Thursday, May 20, 2010

IT'S ALIVE!!!!!!!!

"It's alive. It's alive!!! It's Alive!!!!"

Ah, Dr. Frankenstein. I love when science takes us into the realm of dark fiction. According to a story being reported through various news services , scientists have developed the first bacteria cell controlled by a synthetic genome. Obviously, it's a far cry from pumping electricity into a body cobbled together from corpses stolen from graveyards, but it's still pretty exciting.

Sure, there are practical applications. Perhaps an algae to solve global warming by devouring carbon dioxide (of course one would wonder when it would know to stop), or the speeding up of vaccine production. But practicality be damned, as a writer of fantasy and horror, I want to think about how this plays out as a mcguffin in future works of fiction. And what's even more frightening, what is the down side of this? How long before such a development is used for military purposes?

Seems like the creation of life is something that we should applaud, and then stop and think about. It opens a door that can't be closed again. Perhaps before we walk blithely through, or more likely, before we allow something on the other side to make its escape, we should pause and think hard about implications.

I knew someone who would talk about cautious thinking. That person was fond of saying, "Before I do something, I always try and ask myself what the downside might be. I even try and think about what downside I'm not seeing."

Ultimately, this is cause for celebration. While Igor is out getting the bubbly, let's bump fists and chant: "It's Alive!!!" Then, let's stop and glance a few times over our shoulders.


Jemi Fraser said...

Good post. Scientific advances always come with the possibility of horrific uses. We have to be so very, very careful.

willow said...

Poor me a glass, too, Igor!

Charles Gramlich said...

If it were the size of a frankenstein monster I wouldn't be that worried. You can always hunt down and kill something like that. But a microbe? Be afraid, be very afraid. But it's still pretty cool.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Jemi, I agree. I worry about what happens to science when the profit margin is involved.

Willow, what vintage?

Charles, microbes are pretty terrifying.

Jon said...

I never much worried about the nuclear genie who was loosed from the bottle. Somehow a border to border wasteland didn't click in my head...some cities maybe, but not the world-wide, irradiated holocaust.

But when it became obvious several years ago that engineered life was coming, THAT was a head click. Exactly as you say, Stewart, when does the bug know when to shut off? Or where it should stay? Or that it must not mutate?

The answer is clear and demonstrable. Just look at the propagation of current genetically engineered corn and soy beans. They were promised to stay in their own fields and not "enhance" other crops in neighboring farms. But they did, and every created bug will do the same. Remember Jurassic Park. "Life will find a way."