Ethics and Implications of Biotechnology by Danya Linsteadt

This week’s reading is on the ethics of biotechnology and art. The reading discusses the implications and effects of humans creating and modifying life to create art. Personally, I have no moral qualms about creating life for the sake of art as long as that life is treated humanly. An example of life being used for art that I find unacceptable may be found here: http://fortheloveofthedogblog.com/news-updates/a-dead-dog-as-art-petition. I also no longer support life being used as art when that life is released into the wild. An animal that has been created through genetic modifications has no niche in any environment and we have no way of knowing what will happen as the animal tries to find or create a niche for itself. Humans have been modifying life and the world around us for centuries often with negative consequences. For instance, when the eucalyptus tree was brought to the United States, it upset the balance of life quite drastically. It choked out almost all other foliage anywhere it took root. It is now one of the biggest, if not the biggest, parasitic weeds we have in this nation. The current advances that have been made in biotechnology simply make it easier for humans to change life faster. For example, humans have been selectively breeding chickens for egg-laying for a long time by choosing the chickens which laid the biggest eggs and having them breed with each other. Over many generations, we have chickens that consistently lay large eggs. Now, thanks to the advances in biotechnology, we can simply isolate the gene for a specific trait and replace it in embryos or even just clone the chicken we like. Let us say we only want eggs with green shells from now on. We simply isolate the gene in Araucana chickens that gives them green eggs then replace the gene that codes for white egg shells in Buff Orpington chicken embryos. Viola, large green eggs.

Although advances in biotechnology have created many opportunities to debate ethics and use questionable morals, it has also given us the ability to improve life. While searching for examples of robots capable of self assembly, I came upon this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkvpEfAPXn4. At the end, the video mentions how these robots could be used to improve search and rescue and disaster site clean up without risking human lives. The robots communicate with each other and can work together while also functioning on an individual level. Therefore, if one goes down, the ones that are left can still function together to accomplish their task. Some examples I found, however, were not so practical. A chair that claims to rebuild itself when broken: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlXh8RvvcuI&feature=channel. That’s a great idea! Except the fact that it would fail if the chair were to ever actually brake. The chair is designed to come apart in specific spots and “brake” into a set number of components which will then find each other and reassemble to form a usable chair. This is impractical because the chair will only repair itself when it comes apart according to plan. If the weight threshold of the chair were to be exceeded and it actually broke and fell to the ground with a person in it, not only would the computer probably be crushed to bits rendering it unable to find its pieces, but there is no guarantee that it would brake along the lines which it was designed to brake.

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