Freeman Dyson on our biotech future

Freeman Dyson writes about our biotech future in New York Review of Books; via /.

Dyson begins with the domestication of biotechnology, i.e., genetic engineering that is accessible to people so that they may breed their own varieties of pets, for example, and goes on to ask

If domestication of biotechnology is the wave of the future, five important questions need to be answered. First, can it be stopped? Second, ought it to be stopped? Third, if stopping it is either impossible or undesirable, what are the appropriate limits that our society must impose on it? Fourth, how should the limits be decided? Fifth, how should the limits be enforced, nationally and internationally?

And, he does not answer these questions, but leaves it to the future generations.

He then proceeds to discuss evolution,  in the context of which talks about an Open Source approach to biology:

We are moving rapidly into the post-Darwinian era, when species other than our own will no longer exist, and the rules of Open Source sharing will be extended from the exchange of software to the exchange of genes. Then the evolution of life will once again be communal, as it was in the good old days before separate species and intellectual property were invented.

Dyson then talks about rural poverty and how domestication of genetic engineering might help achieve green technologies that can alleviate such poverty, in which context he talks about India:

In a country like India with a large rural population, bringing wealth to the villages means bringing jobs other than farming. Most of the villagers must cease to be subsistence farmers and become shopkeepers or schoolteachers or bankers or engineers or poets. In the end the villages must become gentrified, as they are today in England, with the old farm workers’ cottages converted into garages, and the few remaining farmers converted into highly skilled professionals. It is fortunate that sunlight is most abundant in tropical countries, where a large fraction of the world’s people live and where rural poverty is most acute. Since sunlight is distributed more equitably than coal and oil, green technology can be a great equalizer, helping to narrow the gap between rich and poor countries.

Take a look!

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