December 27, 2015


Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #3111 . The link is provided below…

Creative Bio-engineering: We are just at the beginning of being able to realize SF dreams (and nightmares) of bio-engineering. This panel will discuss where we are today, what is in store in the near future, and what we might want to worry about. Ramez Naam (m), Nancy Kress, Vonda N. McIntyre, William Alvis Thomasson, Peter Charron

I recognize two names here -- Nancy Kress, who invented Humans who didn't need to sleep, and Vonda N. McIntyre who invented snakes that inject meds, so they know what they're talking about. The others, I've never read --but will now be on my "to read" list!

My wife takes bio-engineered insulin: “The human genetic coding for proinsulin is inserted into Escherichia coli cells, which are then grown by fermentation to produce proinsulin. The connecting peptide is cleaved enzymatically from proinsulin to produce human insulin. Studies indicate that there are no important differences between pork insulin and human insulin in terms of therapeutic efficacy and disposition after intravenous administration. Recombinant human insulin has a faster onset of action and lower immunogenicity than pork or beef insulin. Diabetic patients may have an improvement in glucose concentrations when their therapy is switched from animal-source insulin to human insulin.”

There are literally hundreds of bioengineered products in modern society – soybeans, corn, canola oil, beet sugar, alfalfa, potatoes, rice, pesticides, veterinary products, as well as animals like chickens, pigs, cattle, Glofish, and numerous others. Follow the link below and you can do your own search.

As I wasn’t there, I can only wonder what they talked about. Bioengineering is both widespread and except for very few objections from some organizations and individuals, it goes unremarked and we accept it without question when it has to do with medical treatments.

So what WERE they talking about?

Can’t be talking about gengineered diseases – natural mutation produces enough frightening diseases to keep us in horror novels until the end of Earth’s time.

Couldn’t have been talking about GMOs because the majority of us eat genetically modified organisms (and ignore the fact that chickens came from Asian red jungle fowl; corn came from a Mexican plant that grew one, single, 1 inch long cob (25 millimeters); and cows came from the now-extinct auroch – and no one complains about them…oh, that’s right, they were NATURALLY genetically modified. It’s called breeding. It’s what Humans do. It’s what we depend on.

Maybe they’re talking about “making people” – and aside from the fact that we only cloned healthy mice that lived normal lifespans in 2013 – Human cloning is a long, long way away. At least intentional Human cloning. The record for natural Human cloning was five – beyond that, there seem to be some barriers. The most obvious one is the size of the uterus. What if we eliminated that and were able to pop every cloned kidlet into an artificial uterus? What would be the POINT? George Lucas has never satisfactorily explained the reason behind making a “clone army”. On the face of it…it doesn’t even sound sensible. Why would you want every single soldier to have the exact same biological background? All I’d have to do is capture one, discover a violent allergen, dose the whole battlefield with it, and take over the Empire.

What about manufacturing Humans for specific jobs? We already violently object to educational tracking (ie: kids who are good at shop, take shop classes; kids who are book smart, take college classes) – mention the subject to any school board meeting that has lots of parents at it and prepare to be tarred and feathered. A politician who suggested that people with blonde hair and blue eyes are most suited to farming would be summarily labeled a “Nazi”, then tarred and feathered. What makes ANY scientist, anywhere believe that cloning Humans for particular uses would be acceptable to the American Civil Liberties Union? It wouldn’t be – though it’s something I’m exploring in my science fiction (one story is here: I plan on more stories in this universe exploring issues of bioengineering.

So, despite the fact that we already do it, it happens naturally, and there isn’t any foreseeable, logical REASON to do it, I suppose it was fun to talk about.

Anyone there who could relate some of the issues discussed?


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