Week 6/ Biotechnology’s Gifts/ Yu Hsiao

This week we discussed about biotechnology and its influences. It’s known that, as technology advances, we could control more aspects of our lives.  Such as using the technology of weather forecasting, we can plan ahead, and therefore, control what we do with our lives instead of just waiting for the unknown and the unexpected.  With the advance of biotechnology we see we could have more control over our health. Patients with amputated legs could now have mechanical legs, and go on to run and lead a normal life. A lot of this was thought to be impossible. I found a cool website of slides, that contained the Heinleinian predictions that include neuro-mechanical prosthetics(mechanical leg),transgenic and mind downloading. http://www.terasemmovementfoundation.com/philop_files/Heinlein_C/img5.html
Two of the three that I picked to talk about came true. It is scary to think that those predictions were made long ago, and thought impossible. It won’t be long before the third one came true.   Along those technological advances come controversies, and questions of ethical issues.  The technology of transgenic and neuro-mechanical prosthetics also raises the question of whether or not we’re playing God. In some people’s point of view, we might be taking too much control of things in this world. Neuro-mechanical scientist can be viewed as Frankenstein, mad scientist that uses body parts or fixed body parts to recreate a being that resembles a living thing. However, this advance in technology also helps with people who are victims of amputation. It helps them regain mobility and return to “normalcy”. It goes the same with technology involving genetics, like transgenic. I think there is nothing we can do about the ethical issues surrounding advances in biotechnology. I personally think that the benefits that unfortunate individuals such as amputees could receive outweigh the ethical issues in people using this advance in something else, such as using prosthetics as a medium to express art. There are many people who could now participate in regular activities, even athletic activities, with the advances in prosthetics.
“When I received my first prosthesis at the age of 11, it was made of wood and metal. At that time, I never dreamed that a leg could be made that would allow me to hike, snowboard, dive, rock climb, mountain bike, and keep up with my six-year-old son.”-Cliff Cabral, age 39 (belowkneeamputeecom). 
This man experienced the advance of this particular field, prosthetics, in biotechnology that allowed him to lead a life that is a lot better than he had hoped.

Referenced from http://www.lhup.edu/yingram/Prostetics/recent_advancements.htm
Video:
http://www.artbyhunter.com/av/hunter2.mov

Hunter O’Reilly is an artist and also a geneticist. Though she does not use genetics directly in her art work, she uses her paintings and exhibitions to explore the issues surrounding genetics and biotechnology. http://www.newscientist.com/gallery/dn15106-colourful-biology-paintings/4
In this paintings, different cloned embryos of different sizes. Though they’re clones of each other, the painting suggests that “each [have] identical DNA yet still having unique characteristics determined by their environment.” She used art to explore and express an idea could be studied when this genetic technology is made possible. This is an interesting idea, because if we had this technology we could study the idea or environment and nurture vs. inherent characteristics. We could put numerous clones under different environment and unique conditions, and we could see how identical clones with the exact same genetic material would react and grow under different conditions. We could answer questions such as if the nurturing factor really affects an individual. The fascinating thing about this concept is that it is conceived by an artist, and scientist who work with genetics. This idea is conceived through means of an art form, rather than a proposal-like science research paper. This is a cool phenomenon showing that art and science, once again, can be interconnected and expressed through each other. The two could also communicate with each other, since Hunter O’Reilly is both an artist and a scientist, she certainly is able to express her ideas with both science and art, and like above, and she used art as her medium to express a novel idea of science.

Another novel idea that I learned from the Hunter O’Reilly video was transgenic E. coli bacteria that glows. I’ve actually worked on making these transgenic bacteria as a volunteer in the Tech Museum in San Jose. By inserting Jelly Fish genes into the E. coli bacteria, bacteria are able to produce proteins that glow, just like the glowing bacteria in Hunter O’Reilly’s video. O’Reilly suggested that these glowing bacteria could be used as a medium in art to make new art works. This again is biotechnology in art at work. Artist could be genetic scientist who works to alter the genetics of certain living things that contribute to their art work. Many possibilities could come out of this, such as engineering bacteria to glow in different colors, with different luminescent qualities and etc.

Personally, I believe that advance in biotechnology is an amazing branch of engineering that influence our society. I believe that though individuals might use biotechnology to questionable and bizarre use, the benefits that biotechnology justifies itself. With advances in biotech we could use tools, such as clone individuals to study how clones react to different environments, and see how much of a factor environment is to the growing process of an individual. The advance also allows individuals such as amputees to live a normal life with prosthetics. In the future, better prosthetics might evolve, and actual limbs could be made and operate just like the real thing. Lastly, with the advance in biotech brings a new form of art, where the artist could genetically redesign and modify his/her medium of art to suit his/her art piece.  

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