top of page
  • Writer's pictureArnold Schroder

#71: The Biological Singularity Is Near pt. 1

(11/22/2023) We have clearly reached the end of this phase of human civilization. Does that mean that evolution's broad trend towards increasing complexity, scale, and self-awareness is also dying? Many futures are possible, and in this episode, we speculate about one that continues the evolution of ever greater complexity. Exiting the fantasy of a “sustainable” extraction-based economy, we instead imagine a human society based solely on life itself, where organisms do what is now done with gas-fired kilns, table saws, and circuit boards. We examine the diversity of the metabolisms which are currently evolving in synthetic biology laboratories, and how a novel organism might alternate between photosynthesizing and devouring toxic waste in the process of, for instance, growing into a house. Careful to delineate near-term possibility from developments which would require a scientific (and likely social) revolution, we look from the strange world of self-healing buildings and robots animated by heart cells which we currently inhabit to a much stranger one, in which houses walk and computing is biological. This episode largely focuses on establishing a realm of possibility, saving more conceptual and ethical issues for its sequel, where we ask: what it would be like to adopt an ethic in which life existed for its own sake, but in which humanity actively intervened in life to promote its maximum abundance, diversity, and evolutionary potential?



Bibliography for episode 71:


Achal, Varenyam, Abhijit Mukherjee, Deepika Kumari, and Qiuzhuo Zhang. “Biomineralization for Sustainable Construction – A Review of Processes and Applications.” Earth-Science Reviews 148 (September 1, 2015): 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.05.008.


Allan, Scott J., Paul A. De Bank, and Marianne J. Ellis. “Bioprocess Design Considerations for Cultured Meat Production With a Focus on the Expansion Bioreactor.” Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 3 (2019). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00044.


Burgos-Morales, Orlando, Marième Gueye, Laurie Lacombe, Clara Nowak, Rosanne Schmachtenberg, Maximilian Hörner, Carolina Jerez-Longres, Hasti Mohsenin, Hanna Wagner, and Wilfried Weber. “Synthetic Biology as Driver for the Biologization of Materials Sciences.” Materials Today Bio 11 (May 1, 2021): 100115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mtbio.2021.100115.


Carson, K. (2010) The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low Overhead Manifesto. Center for Stateless Society. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/kevin-carson-the-homebrew-industrial-revolution.


Chaves, Silvina, Marianella Longo, Azucena Gómez López, Flavia del V Loto, Magdalena Mechetti, and Cintia M. Romero. “Control of Microbial Biofilm Formation as an Approach for Biomaterials Synthesis.” Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 194 (October 1, 2020): 111201. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.colsurfb.2020.111201.


Church, George M., Yuan Gao, and Sriram Kosuri. “Next-Generation Digital Information Storage in DNA.” Science 337, no. 6102 (September 28, 2012): 1628–1628. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1226355.


Doron, Lior, Na’ama Segal, and Michal Shapira. “Transgene Expression in Microalgae—From Tools to Applications.” Frontiers in Plant Science 7 (2016). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2016.00505.


Duraj-Thatte, Anna M., Avinash Manjula-Basavanna, Jarod Rutledge, Jing Xia, Shabir Hassan, Arjirios Sourlis, Andrés G. Rubio, et al. “Programmable Microbial Ink for 3D Printing of Living Materials Produced from Genetically Engineered Protein Nanofibers.” Nature Communications 12, no. 1 (November 23, 2021): 6600. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26791-x.


González, Lina M., Nikita Mukhitov, and Christopher A. Voigt. “Resilient Living Materials Built by Printing Bacterial Spores.” Nature Chemical Biology 16, no. 2 (February 2020): 126–33. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41589-019-0412-5.


Hempel, Franziska, and Uwe G. Maier. “Microalgae as Solar-Powered Protein Factories.” In Advanced Technologies for Protein Complex Production and Characterization, edited by M. Cristina Vega, 241–62. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-27216-0_16.


Kassinger, Stephen J., and Monique L. van Hoek. “Biofilm Architecture: An Emerging Synthetic Biology Target.” Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology 5, no. 1 (March 1, 2020): 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.synbio.2020.01.001.


Katz, B. 2023. “Two Traps Where Woolly Mammoths Were Driven to Their Deaths Found in Mexico.” Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/found-mexico-two-traps-where-woolly-mammoths-were-driven-their-deaths-180973522/.


Mahmood, Tehreem, Nazim Hussain, Areej Shahbaz, Sikandar I. Mulla, Hafiz M.N. Iqbal, and Muhammad Bilal. “Sustainable Production of Biofuels from the Algae-Derived Biomass.” Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering 46, no. 8 (August 1, 2023): 1077–97. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00449-022-02796-8.


Molinari, Sara, Robert F. Tesoriero, and Caroline M. Ajo-Franklin. “Bottom-up Approaches to Engineered Living Materials: Challenges and Future Directions.” Matter 4, no. 10 (October 6, 2021): 3095–3120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2021.08.001.


Nguyen, Peter Q., Noémie-Manuelle Dorval Courchesne, Anna Duraj-Thatte, Pichet Praveschotinunt, and Neel S. Joshi. “Engineered Living Materials: Prospects and Challenges for Using Biological Systems to Direct the Assembly of Smart Materials.” Advanced Materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) 30, no. 19 (May 2018): e1704847. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201704847.


Rodrigo-Navarro, Aleixandre, Shrikrishnan Sankaran, Matthew Dalby, Aranzazu del Campo, and Manuel Salmerón-Sánchez. “Engineered Living Biomaterials.” Nature Reviews Materials 6 (August 31, 2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41578-021-00350-8.


Shepperd, Michelle. “2018 Oregon Material Recovery and Waste Generation Rates Report,” 2018.


Srubar, Wil V. “Engineered Living Materials: Taxonomies and Emerging Trends.” Trends in Biotechnology 39, no. 6 (June 1, 2021): 574–83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2020.10.009.


Tabakh, Hannah, Benjamin W. Jester, Hui Zhao, Rolf Kuestner, Nhi Khuong, Chelsea Shanitta, Ryo Takeuchi, and James Roberts. “Protocol for the Transformation and Engineering of Edible Algae Arthrospira Platensis to Generate Heterologous Protein-Expressing Strains.” STAR Protocols 4, no. 1 (March 17, 2023): 102087. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xpro.2023.102087.


Tainter, Joseph A. The Collapse of Complex Societies. New Studies in Archaeology. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.


Tran, Peter, and Arthur Prindle. “Synthetic Biology in Biofilms: Tools, Challenges, and Opportunities.” Biotechnology Progress 37, no. 5 (September 2021): e3123. https://doi.org/10.1002/btpr.3123.


Wagner, A. (2015) Arrival of the Fittest: How Nature Innovates. Current.


Webb, A. and Hessel, A. (2021) The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology. PublicAffairs.


Wikandari, Rachma, Manikharda, Susanne Baldermann, Andriati Ningrum, and Mohammad J. Taherzadeh. “Application of Cell Culture Technology and Genetic Engineering for Production of Future Foods and Crop Improvement to Strengthen Food Security.” Bioengineered 12, no. 2 (n.d.): 11305–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/21655979.2021.2003665.




723 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page