A bot just took over my life: oh Craig Venter again

Iron_man Big headline this morning about the creation of artificial life. And it caught my eye partly because the last 6 months I have been thinking about the application of text based robots to research – a new and controversial topic. So I'm pro robots right?

Well the problem to me is Craig Venter – which is why its not really possible for me to be dispassionate. You see Craig has a history. Not only making controversial pronouncements. But because of his agenda. When scientists realised they were on the brink of being able to map the human genome (that doesn't mean decode it – but at least to figure out where all the CGAT letters were placed) Crag Venter led the charge. Actually he started a race. One he didn't win. What Craig wanted to do was to copyright all the sequences he found. And to charge the rest of us for what a lot of people including me would consider public property. Now it gets tribal. Some British scientists – there I told you it would get partisan. Took it upon themselves to do the same work. And to release it into the public domain as they went.  A kind of scorched earth policy. So although there are some copyright and patent issues out there. The human genome is now open source. You won't have to pay a levy on your medicine in years to come. To pay Craig Venter off.

So here Craig goes again. He's found a way to create an artificial mechanism which muscles its way into a cell takes over and runs it. That's my understanding.  Well Craig is entitled to make money. And I expect he will make a lot of money out of this.  And I am not going to come up with scare stories about his micro organisms running rampant, mutating and killing us all off at a level more commonly inhabited by viruses and bacteria. Because I have no idea if that could happen. And a lot of good science is being done at that level.

What bothers me is the exploitation of science purely for commercial reasons. There ought to be a natural restraint – even to listen to your colleagues in the same discipline. And Craig Venter isn't a listener. That's the problem.And that's what makes this invention (and Craig) dangerous.



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