Dr. J. chats with David Koepsell, Asst. Prof. of Philosophy, Delft University of Technology, about his book Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes. They discuss the absurd legal rationales for the patenting of the human genome, and disastrous consequences for biotech innovation that the patent mess has wrought. (MP3)
For all the ability of genes and even memes to battle for survival against one another, human beings are just as likely to share and cooperate as they are to cheat and compete. But the ascendance of market rhetoric in America and Britain was accompanied by the assertion of some decidedly antiromantic science. University anthropologists seemed determined to correct the hopeful impressions that so many still clung to of peaceful, vegetarian gorillas enjoying one another’s company in the jungle. Like stories of supposedly peaceful aboriginal tribes as yet untainted by corrupt Western civilization, such visions—according to the new social Darwinists—were pure fantasy.
Over the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been alive with a passionate debate about the extent to which science should accommodate religion, leaving it an area in which it has authority - whether it be in respect of truths about morality or truths about a supernatural realm - while denying it authority over empirical claims.
Tehran’s streets may be bloody, says Douglas Rushkoff, but the opposition has won the digital war. The battleground: Facebook and Twitter. The weapons: bandwidth and hacking. The prize: the end of totalitarianism.
Although the fruits of genomics have yet to materialize for curing diseases, the science community does have a better understanding of how complex diseases and evolution work. In addition, genomics has a useful by-product, a tool used by forensic detectives. Using PCR, a fast and inexpensive technology for making copies of DNA, extremely small samples from blood stains, semen, hair follicles, saliva, and skin are used for DNA evidence.
Pandemics. Global warming. Food shortages. No more fossil fuels. What are humans to do? The same thing the species has done before: evolve to meet the challenge. But this time we don’t have to rely on natural evolution to make us smart enough to survive. We can do it ourselves, right now, by harnessing technology and pharmacology to boost our intelligence. Is Google actually making us smarter?
David Koepsell is an author, philosopher, and attorney whose recent research focuses on the nexus of science, technology, ethics, and public policy. He is Assistant Professor, Philosophy Section, Faculty of Technology, Policy, and Management at the Technology University of Delft, in The Netherlands, and Senior Fellow, 3TU Centre for Ethics and Technology, The Netherlands. He is also the author of The Ontology of Cyberspace: Philosophy, Law, and the Future of Intellectual Property, as well as numerous scholarly articles on law, philosophy, science, and ethics. His latest book is Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes.
In this interview with D.J. Grothe, David Koepsell discusses the implications of corporations patenting parts of the human genome, and how current patent practices negatively impact basic scientific research in genetics. He reviews the history of the practice of patenting genes and contrasts private ownership of gene sequences found in nature with that of the public ownership of the work of the Human Genome Project. He contrasts discovery with invention, and argues that patents should apply only to the latter. He details the relationship of human genes being patented with the practices of big agribusiness owning engineered crops, such as Monsanto’s “terminator corn.” He discusses the ACLU’s recent lawsuit against Myriad Genetics on behalf of scientists and cancer patients, and how it may lead to one of the most important legal battles in the history of biotechnology. He talks about “upstream” and “downstream” patents, and how this impacts genetic research. And he discusses various solutions currently proposed for the problems resulting from private ownership of naturally occurring gene sequences.
Treatments for some of the world’s biggest killers, such as malaria, can’t earn enough profits for pharmaceutical companies to attract research investments. The people they kill are just too poor to be worth the investment. Fortunately scientist-activists are attempting to find ways to support vital research through the non-profit sector.
Many IEET readers probably are familiar with the famous (and famously brilliant) “Powers of Ten” film created in 1977 by Charles and Ray Eames. What happens if we try a similar mental exercise with time instead of space?
In the cover story for a special Wall Street Journal report, IEET Senior Fellow Jamais Cascio admits he has become a reluctant advocate of “cooling the planet.” Our current IEET poll asks whether you agree on the merits of geoengineering.
We were planning to change the poll this week, but now that the issue is hitting the mainstream fan, so to speak, we’ll leave it up a bit longer. If you haven’t weighed in yet, make your vote count!
The OpenBiomind toolkit is used to apply GA, GP and local search methods to analyze a large SNP dataset concerning late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). Classification models identifying LOAD with statistically significant accuracy are identified, and ensemble-based important features analysis is used to identify brain genes related to LOAD, most notably the solute carrier gene SLC6A15. Ensemble analysis is used to identify potentially significant interactions between genes in the context of LOAD.
Jonathan Moreno on The use of neuroscience by the US military, Douglas Rushkoff on the need to train citizens in digital combat arts, the relationship of disgust sensitivity to conservatism, and Greg Beato’s defense of memory deletion in the participatory panopticon. (MP3)
Dr. J chats with Ed Klonoski, the president of Charter Oak State College, a leading distance learning innovator. They discuss the way students use online learning, the changing and emerging technologies, and the challenge of open sourcing education. (MP3)
(Michael Anissimov is guest blogging at Sentient Developments this month.) In considering a possible transhumanist future where cybernetic implants and other enhancements must be designed for the use of billions of people, I worry about an associated slaughter—that of all the animals that must be used as test subjects for the enhancements before they can be made to work. Considering that some modifications will surely involve replacing the limbs, organs, and just about every part of the body, and always be accompanied by the risk of immune rejection, it seems heartless to subject millions of test animals to excruciating death by torture.
In July 2008 the Future of Humanity Institute hosted a number of leading experts on different global catastrophic risks.
The conference provided delegates with an overview of the key risks, and the state of current thinking on each of them. It brought scholars together from many different disciplines to discuss the common problems and methodologies which affect the study of global catastrophic risks.
Topics treated included nuclear terrorism, cosmic threats such as supernova, comets and asteroids, the long term fate of the universe, pandemics, nanotechnology, ecological disasters which drastically reduce biodiversity, climate change, biotechnology and biosecurity, the cognitive biases associated with making judgements in the context of global catastrophic risk, social collapse, and the role of the insurance industry in mitigating and quantifying risk.
In this talk Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) and IEET Managing Director Mike Treder, then Executive Director of the CRN, speak to the emerging risks and benefits of molecular manufacturing.
Do you think modern medicine is on the brink of eliminating disease forever? Not quite yet, it seems, which is why health insurance will remain a necessity for at least the next few decades. But just because we need insurance doesn’t mean we should allow corporations to steal from the healthy to cheat the unhealthy.
There is an absolutely stellar article in the New York Times about Dr. Richard Wrangham’s essay “Catching Fire.” Go read it now. If you finish it and want to know even more, like I did, go read the Slate review as well.
Over on his Sentient Developments blog, IEET board member George Dvorsky has compiled and posted a list of what he calls “The Top 10 Existential Movies of All Time.” As a serious film buff, I was immediately prompted to respond by naming a few important—and great—existential movies that George left off his list. I’ll get to my own favorites in a moment, but first we should lay down some ground rules.
Our growing ability to decode and re-encode genomes has enabled rapid responses to emerging diseases, but also potentially empowers would-be bio-terrorists. It is urgent that we develop national and international policies to regulate this dual use technology to ensure its benefits and minimize its risks.
Browsing through my DVD collection recently I realized that I have a fairly decent selection of what can be called ‘existential movies’—philosophical films that study the nature of existence and what it means to be alive. It’s debatable as to what defines the ‘quintessential’ existential movie, but ultimately it must speak to the human condition and reframe it in such a way that the viewer gains an enhanced appreciation of their own existence and situation in life. These are the kinds of films that you find yourself reflecting back upon time and time again as you engage in your own day-to-day life, struggles and relationships.