Re: Genome issues

From: Joseph Sterlynne (
Date: Sun Jun 25 2000 - 12:21:35 MDT

> Hal Finney

> I'm a little behind watching the Charlie Rose series on PBS this past
> week which dealt with genomics.

> It would be nice to have someone on this series who makes the case for
> self-improvement, and Watson looks like the best chance so far.

I have not had a chance to see any interviews in the series this week. (I
will put up with Rose if someone interesting is on the show.) I noticed
that William Haseltine (Chairman and CEO of Human Genome Sciences) was
supposed to appear in one of the episodes. He was interviewed on a PBS
show called [CEO Exchange] which was broadcast in May---I actually
attended the taping of that episode on Cornell University's campus (any
transhumanists in Ithaca, by the way?)---in which he made several somewhat
encouragaing statements.

He was quite well-prepared and comfortable in the interview, if maybe a
little too good at smooth-talking.

He claims that he's not interested in making money and explains his
creation and sale of a dozen companies and the relentless exploitation of
patents as the discerning use of particular tools for the higher purpose of
effective research and development.

>From the show:

INTERVIEWER: We've already seen efforts to stop bioengineering in some
countries {. . .}.

    You've identified the area of concern. {. . .} I'm afraid it will be
    the political process reflecting a public debate which is not an
    informed debate which will lead to poor decisions which will adversely
    affect human health and our business. That's what I worry about.

INTERVIEWER: {Haseltine speculated that} we're actually going to change the
notion of what we mean by [living things]. Is that a couple of centuries
away in your view or a lot closer than that?

    It's a lot closer than that. I think that the future I see is a fusion
    between material science and biology. I've even given it a name; I
    call it [atomic-scale engineering]. We're going to take all the
    instruments---communication instruments, computers . . . and reduce
    them in size to the size of the architectural element of an atom. {. . .}
    It's beginning to happen.

    {T}en years from now {. . .} I might want to be making surgical
    instruments that go inside our brain for medical purposes.

Strange, though: another prominent person sounding like they invented a
field or idea that has been around for decades. He spoke a bit more about
nanomedicine-style technology in a section which was not broadcast.

I spoke to Haseltine at the reception following the taping (the roast beef
was great). The interviewer had actually asked him what he thought about
Joy's essay, which part did not make it into the final broadcast.
Haseltine was politely dismissive but not terribly explicit. I mentioned
Joy again to him, expressing a reluctance to give him more attention than
he's already gotten (yeah, I know---why bring him up, then?)---Haseltine
expressed serious doubts that Joy is really in touch with the technology
and its actual development. He clearly does not take any of Joy's
criticism seriously. I didn't get to say or hear much else because he,
mid-sentence, literally, flew off to see some elderly professor or someone
whom he obviously knew.

He took quite an interest in two students in the nanobiotechnology
department who attended the taping (and who later received a strong
reaction from me when they said that they assumed that Drexler [isn't a
scientist] and when they partly blamed him for their observation that
the public has a profound misunderstanding about the maturity of their
work---they're not anywhere near assemblers).

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