A DNA-driven world
December 12, 2007 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Transcript and video of the 32nd Richard Dimbleby lecture by Craig Venter.
posted by sushiwiththejury (9 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In struggling for context, I came up with this alternative (my apologizes to sushiwiththejury)
Every year since 1972 (except for three) the Richard Dimbleby Lecture (named for BBC broadcaster) has been delivered by an influential business or political figure. This year's lecture (transcript | video) was given by Craig Venter, former president and founder of Celera Genomics, the company which became famous for running a parallel version of the Human Genome Project.
posted by ericb at 5:09 PM on December 12, 2007

posted by sushiwiththejury at 5:14 PM on December 12, 2007

Great lecture. The possibilities he enumerates at the end for energy production sound so amazing that I'm suspicious. I just don't know enough about biological fuel production to see the downsides.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:54 PM on December 12, 2007

Thank you, this was very informative and entertaining! The word he threw in there very quickly at the end as a food for these man-made fuel-making organisms was "raw cellulose". I think I should look up what that it is before I accept what he is saying as realistic.
posted by niccolo at 6:00 PM on December 12, 2007

He may be a brilliant scientist, but as a teleprompter reader he's full of fail.

Fun Fact: Did you know they call teleprompters "autoqueues" in the UK?
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on December 12, 2007

Delmoi, that's Autocue, and it's the brand name of a very large teleprompter manufacturer. The trademark may have decayed to generic status, or maybe it's just a rollerblade/kleenex* thing. Autocue themselves still call the devices "teleprompters."

An "autoqueue" would be some kind of robotic waiting device. Perhaps a robot that will stand in line for Spice Girls Reunion tickets so one doesn't actually have to suffer through it in person. (A sufficiently advanced model might even attend the show for the same reason.)

(*please don't sue me.)
posted by rokusan at 10:06 PM on December 12, 2007

I just watched the video, and like delmoi I'd suggest reading the transcript instead.

From the speech: "Imagine scientists in the near future sitting at their computers and designing the chromosome of a new organism. [... And] after designing the new chromosome, the computer directed a robot to chemically make the DNA strand encoding all that information, and that once constructed, the new chromosome would be inserted into a bacterial cell where it becomes activated causing the cell to turn into the species that the scientist designed. And now imagine that new species in a bioreactor making millions of copies of itself and each copy is producing a new fuel from only renewable sources."

As a software developer, I find this supposition incredibly enticing. Once you automate something like that, it changes to become limited only by our imagination. Once fanciful ideas start to look do-able.

The idea of engineering organisms to process raw materials into greener fuels is pretty cool.
posted by sdodd at 10:16 PM on December 12, 2007

If I had to nominate a currently living human being for the "most evil human being" trophy, my nominee would be Venter. The damage he has done by taking his 30 year career of publically funded, open research private and encumbering it with intellectual property barbwire, patents, and trade secrets will be crippling the human race's forward progress for centuries to come.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:51 AM on December 14, 2007

Supporting ikkyu2's position:

ArsTechnica: "Microbesoft" patents could put the squeeze on synthetic life

Venter appears to be trying to freeze the (future) industry with patent extortion. I know first-hand how American software patents have made software developers' lives hell. I'd hate to see the same thing happen to such a promising area of bioscience.
posted by sdodd at 6:00 AM on December 15, 2007

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