to these inevitable advancements.
    I am assuming we all shall find out in the next 25 to 50 years...
    Just HOPING we do NOT regret those advancements.
    History shows some advancements are now regretted....nuclear reactors everywhere....ask Japan..nuclear weapons everywhere...ask United States
    Oh well
    We shall just HOPE for the best
     
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  6. The Doctor

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    It worked for vaccinations, in vitro fertilisation and organ transplants.
     
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  7. The Doctor

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    How many baseline humans are walking around that are soulless?
     
  8. The Doctor

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    They are the product of living minds.

    There are people who strongly believe that humans settling down and building towns and then cities are the most catastrophic thing to happen on this planet, and are fighting to take those things away from the rest of us. They regret those advances and are working to wind them back.

    One being's step forward is another being's existential threat.
     
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  9. curandero81

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    CAFÉ DE TACUBA Tacuba 28 Col. Centro, 06010

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    I agree,
    BUT
    I so do admire the simplistic life led by the Amish and modern so called minimalists.
    All to do over again
    I would have NO MORE possessions than I could pack up in a large panel truck and spend my years moving around.
     
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  10. The Doctor

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    There are people today who live nomadic lives out of nothing more than backpacks. The extreme minimalist community has this down to a fine art.
     
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