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Can science create artificial life?

 
 
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2010 12:31 am
Pathologists Take Note: C. Craig Venter Just Created the First Synthetic Life Form

  • Now science can create synthetic life forms and J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., is the first to do it. The landmark feat, which involved building the genome of a bacterium from scratch and incorporating it into a cell, "paves the way for designer organisms that are built rather than evolved," noted the author of an article in guardian.co.uk.


http://api.ning.com/files/A-K*7UU4ObQXESDPz*yDxs3QdsFEnKjdRJrLnU8zDGNOSSo*kj1cnaFK*bLF2TBXhOQ95HCEt9V07mj3z1jsgh6xE70Yehwj

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., best known to pathologists and clinical laboratory scientists for his role in sequencing the first human genome, achieved the feat at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland. Venter and his team synthesized the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome. The synthetic cell, called Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0, is proof of the principle that genomes can be designed in the computer, chemically made in the laboratory, and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell controlled by the synthetic genome. The experiment demonstrates how fast genetic technologies are advancing.


Nobel Laureate Hamilton O. Smith, M.D., is Scientific Director Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy at the Venter Institute. He said, "With this first synthetic bacterial cell and the new tools and technologies we developed to successfully complete this project, we now have the means to dissect the genetic instruction set of a bacterial cell to see and understand how it really works."

This breakthrough research, which was published in the latest issue of Science, is the culmination of 15 years of research at J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and cost of $40 million, noted Venter, who is founder and president of JCVI and senior author on the paper.

Daniel G. Gibson, Ph.D., who is Associate Professor in the Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy Department at the JCVI, explained, "To produce a synthetic cell, our group had to learn how to sequence, synthesize, and transplant genomes. Many hurdles had to be overcome, but we are now able to combine all of these steps to produce synthetic cells in the laboratory. We can now begin working on our ultimate objective of synthesizing a minimal cell containing only the genes necessary to sustain life in its simplest form. "This will help us better understand how cells work."

"We have been consumed by this research, Venter continued, "but we have also been equally focused on addressing the societal implications of what we believe will be one of the most powerful technologies and industrial drivers for societal good. We look forward to continued review and dialogue about the important applications of this work to ensure that it is used for the benefit of all."

Scientists at JCVI envision that the knowledge gained by constructing this first self-replicating synthetic cell, coupled with decreasing costs for DNA synthesis, will give rise to wider use of this technology. They predict the technology will find important applications in products such as biofuels, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, clean water, and food products.

It is also likely that pathologists will take the ability to engineer synthetic organisms and apply this technology to the creation of more sophisticated diagnostic tests. The explosion of knowledge produced by ongoing advances in genetic research points is already giving pathology and laboratory medicine new tools for diagnosing disease and determining the best treatments for patients.




Related Information:

Synthetic Genome Brings New Life to Bacterium

Synthetic vs. Real Life: Is There a Place for Both?

Scientists create 1st bacteria strain from man-made DNA

Charlie Rose Interview with Craig Venter

THE DARK REPORT stories on DNA


In a 2007 interview with New Scientist when asked "Assuming you can make synthetic bacteria, what will you do with them?", Venter replied:
Over the next 20 years, synthetic genomics is going to become the standard for making anything. The chemical industry will depend on it. Hopefully, a large part of the energy industry will depend on it. We really need to find an alternative to taking carbon out of the ground, burning it, and putting it into the atmosphere. That is the single biggest contribution I could make.
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2010 12:46 am
@Alan McDougall,
I don't see how artificial life could possibly be any easier than aritificial intelligence. AI started off with great fanfare in the 1960's but has proved extremely difficult to master. There were confident predictions of intelligent machines, or machine intelligence, that never came through. You would be amazed how hard it is to replicate common sense, or the number of apparently unimportant things the average person has to know in order to make a cup of tea.

So I don't see why artificial life should be any easier, actually it will probably be a zilliion times more difficult. Just another techno-fantasy as far as I am concerned. Before trying to create an artificial life, let's have a go at living the one we already have, shan't we?
Soul Brother
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2010 01:35 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;174529 wrote:
I don't see how artificial life could possibly be any easier than aritificial intelligence.


But they have created artificial life and intelligence. the problem is how do you define intelligence?

Avida is a great example of this. http://http://devolab.msu.edu/
0 Replies
 
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2010 02:19 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;174529 wrote:
I don't see how artificial life could possibly be any easier than aritificial intelligence. AI started off with great fanfare in the 1960's but has proved extremely difficult to master. There were confident predictions of intelligent machines, or machine intelligence, that never came through. You would be amazed how hard it is to replicate common sense, or the number of apparently unimportant things the average person has to know in order to make a cup of tea.

So I don't see why artificial life should be any easier, actually it will probably be a zilliion times more difficult. Just another techno-fantasy as far as I am concerned. Before trying to create an artificial life, let's have a go at living the one we already have, shan't we?


I personally think the only reason we have not succeeded with AI is because our method is flawed. I can draw a parallel to all those attempts at trying to make a flying machine. They tried to mimic birds, flapping wings and they never were successful. Not until they approached the problem from another angle. I think the solution will come not from trying to mimic the human brain or the human ways of thinking or even common sense but rather a whole different angle. I think it will be something very simple that many people will be asking why it wasn't thought of sooner.

I think once we understand how common sense or how we process information, that the door will open to how we design computers to actually process and respond to data input. It will happen but I'm sure there will be just as many people telling the Wright Brothers that there is no way a human will ever fly through the air.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2010 02:40 am
@Alan McDougall,
flying is a snap compared to AI. I think the idea that intelligence is something that can be reverse-engineered is an illusion. There's a great book on it called What Computers Can't Do, by Herbert Dreyfus.
0 Replies
 
Tsar
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Aug, 2010 06:47 am
I would like to point to the very essence of any attempt to create something, which may be called artificial, but resembles the key features of entities which have always existed in nature.

I do not know whether this will count as an objective judgment, but it seems to be paradigmatic for the modern age that humans are trying to gain knowledge of the objective world not by investigating the laws that govern this world, but to actually intrude in the workings of these laws. This is done by competing with nature for creating e.g. life forms. It is as if one cannot comprehend the world entirely without learning to interrupt sequences of causal relations so as to adapt them to the needs one is equally in vain to comrehend.

This kind of scientific method resembles that of mathematics, where you do not understand how things work unless you actually create these things by doing mathematics. Of course, one invests big efforts to discover how nature works and this requires a high degree of creativity. But this 'creativity' does not allow to create the way things and beings are created in nature. The scientific method of observation and infrerence of governing laws yields a certain picture of the world, a mere model. If we have that model, we say that we understand the world. But this is partial 'understanding'. One seeks true understanding by using this model, the rough draft, as a plan for the technological realisation of the laws found. It is only by impementing the laws in a constructed entity, which can be compared to the existing entity in nature, that one hopes to be able to see whether the scientific model conforms to reality or not.

So it seems that today's scientific method amounts to inserting the thinking subject into the network of causal relations in order to see how and to what extent this network determines the objective world around us.

But there remains the impossibility of taking up the position of the initial cause. That is we might be able to create things from raw material that is supplied by nature, which have different features. But is it enough? In the end one might be eager to learn how to create out of nothing. And this is impossible.
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Aug, 2010 12:47 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Can Science CREATE a Truth ? if not...then what it might get is to DISCOVER that something is possible...to make it simple, in the case I believe so !
0 Replies
 
 

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