In the Fall/Winter 2003 Issue of CIO Magazine, MIT’s Negroponte writes extensively about his dystopiean vision of future developments in GNR – genetics, nanotechnology and robotics. What surprised me is what he doesn’t mention – in fact, what I’ve yet to find explicitly published anywhere.

Homo Syntheticus. The ultimate GNR convergence. The species destined to supplant Homo sapiens.

A species in which synthetic genes that express as synthetic cells, tissues and organs with specific, predetermined technological functions. Genes that can, if desired by the individual, be coded to be passed along to future generations.

The basic components are here, and most certainly will grow in number, diversity, complexity and integration, marked by accelerating increases in the:

  1. specificity with which DNA, RNA and protein analysis can map structure to expression;
  2. precision, decreasing size and growing functional range of carbon, molecular and atomic nanostructures;
  3. autonomy of artificial intelligence (in its broadest sense) and artificial life; and
  4. sophistication of high-level languages for designing and constructing intelligent nanostructures.
Nothing new so far…but discussions have still been confined to genetic therapies, sensors, biocomputing, and other obvious topics. What’s missing is the leap to what might be called synthetic biology.
I see these leading to our ability to specify, design and code – through a genetic sequence design language, or GSDL – synthetic DNA and RNA (sDNA and sRNA, respectively) that autonomously expresses as synthetic proteins, cells, tissues and organs with not just bioartificial properties, but technological functionality as well.
Synthetic, self-assembling computational, communications, memory, sensorium, and other biodevices expressed from sDNA and sRNA – all in vivo, and able to be passed on to offspring if desired by the individual.
No more devices. No more implants. Just the bravest new world imaginable.
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