Saturday, October 06, 2007

In The Beginning

Today is a very good day to start a blog.

Any day now Craig Venter - geneticist, yachtsman and Vietnam veteran - will announce that he has achieved one of the greatest feats in science: the creation of artificial life.

The DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.

There is a distinct possibility that this changes everything with regard to the future of humankind. For the past several years, I have been very pessimistic about our prospects because of Peak Oil and the way some of us have acted in response to that challenge. For more time than I care to recount, I have contemplated and planned for a dystopian patch of road just around the signpost up ahead. Economic crash, societal disruption, and the prospect that our species has entered an evolutionary blind alley.

Our teaming masses have badly overshot sustainability, and our ecological footprint is crushing the life out of the natural biosphere. I suspect that the next major breakthroughs in physics
(and thus matter/energy) would require a substantial improvement in our level of consciousness. Having despaired of the latter, I had discounted the likelihood of the former. Now however, by a process of looking inward, as deep inward as it is possible for our science and our consciousness to look, it appears that we stand on the precipice of a major breakthrough that will absolutely revolutionize our place in the world. If Venter's team has done what is claimed, as a species, we have at long last reached our childhood's end.

I'm very excited about what this may mean for the future of my own children. Possibly a utopian rather than a dystopian future. I'm equally excited about what it means for the deeper understanding of where we've come from and to whence we appear to be returning.