Nothing sets off my Modern Prometheus alarms as the most recent interest in gene editing, particularly in that little bit of Crispr that seems to find its way into biological gene forms. Just like Victor Frankenstein creating his creature from dead body parts in Mary Shelley’s novel from 1818, we now have scientists in China working to find the way to ‘edit’ genes like the ones that they suspect cause cancer. Sound like fun? It didn’t turn out so well for Victor, and without actually understanding what’s happening with genetic ‘disorders,’ is it such a good idea to shoot in the dark?
“Modern gene editing is quite precise but it is not perfect. The procedure can be a bit hit and miss, reaching some cells but not others. Even when Crispr gets where it is needed, the edits can differ from cell to cell … Another common problem happens when edits are made at the wrong place in the genome. [oops!] There can be hundreds of these “off-target” edits that can be dangerous if they disrupt healthy genes or crucial regulatory DNA.”
But it’s already happening, right?
A bit of micro-cutting to get those genes back into tip-top shape! Victor Frankenstein eat your heart out. Boris may be closer than you think!
Gene editing – and what it really means to rewrite the code of life
It’s a long read on The Guardian, but definitely worth it.
Timothy Morton wants humanity to give up some of its core beliefs, from the fantasy that we can control the planet to the notion that we are ‘above’ other beings. His ideas might sound weird, but they’re catching on.
‘A reckoning for our species’: the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene
A hundred years ago, if you were a pedestrian, crossing the street was simple: You walked across it.
Today, if there’s traffic in the area and you want to follow the law, you need to find a crosswalk. And if there’s a traffic light, you need to wait for it to change to green.
Fail to do so, and you’re committing a crime: jaywalking.
The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of “jaywalking”
The ascent of the latest U.S. president has proved Neil Postman’s argument in Amusing Ourselves to Death was right. In a very readable article in The Guardian, Andrew Postman (Neil Postman’s son), gives his take on the similarities of our current reality to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World rather than George Orwell’s 1984. Basically, it’s not about Big Brother watching you, but people chasing entertainment, no matter how infuriatingly ridiculous or ‘fake’ it might be.
As Postman writes:
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture..
Where will we go from here? Postman argues:
Who can be appalled when the coin of the realm in public discourse is not experience, thoughtfulness or diplomacy but the ability to amuse – no matter how maddening or revolting the amusement?
My dad predicted Trump in 1985 – By Andrew Postman
Paris has a rather ambitious plan. Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the first female Mayor of Paris, is is to ban all diesel engines by 2020, eliminate 55,000 parking spaces every year, and spend 150-million Euros to double the size of the city’s bicycle network.
‘Vélib’ is the trailblazing public bike share scheme, which – in the past nine years – has blossomed into the single largest system outside China. Three hundred thousand members take a fleet of 18,500 bicycles for an average of 108,000 trips per day, for a staggering total of over 292 million trips since launching in 2007.
Giving Parisians back the space that cars have taken from them
“Daniel Mendelsohn had a particularly modern take on the value of reading Proust’s densely written, heavily detailed, slowly unfolding opus known as In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past).:
Recently I was traveling on a train next to a young man—a recent college graduate, I guessed—who was reading a hugely fat Victorian novel. Since I teach literature, this made me happy. But as I watched him I noticed that roughly every 90 seconds he’d fish out his iPhone to check his text messages. After a while this reflexive tic made me so nervous that I moved to another seat. As a writer as well as a teacher, I found it nerve-wracking to think that this is how some people are reading novels these days—which is to say, not really reading them, because you can’t read anything serious in two-minute spurts, or with your mind half on something else, like the messages you may be getting. Multitasking is the great myth of the present era: you cannot, in fact, do two things at the same time.
Especially if one of them requires considerable resources of attentiveness and intellectual commitment. To my mind, a very important reason to have a go at Proust right now—which is to say, to read him with a mind as receptive as his was large—is to exercise one’s powers of commitment.
Proust as Antidote for Smartphone-Induced Attention Deficit
LITERATURE – Marcel Proust