The Biotech revolution is laying the groundwork for the new world.
The great Philosopher Socra teez once said, “To know thyself is the beginning of true wisdom”.
But what if we could do this literally?
What if we could understand every aspect of our bodies from the molecular level and up?
Dee Code Ing D N A will allow us to manipulate biological processes, living organisms, and cellular components to create new technologies, that will extend our lifespans dramatically beyond the current limit.
Perhaps the knowledge will even lead to the development of processes that will let us live forever.
This dee code Ing is done through what’s called Bye O informatics, the development of software for deciphering biological data.
It includes Transcript Oh mics and Proteo Nome ics, but also gen O mics, the study of the human genome.
Gen O mics allows us to decode the thousands of genes that spell out your body’s risks for one disease after another.
It has even located genes associated with human aging.
D N A is the source code of the human species.
Ever since Frederick Sanger developed D N A sequencing in 19 75, bye O informatics had spent 3 decades trying to unlock it’s secrets.
We have come a long way since the human genome project, which was hailed as one of humanity’s great achievements.
In 2003 it cost 13 years and 3 billion dollars to sequence the first human genome, but today it’s possible to complete this process in 26 hours, for only 1000 dollars.
Barely a decade had passed and the lines between biology and technology are already starting to blur.
So what will it cost 10 years from now?
Perhaps in the next decade it may get so cheap, that you could have a device in your toilet sequencing your genome every single day and sending a daily medical report straight to your phone.
Medical checkups and doctors visits might disappear entirely.
It is no longer science fiction, the pocket genome is already here and it can reveal risk genes for diseases, as well as your probability of getting them.
Biotech companies, like Illu men uh, already offer commercial genome sequencing.
All you have to do is send in a bit of blood so they can extract the D N A, wash away proteins or fats, shear it into fragments, and read the 4 letter alphabet of your genetic material to spell out the 20,000 genes of your 23 chromosomes.
The company can then identify risk genes, so that you can prepare for the specific diseases they threaten you with.
Gen O mics are an advance over genetics, where we mostly looked at individual genes responsible for individual effects.
Unlike genetics, which just studies heredity, gen O mics studies the entire genome in conjunction and how the many genes interact with each other.
The software developed for gen O mics takes into account Hetero sis to measure hybrids, Epi stasis to measure gene interaction, and ply O tropey, to see if a single gene can affect more than one trait.
But of course, the biggest promise will be the ability to manipulate our genomes in ways that would extend life expectancy, minimize infection, and improve the human condition.
Gen O mics tells us which genes to edit, so that we can stop diseases before they even appear.
In 2016, the white house began what is called “the Precision Medicine Initiative”, a colossal scale project based on the idea that diseases work differently on people with different genetics.
It will take the first step towards a world, where doctors will begin to treat patients based on their genetic code, and anomalies within it.
It is being funded by 40 organizations, all pledging over 200 million dollars to gather data.
As genetic testing becomes increasingly cheaper, we are sequencing more and more genomes, and moving towards a biotechnological singularity.
In order to get even more information, the initiative has begun gathering the genomes of tens of thousands of consenting patients.
The initiative claims that it will have gathered a database with the sequenced genomes of one million Americans by 20 19, which will lead to optimized medical treatments, for a new age of personalized medicine.
Another initiative called “the Synthetic Genome Project”, was recently announced by doctor Andrew Hessel at Singularity University.
It aims to create an entire human genome from scratch, by 2 thousand 26, which will better help us understand genetic medicine.
A human genome has 3 billion D N A base pairs, but so far we can only produce 1 million.
The researchers are confident enough, that exponential advances in synthetic biology will fuel their advances, just like they did for genomics and create a sequel to the human genome project.
200 of the world’s leading re searchers on the subject are now kick-starting the initiative and are currently raising 100 million dollars in funding.
The researchers recently published a paper in the journal Nature called “The Genome Project-Write” and is already causing controversy about designer genes.
It all sounds very utopian, but many bioethicists believe we should have restrictions, bringing up 4 common arguments. The problem of grief. The problem of misinformation. The problem of lifestyle. And the problem of Eugenics.
