At 09:28 PM 8/10/00 +0200, Mikael Holm wrote:
>The fears with gene therapy revolve around mutations in the human genome.
What scares most ppl isn't the fact that we are mutating since that is what
evolution revolves around. The fear is more that mankind is now trying to
control it's own evolution by enginering mutations into it's own genome (for
instance "reprogramming" our immune defence system to combat new diseases).
And if thease modifications to our genome turn out to be dominant ones, then
one day we will all have that modification (of course that day is several
billion years down the line).
Of course in the intervening time, we will have introduced other changes,
including perhaps artificial organs that are much less susceptible to subtle
unexpected behaviors. My assumption is that if the rate of change is much
faster than the rate of problems, we can "run away" from any problems we
create, by designing new changes to fix the problems with the old.
Especially since our ability to understand what we're doing, and map the
long-term consequences, will grow rapidly. And also, even assuming any
change _might_ cause a problem, _most_ changes won't, so only a fraction of
our efforts need to go toward fixing mistakes.
>Now apart from the fear that mankind is now "taking charge" of it's own
evolution (and thus becomming more "powerfull" than nature/God/wathever-
please don't start a religious debate on this one sentance...) there are
real issues with this kind of mutation. The human genome is a very complex
thing, and if we start to intruduce changes to it whenever it suits us we're
in real trouble.
The human genome has had lots of changes introduced to it already. There
are several different kinds of retroviruses that insert hostile fragments.
I'm sure we have some old retroviral fragments left in our genes. And we
have all sorts of non-lethal and recessive-lethal mutations that cause all
sorts of problems. Given that, I would ask a different question. Not,
"What problems might occur from changing our genome," but "Are we likely to
create more problems than we solve?" The answer is clearly No.
>For instance thease changes may not "like" eachother and thus causing
conflicts within the human genome, wich should generate very interesting
results (Death, Disease, uncontrolled mutation, sterility).
>But thease problems won't surface for billions of years but when they do
there are way to many factors for them to be "cureable" even if you mapped
the original changes.
Uh? Even today, we're close to understanding the metabolism of one-celled
organisms. The _entire_ metabolism. We're only halfway through the
computer revolution. Today we can fit the whole human genome on a hard
disk. You think that computers a _billion_ times as powerful as today's
couldn't figure out how to tweak the system to cure rare specific problems?
>No, mutating the human genome directly is far to dangerous. But mutating
viruses or Bacteria for things like gene therapy shouldn't be a problem, right?
>Well there is one big problem. Viruses also mutate and thus a freindly
virus could suddenly turn lethal. Don't get me wrong I'm not against gene
therapy it's just that there are way to many factors involved, the testing
of conventional drugs pale in comparision to the tests that would be needed
to insure the safety of a geneticaly based therapy.
Um... AFAIK most gene-therapy schemes that use viruses use non-viable
viruses. For example, they just take the protein coat and stick in only the
genes that they want to insert. A virus has to reproduce in order to
mutate. And I don't know of any gene-therapy techniques that use bacteria
to insert the genes.
>And theoretically most grad students could build a nuclear bomb it's just
impossible for them to gain acces to the components. Now not that I now what
Grey or Blue goo is but since the term goo is used I'll asume it's something
No. The original idea was of small self-reproducing robots that could eat
the environment. For several reasons, we now know this isn't much of a
>Now, a hunt and kill bot wouldn't necesarry require nanotech... for
instance if you watch the X-files and remember the episode where skinner got
infected with nanotech. Now those small carbonn based things wouldn't have
to be nanotech only microtech. Their only task was to clogg up blood vessels
wich can be done by things much larger than cells (basically the only need
to cause the blood to couagulate in the victims veins).
Certainly there are ways that nanotech can improve on conventional weapons
(guns with lighter barrels, etc), but it would take quite a bit of work to
make a nanobot more deadly than, say, nerve gas or botulism toxin; in other
words, we already have non-nanotech things more dangerous than the X files
nanotech. And weapons is only a small and unfortunate part of what nanotech
can do. The benefits are so huge that we should think very carefully before
throwing out the bathwater. For example, easy cures for most of today's
diseases; easy fixes for many environmental problems; 100% recycling; 100%
clean manufacturing; incredibly cheap and green spaceflight that actually
could alleviate population pressure; cheap, efficient, practical solar energy.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Christopher J. Phoenix <cphoenix@...>
>Sent: Thursday, August 10, 2000 2:21 AM
>Subject: Re: [nanotech] Re: Bill Joy (Japanese)
>> At 07:40 PM 8/7/00 EDT, DonSaxman@... wrote:
>> >> Of course that's just one product, and certainly there will be massive
>> >> economic disruption once we get flexible factories.
>> >Long term, certainly. Short term, probably not. Combinational chemistry
>> >hasn't distroyed the market for botanical drugs for instance.
>> Combinational chemistry is still getting off the ground; needs much more
>> powerful computers, for one thing. And synthesis is still difficult in many
>> cases, so even when we know the chemistry it's often easier to have plants
>> or bacteria make it.
