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Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision and It Is H+

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  • #26650
    Peter
    Member

    DARPA, the Defense Research Projects Agency, is best known for its role as progenitor of the Internet. Now they want to revolutionize biotechnology.

    [See the full post at: Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision and It Is H+]

    #26659
    Marcos
    Participant

    Wow, this is great news!

    Biology is too chaotic, humans sorely need more expertise to avoid it’s perils. BioBricks is the way to go, I don’t think such complexity can be tamed by humans any other way than the compartmentalization techniques which worked for successful engineering areas. Not until we have some sort of AI helper at least. It won’t have the efficiency of evolved systems and it will probably look like microscopic Rube Goldberg machines but… at least it will get us off the ground until we do. While getting useful stuff done… hopefully. =)

    Couple years back I’ve made a suggestion for a MOOC about it (BioBricks) but probably to the wrong person. That would be really cool and help attract “wider public collaboration” 😉

    btw, how can I be notified of the video updates? Would you reply here when you add a batch of them, plz? =) Or make a whole post, so it benefits every subscriber?

    Thank you for all the effort.

    #26694
    Seth
    Participant

    Y’all love DARPA up in here. As a skeptic of government initiatives it seems highly likely that any tech coming from them will be programmed with backdoors, ala the Internet. Though the research is quite interesting and frankly, who else could bankroll this stuff (Google?), never forget these are governement initiatives with all of the associated baggage that entails.

    Here’s a very interesting piece on the collusion between Google, DARPA, CIA, NSA in the early days of Google’s creation and why their claims of not aiding the NSA ring a bit hollow: https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/how-the-cia-made-google-e836451a959e.

    #26695
    Marcos
    Participant

    I actually agree, upto a point. (didn’t read the link yet tho)

    But dude, biology is already so full of backdoors and so unpredictably complicated for mere mortals to fathom that if they try to add yet another one they would probably be closing 10 others downstream.. gotta love the irony tho, LOL

    Such undertaking will most likely ‘entail’ (and thus benefit) a huge chunk of humanity, not unlike the innumerable open source projects made possible by, well yes, the internet, except it will probably have to be “the GMO of open source” — if you pardon the pun — for it to work at all… or OSSS (open source software on steroids =))

    Imagine the infraestructural hell of trying to code in a language you do not know, have no manual for and any bug may spell doom not only to your software but hardware and actually the very programmer. Mwahaha, we can’t even write bug free code for stuff we actually invented over half a century ago! (and meant to be simple)

    Now, biology evolved almost randomly and is even more highly optimized over much more mind bogglingly many variables than the output of any compiler, which you’d be hard pressed to find any human who could read it with ease without forgetting very fast how the whole program would actually work together.

    There are chunks of (dna) code there which are used by many different parts of the (organism) software, that is, the very same chunk.. trying to modify one part, will invariably break the other. Not to mention the emergent trade-off (e.g. self-regulating feedback loops) once we get to the actual stuff DNA code for. And don’t even get me started on self-modifying code (basically, epigenetics but, it actually can modify DNA back, so it`s a meta-self-modifying code (if that wasn’t enough meta already)).

    Try disarming that time bomb and you’ll be very sorry indeed. It’s almost hopeless and, I did not read the link yet (will do soon) but, I bet it’s something to do with exactly that, hopeless humans trying to mitigate the lack of control they have over such absurd complexity their universe present them to deal with every day… which supersedes and dwarfs everything I said above. Government bureaucracy will be too slow and dumb to deal with this stuff. We better have as many monkey heads thinking about this as possible and, if this is not obvious it shall be soon enough. In fact, all this, to me, is evidence of the very dawn of these realizations.

    #26831
    Seth
    Participant

    Great, reply! Thanks. I’m a fan of the H+ story, in general, but I think it’s important to always take a few steps back and start playing up the different angles because it’s become so easy to conflate ‘technological progress’ with ‘moral goodness’ that we often forget to ask, “Is this ok?”

    Just read a great article about this from the January edition of the Berkley Journal of Sociology. I highly recommend the read:

    Morality and the Idea of Progress in Silicon Valley

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