First of all, we must face the reality that gen O mics today might reveal a mutated gene that we don’t yet have the technology to cure.
This brings us to the most common argument against gen O mics, the problem of grief.
Many bioethicists believe gen O mics might do more harm than good, at least from a psychological standpoint.
Let’s say you get your genome sequenced only to reveal a genetic condition that is untreatable with current technology.
A terminal condition where no drugs, diets, or lifestyles will be able to stop the ticking time bomb in your genes.
In that case, would you even “want!” to know?
In addition to inherited diseases, there are also mutations, or, genetic spelling errors.
A mutation is caused when toxins or sunlight change the letters in D N A and stop a gene from making its protein.
A deficiency of even one protein can kill you.
Perhaps you discover a mutation predicted to kill you by the time you turn 30.
This could be devastating news, and will affect the way you live the rest of your life.
Some Bioethicists think it could impact your ability to enjoy your existence.
Not everyone wants to know the exact day they will kick the bucket.
If you get tested for a disease that might run in the family, then your relatives might not want to know, and they will block you on social media.
If you knew you only had a few years to live, it might even lead to nihilism, depression, or criminal behavior.
It could stop someone from ever forming normal human relationships.
In general, I think this is a terrible argument because we could apply the same logic to cancer patients.
Many of which choose to fight back anyway, regardless of grief.
In fact, a terminal diagnosis from gen O mics might even give you enough time to mobilize against it.
If you detect the disease early enough, you could try to raise money for a cure, sign up for experimental medical trials, or even crowdfund a cry Onics procedure.
Not all people would be nihilistic either, some might even change their lives for the better, and focus on what really matters.
Family and friends.
Maybe they will want to do as much good in the world as they possibly can, before they pass away.
In addition, if your relatives don’t want to know about your genetic condition, arrangements can still be made to keep your tests a secret.
The second argument is the misinformation problem.
Since genome sequencing is still expensive, many companies offer an economy class version called “Geno typing”.
However, this is not real D N A sequencing, but more of a partial gene reading, using technology like ” the D N A microarray”, also called “biochips”.
This is the more affordable procedure that most of us use, and it is deeply flawed.
One example is the silicon valley startup, “23 N me”, a geno typing company that gives a ballpark estimate of the genes that put you at risk, using databases like Gene Bank or Uni Prot.
The procedure will even reveal things like your ethnic ancestry, or percent Neander Tall D N A.
However, the procedure is deeply flawed, because it does not give you the whole picture.
The genes these companies are looking at, are often part of an incomplete set, since more than one gene can cause a disease.
Bioethicists argue that it could make someone panic and tell them they are at risk for a disease they will never even have.
Genetics is not deterministic, it’s mostly probabilistic, but it could still give someone the wrong idea, into thinking their results are a death sentence.
Perhaps the overwhelming stress from thinking they will dye, might bring about an actual disease!
Maybe they will behave recklessly with their finances or even commit suicide, all for a disease risk that might have been exaggerated.
Bioethicists fear that these biotech companies don’t offer proper counseling and that genetic information should only come from a medical professional.
I do agree that most of us should wait until real genome sequencing is cheaply available to us, but I think this argument is flawed. I think genotyping still has its uses.
One example would be single gene diseases, which are easy to identify.
Another example would be getting a risk gene for colon cancer, then getting a colonoscopy right away, which might help you catch any possible cancers early.
If you get a risk gene for heart disease, maybe you could buy a defibrillator for your home or workplace.
You could also use it to investigate if you have a disease that runs in the family and catch it before it does real damage.
I don’t think genotyping is a valid replacement for a diagnosis, but it is still great for helping medical professionals know where to look.
The third argument against gene sequencing is the lifestyle problem.
This problem holds, even if the genome sequencing process is 100 percent accurate, and none of the genes are terminal.
Unlike the grief problem, this isn’t about confronting death, but more about the consequences of building your entire life based on your genetic risk.
Let’s say you get a perfect genome sequence that shows absolutely no flaws.
