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Artificial Life Is Simply Not Another Breaking News,
It Has Grave Implications For Humanity

By Devinder Sharma

23 May, 2010
Ground Reality

This is not simply another Breaking News. The media (not only in India, but globally) has failed to understand the grave implications it has in store for the future of humanity. That is why the news is buried in the inside pages. Also, because it has no immediate threat to the Wall Street, the media has no reason to question.

I am talking of the news report which goes something like this as far as the headlines are concerned: "Pioneering geneticist creates synthetic life." Craig Venter and his team pave way for designer organisms, says one newspaper. This is the first time that someone is trying to play God. In fact, God now has competition.

Craig Venter has created the first synthetic cell controlled by a synthetic genome. "This is the first synthetic cell that's been made," said lead researcher Craig Venter. "We call it synthetic because the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome, made with four bottles of chemicals on a chemical synthesiser, starting with information in a computer."

The way genetic engineering is now becoming an out-of-garage activity, and in many colleges/universities students are involved in various permutation and combinations to move genes across microbes, I am surely worried. I am sure millions across the globe would be equally worried. Society cannot view this breakthrough lightly. We cannot let this pass as yet another development in genetic engineering. It has grave and frightening implications. People must force the governments to wake up, and analyse the threat.

I am aware that some would feel excited. After all, it heralds the dawn of a new era with possibilities of organisms providing human spare parts and so on. As I have said often, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. This path surely leads us to hell, with no speed breakers on the way.

It is the beginning of a Grave New World.

The day is not far away when we will have a parallel form of life, another living race amidst us. Whenever man has tried to imbibe genetic engineering from Gods, as is evident from Ramayana and Mahabharta, the two great Indian epics, he has only turned into an evil force.

The day is also not far away when biological warfare will acquire a new meaning, with human, animal and bacterial clones and chimeras roaming the planet. The latest version of Avtar will be a reflection of the more deadly and sinister forms that synthetic life can create. This time, the creator of the world, the ultimate power (if religious scriptures are to be believed) will not come down on the Earth to get rid of this evil force.

I am not a religious person. But at the same time I do not support science and technology to remain outside the control of the society. We cannot allow science to be left to the inside of the board rooms of the corporates. Few people sitting in a board room cannot be left to decide what is good for us. It has gone on for long, and the world is facing the negative consequences through global warming. Synthetic life is a far too serious a threat, and no greenhouse accord can reverse the deadly fallout.

It is high time we woke up, and be counted.