Discussion of risks of technologies

Data for praying mantis mitochondrial genomes and phylogenetic constructions within Mantodea

[ 24/11/20 ]

I found the paper disappointing in the lack of discussion about implications of the work.

What they did was use several different techniques to look at the probability of relationship between different Protein Coding Genes in the mitochondria of different praying mantis species.

The different techniques provided slightly different relationship trees.

To me it demonstrates that there is a great deal of randomness in evolution, and the further back one looks in time the more difficult it becomes to see what actually happened.

It isn’t immediately obvious to me what use this work has in respect of human use of CRISPR Cas9 (CRISPR stands for “Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” in the DNA sequence of an organism, and Cas9 is one of a family of Cas {CRISPR Associated} proteins that actually do the cutting of DNA at particular sites).

If the poster could be a little more explicit about exactly how this work helps with human CRISPR, I would be very interested.

[followed by]

Sorry – but I still don’t get it.

I am autistic.

I completed my undergrad studies in biochem at age 18 in 1974. It was obvious to me then that indefinite life extension would be possible through direct editing of the human genome. I just didn’t know how to do it.

Now we are getting very close to knowing exactly how to do it.

To me, doing it seems to be essential for the survival of humanity.

It seems clear to me that only when individuals have a direct personal interest in the long term future will most of them actually start to look seriously at what is required of them to make such a long term future possible.

I have spent much of the last 46 years searching the spaces of strategies that might create reasonable probabilities of potentially very long lived individuals actually living a very long life with reasonable degrees of freedom.

Those investigations have taken me deeply into many classes of complexity, uncertainty, and fundamental unknowability.

There can be no absolute certainty in such a world, and there can be degrees of confidence in some contexts that can very closely approximate classical certainty.

So if your comment was meant as humour, please be explicit about that.

If it was meant as some sort of warning about something, then please be explicit about what.

I certainly see many classes of potential danger in CRISPR Cas9, but that is true of any and all technologies.

One can do a lot of damage driving cars or aeroplanes into crowded spaces, one can split a skull with a hammer or an axe.

Yet I have driven cars, flown aircraft, used hammers and axes without killing anyone, as do the vast majority of people.

All technologies are potentially dangerous.

All people are potentially dangerous.

And all people and technologies can be beneficial if used cooperatively.
So I am asking you to be explicit, so that I can have some idea what you actually mean; because at present I cannot localise to any of hundreds of possible meanings I see for the words that I read that you posted.

Nothing is obvious to me.

[followed by Frankenstein ]

Yes.

That much was obvious to me 50 years ago.

I still don’t get the relationship to the article you referenced.

I seem to be missing something.

[followed by DNA is a computer]

Yes and no.

DNA is an important part of the process of producing a complex life form like us, and it just one part (a very important part) of a very complex system, involving many other molecular and environmental components.

So yes – we will be able to make changes to our DNA and thence changes to our functionality, and all changes come with costs and benefits across multiple dimensions.

It is deeply more complex than many simplistic models that many people have.

And yes – some changes many of us are likely to make will be significant in respect of our capabilities.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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