Friday, March 30, 2012

Bred for a Purpose

An Examination of New Prospects and Perspectives on the Cloning of Animals


[[Early attempts at genetic manipulation have focused on less complex plant and bacterial lifeforms]]

In an time of rapidly advancing bio-technology we would be foolish to assume that our modification of genetic structures would be constrained to only the most basic forms of life. Algae, bacteria and plant matter may be the most simple to understand and thusly modify but already we have made great strides in the field of animal cloning as well. Dolly The Sheep was the first synthetically reproduced animal life form on the planet (in the public sphere at least – c. 1996) and though she was not a complete success she proved just how far we had already come some years ago. Since that time a number of animals have been produced in this way, dogs, more sheep and also monkeys; we have become quite adept at the artificial reproduction of species including the ability to grow a human in a surrogate womb. This will surely not be the end of these developments. What I believe awaits us, just beyond the horizon of tomorrow, is custom life forms bred for a purpose. The movie The Sixth Day is a prime example of where this technology can go – not to the ends of reproducing humans so exactly that even they themselves cannot tell the difference - there is a scene where the protagonist is in a pet store and the clerk points out that a dog can be ordered to any specification, i.e having softer teeth, no teeth, smaller stature, etc. Once we have sufficiently mapped and understood the genetic algorythms of life contained within the vast information network of nuclaeic acids it will be within our power to directly alter the attributes of such lifeforms. Once we have mastered the genetic codes of animal life on Earth, someone could easily order a dog 50% larger than normal, with more muscle, stronger bones, etc...

[[A simple example of potential size and style differences... a normal police dog and a proposed enhanced breed]]

Already we talk in high scientific circles about plans to develop bacterium and algenates that convert materials into useable bio-fuels for example. We talk about enhancing and further altering crops so that they are more resilliant and nutrient rich. How long will it be before we begin to see animal life forms which are also so enhanced to suit the needs of those who will readily consume them from the market? One entity I would like to propose and address here is one of mans oldest companions; the K-9. I believe that in the not too distant future we will begin to artificially breed these animals into a greatly enhanced state. Just think of it, police dogs that are much tougher, more sensitive to smell, more responsive to commands and also able to undertand more complex language. Also in military applications; we are not very far off from being able to engineer a synthetic retna which contains an integrated digital component and heads-up-display overlays. If we consider the emergence of Google's AU glassses (slated to be released in the next 12-18 months), how far off is a contact lens version of the same technology, and then how big a stretch to have them permanently integrated from conception or surgically affixed shortly thereafter? This would allow for a much greater degree of user control over such animals as well as enhanced training. One person sitting at a command center could be tracking a suspect on foot from above with satellite technology and at the same time be feeding the information to such a dog who would follow the trail regardless of scent that was left behind, visual contact, etc (though that data would also be fed back to control).

[[images of optic systems from FLIR shows night vision and heat vision]]

Such creatures could also be given other bio-enhancements, like greatly improved bone and muscle structure, which could include the thickening and alteration of skull plates to provide maximum protection against bludgeoning or other forms of assault by perpetrators. These animals would become not only mans best friend, but perhaps also the hartiest and most expendible member of an armed force. Beyond this, living animals like birds or insects could also be thus engineered to provide almost complete surveillence of an area. While people are certain to be worried about UAV drones, or camera cars driving around, they are much less likely to suspect a perched bird or a seemingly wild dog of being a direct intelligence asset. While I personally abhor the manipulation of life in this way, and also the cult of police power, I cannot help but forsee that these developments are beneficial, possible and likely for those who do not share my appreciation of nature or freedom. These types of creatures provide a two way feedback potential for security systems which are unheard of in present times and yet they have the potential to spare scores of human lives and prevent much otherwise unnecesary pain.

For example at a high level function, say a G7 summit near a fake lake, where armed guards would presently patrol a perimeter to ensure security, a number of enhanced dogs – always retaining visibility of the complete perimeter - could be posted and serve as possibly even better guards. Because of their enhanced hearing and smell they are much more likely to identify and confirm suspicious targets before a human would. If they are further augmented to include the ability to visually scan for heat or electric transmission, they would obviously VASTLY surpass the abilities of even the best trained humans at that point. Of course these animals would never 'loose their cool' either and if they did they could be readily located and terminated. Though that presents a certain moral outrage,it is far less of one than a rogue officer shooting up a village without the same measure of command and terminal control (which we should hope would never be applied to humans).

[[Veterinary Doctors experimenting on animals, also helped man to explore human medical anatomical functions, etc]]

Of course this will be a scary and ungodly development in our history when it occours, but at the same time it lends a certain creedance to the notion of creationism (as opposed to evolution). Perhaps Adam and Eve were also created in this manner by a higher intelligence far back in our evolution. Maybe some of us here today send UHF signals off to some central hub even without their knowledge... as we unlock these powers for ourselves as a race, we must not be negligent of the notion that if we are not the pinnacle of creation, it is highly likely that whoever is has done similar work with our species in our past or even our present. While this is truly a frightening notion, much depends on the intent and applications. These dogs, in this example, would also be of great benefit in rescue situations or for personal protection of family or property. As a science and engineering type of person, I must accept that for every great advance we make there are always both, moral pros and cons, to almost every development. Harnessing gunpowder allowed us to manipulate the landscape in previously unimaginable ways at FAR greater efficency than ever before, but also permitted the advent of the machine gun which was so brutally employed during the first great war. Later developments in rocketry allowed us to go to the moon but simultaneously to rain terror upon the innocent citizens of London. And ultimately, in this period of innovation, the discovery of our ability to 'split atoms' allowed us to develop massive electric infrastructure with virtually no polloution almost indefinitely, but also allowed for the horrors of hiroshima, nagasaki, cherynoble and fukushima... Even a hammer can be used to build a house, or to slaughter the inhabitants of one and then bring it to the ground.

[[Advanced genetic technology allows a body part (ear) to be introduced into the tissu and structure of a common lab mouse]]

That these bio-technical developments WILL one day occour is almost a certainty, wether they will be used to the great benefit of man or to further enslave him (or both) is a matter of morality and politics and it has been some time since we have had a firm a grasp upon, or seen any real innovation in those areas. I believe that when this technology is developed and employed it will cause moral outrage among many groups who could never afford them, but that those such K-9s would be readily purchased and used by the financial elite and the forces of authority against those same morally outraged individuals. Either that, or there will have been a massive shift in our general paradigms and these creations will be well accepted through appreciation or resignation. I do not think it will happen in such a commercial and common was as is portrayed through the movie (6th Day) that I `mentioned before, but I do believe that the ability to perform these manipulations and the positive benefits of their employment outweigh a simple moral outrage at the tampering of natural systems. After all the very presence of urbanization and corporatization fly in the face of a sustainable, natural way of living. We are already very close to being completely seperated from any sort of 'natural' way of living. The foods we eat and the clothes we wear are fashioned from synthetic materials and processes, the time for moral outrage at such tampering has long since passed and again, the benefits to our global food supply and the profits accrued through these methods surely outweigh any moral sympathies we might have had for a 'real' stalk of wheat.

***blog in draft, early preview, incomplete. endMAR12


  1. Den, Where the hell did you go? Facebroke says you no longer exist.

    1. lordy, you still use FB ?! ;p

      you can find me on twitter if you're so inspired @dennizenx :)