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
Pessoa was to have an extraordinary afterlife, as he prophesied in his poem “If I Die Young”: “roots may be hidden in the ground / But their flowers flower in the open air for all to see. / It must be so. Nothing can prevent it.” Among his belongings when he died was a large trunk, containing more than twenty-five thousand manuscript pages—the product of a lifetime of nearly graphomaniacal productivity.
Fernando Pessoa’s Disappearing Act
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 EU’s achievements are huge. As Brexit begins, don’t forget that hundreds of millions still want to be part of it.
Europe in crisis? Despite everything, its citizens have never had it so good – Natalie Nougayrède
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
Oh Canada…some food for thought based on an article in The Guardian by Charles Foran:
“The greater Toronto area is now the most diverse city on the planet, with half its residents born outside the country; Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal aren’t far behind. Annual immigration accounts for roughly 1% of the country’s current population of 36 million.”
“The American and European citizen … may find all this chatter about inclusion and welcome ethereal, if not from another planet given the events of 2016, in which the US elected an authoritarian whose main policy plank was building a wall, Britain voted to leave the EU in large part to control immigration, and right wing political parties gleefully hostile to diversity may soon form national governments, including in France.”
“None of this raw populism is going away in 2017, especially as it gets further irritated by the admittedly formidable global challenge of how to deal with unprecedented numbers of people crossing national borders, with or without visas. But denial, standing your nativist ground, doing little or nothing to evolve your society in response to both a crisis and, less obviously, an opportunity: these are reactions, not actions, and certain to make matters worse.”
The Canada experiment: is this the world’s first ‘postnational’ country?