GENTECH archive


Re: Craig Venter creates new form of life

 >Genetic researchers aim to build
 >artificial bacteria within a decade

Perhaps these scientists can learn from our experience with computer

Responsible computer researchers who want to create "artificial life"
do so by creating a virtual machine with its own unique language. The
"artificial life" implementation (basically a virus) is then written
in that unique language. This precludes any possibility that any
accident can release the software virus to real machines where they
might do real damage. Of course, once the technology for creating
viruses is known, we can assume that ill-intentioned people will learn
the technology to create their own destructive viruses that will
infect real machines. This has already happened in computers.

It is said that when the idea of a computer virus was first discussed
among computer scientists, they made a solemn agreement that they
will keep silent on the concept. Like Pandora's box, however, once the
knowledge is there, it will spread around, as it did...

A science of "artificial life" (a-life) is actually now emerging,
which studies the principles that lead to self-organized complexity.
Perhaps all scientists should adopt a rule that any effort to create
such artificial life be done on other media (like computer software),
and never on the same medium that real life is made of... And society
should impose the maximum penalties for those who violate this rule.

Otherwise, we playing with technologies much more threatening than
nuclear bombs...

Roberto Verzola