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Steering nanotechnology to beneficial uses

Sonia Arrison over at TechNewsWorld takes on the issues of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and steering innovation toward responsible uses:

“When we look at cells as machines, it makes them very straightforward in the future to design them for very unique utilities,” Venter told participants at DLD. Of course, Venter has often referred to the possibility of designing cells to help clean the environment, but his premise could be applied for any purpose. Indeed, biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey is promoting the use of bio-engineering methods to repair human cells and fight aging. However, some worry that human-driven evolution could bring about harmful, unforeseen consequences.

“Accusing a scientist of playing God is obviously stupid,” Dawkins said, “but what is not obviously stupid is accusing a scientist of endangering the future of the planet by doing something that could be irreversible.”

He’s right about that, and that’s why a conversation about how scientists can safely create new life forms and alter existing ones has already begun in labs around the globe and at organizations like the Foresight Nanotech Institute. Indeed, most scientists are developing their work with an eye to improving the human lot, not the other way around.

There is no stopping the march of science, as some hope, including Sun Microsystems’ (Nasdaq: JAVA) cofounder Bill Joy. Instead, the focus should be on the best practices created within the community itself. Plus, of course, technologies such as gene manipulation and nanotechnology are only pieces of the larger puzzle. Robotics is another…

All these examples show that the future of human enhancement is rocketing forward, and many people from a variety of disciplines are contributing. Technology is the common driver, but in the end, is simply a tool. Tools can be used for good or evil purposes, and it’s up to involved and responsible people to make sure they use the technology and innovations in a beneficial way. There is reason to believe that enhancement technologies will be used for both good and evil purposes, but in an age of greater communication, globalization and transparency, the good should stand a better chance of winning.

Sounds right to us. Go, Sonia! —Christine

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