>> Flexible factories will eliminate the synthesis problem, almost by
>> definition: most (or all!) consumer products today are less complex than a
>> self-replicating factory. And with 50X better materials, it should be
>> fairly easy to translate most existing designs into various grades and
>> characters of diamond foam. It might take three months to design an
>> equivalent car, but only a day to design an equivalent textile; lawn
>> furniture could be designed in an hour.
>> > > Um, you mean you want grey goo to be tricky? Blue goo is supposed to
>> > >up after grey goo. I'd think we'd want blue goo to be easy. Or are you
>> > > thinking that would make totalitarian governments too easy and strong?
>> >I was actually thinking it might be good if both blue and grey goo were
>> >pretty difficult to make. As hard, say, as a nuclear bomb. Not
>> >bright grad student could do (or a tinpot dictator).
>> Well, I've been saying that in 50 years or less a bright grad student would
>> be able to design and build an assembler. I think a simple grey goo
>> wouldn't be too much harder to do than an assembler. Of course it would
>> have lots of limitations and weak points, and wouldn't be able to take over
>> the biosphere by itself. But I think we will definitely want shields and/or
>> blue goo at some point.
>> Perhaps we should define terms here. Does grey goo mean something horribly
>> destructive, or just something that can replicate in some environment other
>> than the lab? And does blue goo simply mean anything that kills grey goo?
>> We should probably be careful to separate military technologies,
>> surveillance technologies, shield technologies, and goo. The first three do
>> _not_ in general have to be self-replicating, so that "blue goo" is an
>> unfortunate name. And if you don't have to self-replicate, surveillance
>> becomes a _lot_ easier and more controllable. A tinpot dictator will
>> certainly have access to surveillance cameras that can only be seen with a
>> magnifying glass--even without nanotech! A hunt'n'kill bot might need
>> nanotech, but again it's almost a separate question from grey goo.
>> >> What do you see as the problems with germ-level gene therapy? I
>> >> been able to understand why people think it's a bad idea. Presumably
>> >> a few years we'd be able to undo whatever we did, yes?
>> >I think it is dangerous to screw around with germ-level genetics without
>> >knowling the consequences. Maybe we could fix our mistakes and maybe not.
>> >For instance, I don't *really* think that AIDS is a manmade mistake,
>> >could have been. How much damage might we inadvertantly cause before we
>> >could fix it?
>> Hm. There are four kinds of consequences that must not be confused.
>> 1) Consequence to patient. The therapy might kill the patient. We deal
>> with it today with every new medicine. That's what clinical trials are for.
>> Not a criticism of genetics in particular.
>> 2) Consequence to patient's offspring. This is long-delayed, and still
>> rather limited. I'm really not worried about that, because the damage is
>> limited and we'll have many years better technology to detect and fix the
>> 3) Consequence to others. If there were a risk of creating a new infectious
>> disease by fiddling with human DNA, we'd have to analyze that risk. I've
>> never heard this suggested. I don't see offhand how it could happen unless
>> it were done deliberately (there's a _lot_ of genetic information even in a
>> virus). And I don't see any other mechanism for genetic change to affect
>> people whose genes were not directly changed.
>> 4) Consequence to society. Will we all freak out at the ethics? Will we
>> change the species and "destroy humanity" by mutating into something weird?
>> This involves choices separate from the technology. Most discussions of
>> this that I've seen have been too nebulous to think about. It's easy to
>> make up scare stories, but not so easy to define the issues, and I refuse to
>> be scared by "something bad might happen" with no further elaboration.
>> >That's a good point. I was thinking more along the (fanciful) lines of
>> >Aldous Huxley's "Tissue Culture King" or Edgar Rice Burroughs
>> >of Mars" type tissue culture problems. Of course, we now know tissue
>> >doesn;t work those ways. But both were throught to be fairly accurate
>> >extrapolations at the time.
>> Yes... I haven't read either of those stories. But one can look farther
>> back to find people being scared by unknown consequences of medical
>> procedures. "Can any person say what may be the consequence of introducing
>> a bestial humour into the human frame, after a long lapse of years? Who
>> knows but that the human character may undergo strange mutations from
>> quadrupedal sympathy." This was an argument given by doctors against...
>> cowpox inoculation to prevent smallpox!
>> I look back in horror: what if their view had carried the day, and the
>> theory of "quadrupedal sympathy" had caused millions more to die of
>> smallpox? But I have not even heard that much of a theory as to how genetic
>> therapies could cause species-wide problems.
>> I am not closed-minded--tell me any hint of a mechanism, and I'll think
>> about whether it could possibly cause a problem. It's just that so far,
>> I've heard of _no_ mechanism that could cause problems for more than the
>> patients and possibly their offspring. There are babies in that bathwater,
>> and I refuse to throw it out just because of fears that have no support.
>> Undefined fears can be arbitrarily scary; the solution is to 1) try to
>> define them; 2) analyze the risks; 3) throw out whatever remains completely
>> Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
>> Work (Reading Research Council): http://www.dyslexia.com
>> Is your paradigm shift automatic or stick?
>> The Nanotechnology Industries mailing list.
>> "Nanotechnology: solutions for the future."
>The Nanotechnology Industries mailing list.
>"Nanotechnology: solutions for the future."
Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
Work (Reading Research Council): http://www.dyslexia.com
Is your paradigm shift automatic or stick?