Juan Enriquez Will Blow Your Mind

Some quick notes below, but you really want to watch this. It’s 24 minutes that will expand how you think about our future as a country.

Some highlights, but by no means all of them:

The history of civilizational advances is one of transitions in code that transform our economy: hieroglyphics, to alphabet, to ones and zeros, and now to ATCG — that is, DNA, which is code. An orange, for example, is simply executable DNA code — one combo of ATCG creates roots; another creates orange blossoms; another grows the fruit.

Because life is DNA, and DNA is code, that means life itself can be copied and edited, just as we copy and edit symbols, letters and computer code.

Cloning is the tip of the iceberg: not only has one species been transformed in the lab into an entirely different species, but cells are currently replacing brick-and-mortar factories. The crude form is the existing use of cloned animals genetically modified to produce, say, cancer drugs in cows’ milk. That’s crude.

3-D printing? That’s slow. What’s happening now is the development of live cells as engines to produce anything.  Just modify the code. Gasoline, plastic, medicine, food, etc. — it’s going on now, it’s transformed the revenue base of companies like DuPont and GE — yes, General Electric — to biotech, and Enriquez believes it will be the source of most of the economic growth of the US (and the world) going forward.

Also, this software makes its own hardware: “no matter how I program a computer,” he says, he won’t end up with 1000 more computers in the morning. Not so with cells.

The implications are staggering if you haven’t really thought about them before. Here’s one that just occurred to me: if factories of the future will produce massive cell growth through photosynthesis or other processes that involve sunlight, vast swaths of California’s barren deserts are going to become very valuable property, not to mention much of the rest of the Southwest.

I’m telling you, watch this.

*Yes, he’s bitching about the importance of Federal funding of basic scientific research — his point is that the government funds basic (i.e., pure) research very well; where such funding turns to how to apply that pure research, the government does not do that well at all, and applied research must be the province of entrepreneurial private enterprise, where government gets out of the way. Okay, I can accept that idea.

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3 Responses to Juan Enriquez Will Blow Your Mind

  1. Sennin says:

    Fascinating, thought provoking, and (place adjective here). The biggest hurdle I see is the vast amount of time and code required to experiment with. We will make mistakes in learning about cellular programming, but the benefits could be tremendous. Nature has the advantage, for now, as most errors do not survive and/or reproduce. Still, the possibilities are interesting … and scary.

  2. Rolf says:

    Wasn’t aware of the numbers. A big shift indeed. But he fails to point out the downside of computers not replicating is also the upside compared to bio-safety / an “outbreak” scenario. Life is amazing – one of those bugs gets out in the wrong way, it could be VERY bad. It may be that to live out life-style and not drown in debt we might seem to have to go down that path… I just hope it’s not a Faustian bargain.

  3. Kevin Baker says:

    The Singularity approacheth….

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