Recent Articles

RSS IP Licensing Law Blog

Professor Predicts Biotechnology Will Have Key Role in Future

Written by on Sunday, July 1st, 2007

The blogosphere is buzzing today about Freeman Dyson’s article in The New York Review of Books titled, "Our Biotech Future."  In this column, Dyson describes a world where biotechnology predominates every aspect of life.

Among Dyson’s predictions are as follows:

Will the domestication of high technology, which we have seen marching from triumph to triumph with the advent of personal computers and GPS receivers and digital cameras, soon be extended from physical technology to biotechnology? I believe that the answer to this question is yes. Here I am bold enough to make a definite prediction. I predict that the domestication of biotechnology will dominate our lives during the next fifty years at least as much as the domestication of computers has dominated our lives during the previous fifty years.

Dyson further states:

I see a bright future for the biotechnology industry when it follows the path of the computer industry. . . . .Every orchid or rose or lizard or snake is the work of a dedicated and skilled breeder. There are thousands of people, amateurs and professionals, who devote their lives to this business. Now imagine what will happen when the tools of genetic engineering become accessible to these people. There will be do-it-yourself kits for gardeners who will use genetic engineering to breed new varieties of roses and orchids. Also kits for lovers of pigeons and parrots and lizards and snakes to breed new varieties of pets. Breeders of dogs and cats will have their kits too.

Domesticated biotechnology, once it gets into the hands of housewives and children, will give us an explosion of diversity of new living creatures, rather than the monoculture crops that the big corporations prefer. New lineages will proliferate to replace those that monoculture farming and deforestation have destroyed. Designing genomes will be a personal thing, a new art form as creative as painting or sculpture.

Few of the new creations will be masterpieces, but a great many will bring joy to their creators and variety to our fauna and flora. The final step in the domestication of biotechnology will be biotech games, designed like computer games for children down to kindergarten age but played with real eggs and seeds rather than with images on a screen. Playing such games, kids will acquire an intimate feeling for the organisms that they are growing. The winner could be the kid whose seed grows the prickliest cactus, or the kid whose egg hatches the cutest dinosaur. These games will be messy and possibly dangerous. Rules and regulations will be needed to make sure that our kids do not endanger themselves and others. The dangers of biotechnology are real and serious.

Dyson makes some interesting predictions in his article.  While many of them are very likely uses of biotechnology, others seem to take science a bit too far.  However, he does pose an interesting question for us all: what should be the future of biotechnology?  Where should we go with the science?  Should biotechnology be as integrated in our lives as high technology now is? 

These questions are, of course, far from new, but perhaps the reason they are getting so much discussion today on the blogosphere is the timing of them being posed again to us.  So much of what was envisioned previously in high technology has become a reality to us all in today’s world.  It’s a fair question to ask again: where will all of these novel biotech developments take us?  And, more importantly, do we as a society really want to go there?


Site search



RSS Software Law Blog

RSS Firm Events

© 2008-2018 The Prinz Law Office. All rights reserved.

The Prinz Law Office | Silicon Valley | Los Angeles | Orange County | San Diego | Atlanta | Tel: 1.800.884.2124

Silicon Valley Business Office: 2225 East Bayshore Rd., Suite 200, Palo Alto, CA 94304: Silicon Valley Mailing Address: 117 Bernal Rd., Suite 70-110, San Jose, CA 95119 Silicon Valley Office: (408) 884-2854 | Los Angeles Office: (310) 907-9218 | Orange County Office: (949)236-6777 | San Diego Office: (619)354-2727 | Atlanta Office: (404)479-2470

Licensed in California and Georgia.

Protected by Security by CleanTalk and CleanTalk Anti-Spam