Re: Engineering Yog-Sothoth for Fun and Profit

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Wed Jul 25 2001 - 02:39:11 MDT

On Wed, Jul 25, 2001 at 04:10:51AM -0400, wrote:
> In a message dated 7/24/01 11:19:55 PM, writes:
> >Is it just me, or does this sound like a really bad idea?
> Nope; I'd be really concerned too. 25 years of lab experience has shown that
> swapping genes has a minimal environmental effect. This doesn't indicate that
> adding nifty new amino acids to the code is safe. Chance of major improvement
> is small, but effects could be disastrous; so we should be pretty paranoid for
> a decade or so.

Actually, the improvement would be big - a strong guarantee against genes
spreading would be a boon to convincing people that this is safe on
rational grounds. The problem is of course that (as the subject line
suggests) a lot of people would instead consider such modified organisms
even more unnatural and angsty. In the end, the issue isn't really about
safety (we have plenty of studies about that and many protocols to test for
it) but that pepople due to romantic or mystic notions feel uneasy about
modified organisms. That cannot be fixed with any technological advance.

Personally I would settle for changing the code for (say) phenylalanine
(TTT and TTC) for the stop codon (TAA and TAG), which would be a very
efficient way of making the code unreadable for standard ribosomes. The rub
is of course that to do this we need to modify the tRNA and ribosomes as
well as recompile the genome, which is rather tricky.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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