In that case, you might get cocky and start eating junk food every day until you die an early death from heart disease.
In addition, Mothers might become overprotective if their kids have risk genes for the immune system. They might keep their kids indoors, or discourage them from playing with friends.
Which could seriously mess with their social development.
In both cases, knowing the information caused us to create a problem that wasn’t there in the first place, so perhaps it’d be better if our genes remained a mystery.
But this argument is also flawed. We shouldn’t ban the technology, because these problems have an easy solution. Education.
People need to understand the weight their diet, relationships, and lifestyle carry in relation to their health.
Because lifestyle can sometimes be just as big a factor as genetics.
The video I made about Centenarians and Blue Zones demonstrates this perfectly.
The last main argument is the Eugenics problem.
Unlike the other 3 arguments, this is not so much about what you think of your genes, but rather, what everyone else thinks of them.
What if you tested for a high risk gene and wanted to have children?
If your probability of carrying the disease is high enough, could the government ban you from having kids?
It doesn’t stop there.
Governments, employers, and hackers collecting D N A could lead to an invasion of privacy, and thus, social stigmatization based on genetics.
Your D N A is everywhere.
Its in the hair you leave at the barber, the skin cells you shed on the floor, and the leftover food you leave at the restaurant.
A company could ask to use your D N A for research, promising that you’ll remain anonymous, but is actually being coerced into giving your genome to the government.
Your D N A will not be private for long, it could even be mandatory for college applications.
In fact, we already sequence people in the womb to screen for disease, so why not screen for social status as well?
The sci fi film, “Gadika”, shows a dystopia based on genetic determinism, where job interviews and social class are strictly based on gene sequencing.
People with superior genes get good jobs and high status, but the genetic inferiors do menial labor for the rest of their lives, with no chance to advance.
Ethan Hawk, a genetic inferior, falls in love with Uma Thurman, a genetic superior, and the whole story is about him having to navigate a society biased against him.
We already discriminate based on things like race and I Q, so the society of Gadika could very well become a reality.
It might become the norm to post our genomes to our social media accounts.
It could affect the friends you can have, what kind of jobs you can get, and where you can live.
We might also google people’s genomes before we agree to date them or hire them.
Insurance companies might ask for your D N A and use it to score your premiums or deny you service entirely.
You could even hire thieves on the black market to steal your political opponent’s D N A.
In fact, a politician might even be banned from the presidential race because they have the genes for depression.
We might not even need social security numbers, or even names, because our public genomes could very well redefine our identity.
This is very hard to find a solution for.
But I’d argue that Genome sequencing isn’t the problem here. Discrimination has been present in every society in history. The motive of employers to discriminate is just to get the best possible people for the job. So can you really blame them? Genetic discrimination is just a symptom of a larger problem. Scarcity.
Your real problem here is economic, not social or technological.
Regardless of what idealistic political reforms we institute, or what technology we ban, social inequality will continue to manifest in every society, until material abundance is achieved.
Banning gen O mics will not bring utopia closer, only automation and material abundance will.
In addition, we would likely not be as genetically deterministic as the society in Gadika because we understand we are more than our genomes.
We are also the sum total of our knowledge, experiences, and the values our parents taught us.
Even if nature mostly dominates nurture, we still have epigenetics, which are based on our lifestyle and cannot be sequenced.
Our transcriptome, which is the frequency that our genes are expressed, is also difficult to measure.
No matter how good our sequencing technology gets, there will always be a certain unpredictable X factor that we cannot account for.
Overall, Gen O mics and gene sequencing seems to have its fair share of ethical problems.
But they can be overcome by balancing other areas of our society, in order to meet the changing world brought about by these emerging technologies.
Biotech is one of the 4 technological singularities that are likely to happen in our century, and we will need to make sure we are prepared for it mentally as well as socially.
Gen O mics will help us evaluate new medical drugs based on aging and longevity biomarkers. Perhaps it will even create a unified theory of aging, with a mathematical model.
I am sure we are all looking forward towards this strange new way, to know ourselves.