Some thoughts on genetically modified foods in the future, courtesy of Sentient Developments. In the present, however, there seem to be plenty of problems with GM foods as developed by Monsanto,potentially resulting in suicides in India and a recent link to mammalian organ failure.
Ronald Bailey makes the Case For Enhancing People, an excellent article that I might have to post some more commentary on once the holidays have passed and I have a day or two to really think about everything he’s saying.
MIT has a nice summary of materials science advances in the past year, including much more efficient color-emitting technology, vastly more efficient batteries, and invisibility cloaks.
Care2 has a short piece on cheap solar panels; not very powerful, but enough to make a significant difference in the poorest of countries.
Finally, doctors are going to begin routinely screening human genomes in some hospitals to help cross reference (presumably anonymous) patient data in an effort to find commonalities between people with diseases. The information mined from this ought to help create more effective drug treatments, or even allow for the beginnings of customized medicine.
Happy New Year to everyone!
NewScientist blogs a nice year in review; the top 10 tech stories of the year. Conspicuously absent is some of the work that’s been done on brain machine interfaces, driverless cars, prosthetic technology, and almost anything relating to human genomes or other medical technology. Still, it’s a nice list.
Also from Newscientist, a few quick thoughts on the Human Connectome Project. If you haven’t yet heard of it, the HCP aims to map the human brain. As the article states, the really interesting things will start happening once the data starts coming in around late-2012.
One last article from Newscientist quickly reviews the problems with using the Turing Test to measure machine IQ; the test is both too narrow (because it only tests linguistic aptitude) and too hard (because linguistics are difficult to begin with). Author Paul Marks links to a couple alternatives to the Turing Test that might be more appropriate.
Finally, the Indian government is suing Monsanto for “biopiracy,” claiming that Monsanto is stealing local crops to produce genetically modified versions for sale in other areas of the world. In large part, I think genetically modified foods are going to be necessary in the not-too-distant future to continue to feed (or enable the feeding of) the world’s massive population, but the strong-arm tactics Monsanto seems to apply really turns people off of GM foods in general. Still, biopiracy is kind of an odd claim; aren’t these crops available at a local market, and if so, how could one patent a naturally occurring food? Without a patent, how could anyone, even Monsanto, pirate it? I’ll keep an eye on the story as it develops.