Re: Genetic transition to posthumanism

Date: Sun May 20 2001 - 12:14:18 MDT

In a message dated 5/20/01 8:46:18 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

> Bamboo actually grows *quite* fast. I think it can reach 3-4
> meter heights in a month or two. The question you have to ask
> is *why* are the doubling times that long? Is it an energy
> limitation? Is it an essential nutrient limitation? Is it
> a water limitation? etc. One of the things that humans are
> good at is mass-transport. Figure out what the limiting elements
> are in the growth equation and supply them in sufficient abundance
> to work around the problem.

As has been calculated on this list in discussions of alcohol-driven
cars, the fundamental limitation is energy. There are nutrient
limitation but we can generally deal with those.

> You could even connect your natural
> gas pipeline to a conversion unit that pumped out ATP in abundance
> for the house-seeds so they can grow in the dark! Yes, I know it
> makes it more expensive, but presumably after your house is
> finished growing, it can manufacture natural gas and pump
> it back into the pipeline, so you only need a short term loan.

Yes, making a plant into a methane oxidizer has
efficiency potential. There's the CO2 problem,
of course. Theoretically you could hook up
the transmembrane potential in mitochondria/
chloroplasts/various bacteria to electrical
wiring; that would improve energy efficiency
3-fold or so. However, that's quite a tough
problem in cell biology.

>And of course the Arabadopsis genome
>begins to lay the foundation for understanding plant
>structure. You can bet that the seed companies are going
>to *love* growing the corn *without* the stalks.
>I'm fairly confident we will get fairly fine structural

I agree with *that* statement. I just don't think it's anything
like imminent. Knowing the sequence doesn't tell us the
function; that requires a lot of difficult greenhouse/wet bench
work. Dissecting the function of a gene requires often
dozens of person-years; 30,000 genes at 10 person-years
each is 300,000 person-years. Figure $100,000/person-year
and that's 30 billion dollars. Then we need to figure out how
to modify. It'll be a while.

>I doubt you could fit a house-seed genome in a megabase. Its probably
>at least the complexity of a bamboo genome which even in compressed
>form is probably between a 100 Mbp and 1 Gbp. I was however *careful*
>about how I phrased the bet -- I said "manufacturing cost" and not
>"design cost".

Manufacturing and design costs are hard to separate for engineered
organisms. What exactly do you count in manufacturing? More than
just fermentation costs, right?

>Ah Eugene, you have to work *across* technologies as well as in depth!
>You use external site-management lasers driven by the blueprint that
>interact with highly specific photoantenna complexes within the cells
>that in turn are tied to the signal transduction pathways for "divide"
>or "commit apoptosis".

>That should allow you to control the shape of your new house to
>within 10-20 micron accuracy -- much better than human workers!

*that* was to me, not Eugene (the rest *was* Eugene). When you
have to surround the nascent house with micron-accuracy lasers
I think you still have a costly procedure - ignoring the costs of
designing the communication system into the organism. I agree
you could have a plant where certain frequencies would trigger
apoptosis within 10 years.

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