Bring’em back and put’em online


It seems that cloning has become passé; we have moved passed cloning to a new era of species reproduction – reproductive physiology – using DNA to create a copy of the original organism.  Scientists are now saying, that even some extinct species can be recreated using current technology.   The concept has been getting lots of press lately, mostly because it is the cover story for National Geographic’s April edition.  The article is not in depth or scientific, but it is informative for a layman – me.

According to National Geographic the technology has advanced very rapidly and that now we are on the very edge of being able to recreate a species; it is possible even if we do not have a complete DNA sequence.  That can be remedied through modern methods.  Some people are very excited by the possibilities, they are sure only good things will come of using recreating a species.  The movie Jurassic Park, gave us a dark vision of such experiments; but that after all was science fiction, not science.  But the idea bothers me.  It bothers me because I don’t think those who will eventually apply the techniques will have thought out all of the implications.

Poinar asked why scientists would want to do that in the first place. “Is it because we have this ability, to push the boundaries of what’s possible for the sake of innovation?” he asked. National Geographic, April 2013

 “It’s gone very much further, very much more rapidly than anyone ever would’ve imagined,” says Ross MacPhee, a curator of mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  National Geographic, April 2013

“With mammoths, it’s really a dime a dozen up there,” says Hendrik Poinar, an expert on mammoth DNA at McMaster University in Ontario. “It’s just a matter of finances now.” National Geographic, April 2013

The rest of us may be thinking about the implications, but some of those with skills are too eager to test the technology to be bothered with thinking too long about the consequences.  However, we will debate the issue; it will be debated in the media, in scientific journals and in the halls of government.  But the debates will not determine the outcome – the technology will.  There is kind of law about technology; whatever is possible technically will eventually become a reality.  Someone will want to do it.

The writer and environmentalist Stewart Brand, best known for founding the Whole Earth Catalog in the late 1960s, grew up in Illinois hiking in forests that just a few decades before had been aroar with the sound of the passenger pigeons’ wings. “Its habitat was my habitat,” he says. Two years ago Brand and his wife, Ryan Phelan, founder of the genetic-testing company DNA Direct, began to wonder if it might be possible to bring the species back to life. One night over dinner with Harvard biologist George Church, a master at manipulating DNA, they discovered that he was thinking along the same lines. National Geographic, April 2013

The force that is driving the “bring’em back from extinct” crowd is one that exists in all areas of technology.  In the past I have called it the logic of the technology; it is a force by itself.  By that I mean that if a technology exists then someone will use simply because it exists and then someone else will use and improve it.  That becomes a self reinforcing cycle – creation, use, improvement and creation once again.  Once the concept has unleashed all of the debating in the world cannot put it back into Pandora’s box.   Another of those boxes that is breaking open is online gambling.  That one is being opened not by lawmakers and casino operators, but by video game designers.  In San Francisco a group of game designers met, it was the fifth annual meeting of what they call GameBeaters; the pride themselves in being disrupters. That is they disrupt current models of design and business with their games.

This year they discussed in detail the ways in which they can combine gambling and the games they design.  Now mind you, they do not design poker games or slot machines, they design video games – the kind of games where people shoot each other for fun.

Those games were once a hardwired game.  A player had to have a game box, the software package and a television set to play them; but that was the olden days.  Now the games are played on computers and handheld devices and the players are linked by the internet.  Yep, that is it – internet gambling, not in the hands of congress or state legislatures but in the hands of the disputers.

 Serious gamers did not shy away from confronting serious issues at third day of the Game Developers Conference — including gambling. A panel on the hotly debated issue of gambling in games was packed. The big questions for the experts: Is gambling the next big growth opportunity? And if so, how should it be regulated?…Thelen is keeping a close eye on states like California with laws on the books to regulate online gambling. It’s a revenue opportunity for Big Fish, the  largest producer of casual games.  In future, Thelen revealed that he plans to partner with casinos to tap into the “massive addressable market” for bringing money into skill-based gaming tournaments. GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market.  – Christina Farr, Venture Beat, 3-28-13

Bringing back extinct species of animals and birds and creating new video games and video game uses, strange bedfellows you might think.   So, why have I combined recreating species with creating video games?  Well, they use some of the same fundamentals and technologies.  But that is not my reason; I combined them because of what the enthusiasts say.  Of course, there those who are cautious and conservative; they are very aware of the moral and legal issues to be faced.  They are not the ones that concern me or caused me to write this; it is the others.  The ones who are simply carried away with enthusiasm that caught my attention.  Because it will be the enthusiastic ones that open boxes of Pandora and let it all out.

 Thelen speculated that the market opportunity will be worth close to $20 billion in the next few years. ”Imagine you’re in Wisconsin and there are barriers to gambling — just open your iPhone or Android and jump online.” Christina Farr, Venture Beat, 3-28-13

 “What intrigues me is just that it’s really cool,” Greely says. “A saber-toothed cat? It would be neat to see one of those.” National Geographic, April 2013

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