Re: GM angst

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Wed Jul 19 2000 - 21:25:53 MDT

At 04:09 PM 19/07/00 EDT, Greg Burch, conservationist, wrote:

>> concern
>> that remixing genes in ways not pre-tested by millennia of natural (or
>> indeed human) selection and broadcasting them everywhere in industrial
>> quantities might have horrible consequences?

>How do we get institutions and
>interest groups to "calm down" and allow the science to be done in a fashion
>that will produce acceptable answers without prejudging the many
>techno-soccial questions we face?

It's all a matter of degree, no doubt. I certainly don't advocate
hysterical acting-out tantrums. But there seems a willing and willful
blindness on lists such as this one to the way corporations and militaries
actually *do* routinely, and with malice aforethought, poison and kill and
degrade us.

What worries me more than that, though, is the fundamental problem of
combinatorial explosions. Robert has mentioned that new chemicals arrive
out of far corners of the phase space and therefore can't mate with the
life forms of Earth, Jim. Maybe, in many cases, but then again the reason
technology has developed many of those wonderful new substances is
precisely that they *do* mimic existing biological hammers and spanners and
bricks and beams and accelerants, often surpassing the effectivity of those
obtained by natural selection's bumbling. Then we let them loose - no, we
spread them far and wide by the benefits of capitalist marketing prowess -
and hope they don't excite each other to a frenzy.

*Should* we `calm down', necessarily, if there's a chance that certain
human interventions could have horrendous multiplier effects to our
detriment and that of our sustaining environment? It is not prejudgement to
pause while considering a case for and against X. You often hold the
putative serial murderer in custody while investigating the charges, I
think, rather than taking the chance of allowing a continued death spree.
This is rough on the poor coot if he's not the baddun, but it makes sense
on a generalized cost-benefit schema - or at least, I gather that's the way
we've chosen to conduct our joint affairs lately, in th absence of
omniscience. There might be a slicker extropian way I haven't heard of.

Damien Broderick

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