Friday, June 29, 2007

Frankenstein Redux

J. Craig Venter's "Next Big Goal: Creating Life." is the start point for companies to create synthetic organisms designed to make money while (hopefully) improving life on Planet Earth. In Venter's case, it's transforming "one species of bacterium (Mycoplasma mycoides) into a different species (Mycoplasma capricolum)." by swapping genetic material from the latter into the former with the intent for the altered bug to either generate environmentally friendly bio fuels or to clean up Carbon Dioxide to reduce the effects of global warming (at reasonable cost). Even though this is NOT creating life from scratch, the infrastructure for making this happen is being put into place for making ALIFE a physical reality in the very near future. (Companies, among others, doing ALIFE R&D include Amyris Biotechnologies, LS9 and Genencor.) University research into this field is ongoing as one can well imagine.

In computing, ALIFE has been around for a long time beginning with Conway's Game of Life in the early 70's to Langston's Ant in the 80's. Since the late 90's, the Santa Fe Institute has been using computers to understand how chaos enables life to emerge from open systems while IBM is developing the first petaflop computer to learn how proteins fold in real time. To see what MIT and others are doing in this amazing field, click here.

With all this research being done to generate ALIFE, digital and otherwise, the inevitable question arises. Can we manage the "Franeknstein" we are creating?

"One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller"

1 comment:

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