*Before I get started with this update I'd like to note that it is the culmination of a line of thought that’s been working me over for the better part of the last couple of weeks. Its long-winded and tends to meander as I often do when thinking over some fairly complicated ideas and concepts but I think it offers some interesting ideas that haven’t been talked about much, some of which are a surprise to not see in serious discussion, fanciful as they may seem when one first hears them. Those of you who know me know I like to theorize on the potential of some fantastic things, this is no exception. Hope you enjoy the reading. *
It’s been a while since I’ve messed with this; journals really aren’t my thing let alone something open for other people to read. I’ve been working hard toward getting my art site online but distractions abound at every turn and here I sit still working on it.
I was on a roll with the art for the site and the other temporary content I intended to put online but the Texas summer officially began putting a halt to all work on the site to fix up my a/c so the new network wont meltdown when full summer hits. During this time a number of things came to my attention that served to further my distraction once the a/c work was finished.
I'd managed to get back on track when yet another item came to light and returned me to the train of thought that had me so distant for nearly a week. Today’s information is about the stem cell clone work done in South Korea that was announced today and the subsequent declaration by bush to veto any bill that came before him increasing the funding for stem cell research if it went beyond the contaminated lines his previous legislation allowed for.
The breakthrough from South Korea greatly impressed me as I began to read further into it and consider the potential it offers. Properly developed it offers a way to provide nearly on demand an unlimited source of stem cells genetically identical to the patient.
Granted at this point we lack the tech and understanding to fully utilize these cells to their fullest it is only a matter of short time. Now that it is viable to produce vast numbers of these cells without using cells harvested in the current unappealing manor the work of finding the triggers that tell cell X to become cell a b c or d can begin in earnest. Working with the limited numbers allowed currently dramatically impacts the speed at which the triggers can be identified. The fact that the current lines in the US are contaminated further impinges on this progress.
The human cloning issue seems like a major conflict in the making but it is techniques such as this and others of recent note that convince me it need not be the case. Used in concert with other radical technologies and vastly improved existing techs the use of stem cells generated in this manor to create volumes of specific cells for specific organs or tissues eliminates entirely the need to grow entire organs or clone a person 'head to toe' for harvesting replacement parts.
The recent development of the skin print technique for generating sheets of new patient specific skin by itself is a marvel of innovative thinking and the first step towards something grander. Stereo lithography for rapid prototyping has improved to the point of being a commercially viable system for a number of products some of which use essentially the same printer head arrangement as the skin print system.
Separately they fill their niches well but to tie them together you need to know the exact form and placement of tissues in the various organs you wish to replicate, the advances in 3d MRI suit this well. As the MRI systems advance the level of detail and imaging resolution will only improve but they are close enough as is to bridge the gap between stereo lithography and skin print.
Patient X goes in monthly for routine 3d MRI mapping when doctor Y finds signs of potentially serious illness *assume cancer or kidney failure or some other major concern* Detailed 3d MRI maps are examined and the conditions onset is scrutinized while a treatment plan is initiated. From the maps a detailed model of the organ to be replaced is generated defining the exact volumes of the specific cells necessary to duplicate the intricacies of said organ.
Skin print uses a biodegradable lattice to spray the cultured cells onto where they take hold and develop into new skin, to do this for organs in 3d a layer of the lattice is sprayed down intermixed with cells designated for the region of the organ working up layer by layer until the 3dmri model is generated in the tank. Excess material used to support the developing organ is then removed and the organ given the battery of tests necessary to ensure its functionality and viability and compatability.
Once the viability of the transplant item is confirmed the patient is prepped surgery takes place and recovery is monitored until such time as the patient can leave or a problem is identified and dealt with.
The concept might sound a bit more familiar or even believable if you have seen the movie the fifth element. Those familiar with the movie know the regen tank used to grow an entirely new body from a single surviving cell. Fantastical as this was it does serve as a good example of the stereo litho concept. While I do not believe the personality and memories of a being could be replicated at this point I do believe the tech exists or is short to come about to replicate organs or tissues as needed.
We can currently culture all the various cells that make up our bodies but the process to collect the cells to initiate those cultures is painful for most and dangerous for some. Chemically nudging the undifferentiated stem cells grown in the method from South Korea into the various types en masse wont be an easy matter to resolve but it is solvable, it just needs to be worked out testing as many the triggers at a time as possible. Some will scoff and say the sheer number of possible combinations is too daunting right now. The human genome was also too daunting but it has been mapped, all the points on the map are perhaps not entirely defined but are being examined and defined precisely with each passing day. We hear on occasion results regarding important discoveries in the genome and what part of it is responsible for what part of us so the claim of being to big a challenge to undertake right now is mute.
As I sat here contemplating the potential of the news on the stem cell imagining various scenarios we face in the near future earlier to help solidify my ideas I spent a good deal of time chatting with a friend of mine the topic switched to the implications of what might happen should the US legislate the science to death. I mentioned the possibility of a device that even to me seemed a bit of a stretch but possible nonetheless. Work in biological systems that might eventually lead to a power source that uses biological processes to generate electrical power was used as one example of what we might miss out on. When I made the statement I had no idea that the idea would be viable and currently practical as I thought it up. Then much the same way I came across the Korean announcement I came across a story that again shook my imagination and fired off new rounds of inquiry.
I’d taken a pause from writing this very entry and was enjoying a bit of breakfast when I caught the story of a new motor made using heart muscles working in opposition to drive the motor. This is a prime example of the biological system I was envisioning for the biological power source. As the muscle tissues contract and rock the system back and forth a ratchet could be attached to a micro generator and flywheel or built to a slightly larger scale the system could be packaged in cells resembling conventional batteries that require little input to generate a constant electrical supply.
Obviously there are many arrangements that could be used instead of a rotational generator since the action of muscle tissue is linear so the shape is speculative and easier to define per individual application. Scaled up a biologic generator could have a lifespan measured in decades using some of the simplest of fuels.
I’m sure to a lot of people who might stumble across this and sit through the read will initially consider the ideas unrealistic and I fully understand the doubt and skepticism, it does sound too fantastic. A machine for growing complete organs using an inkjet printer and some fancy software or an electrical generator using strong heart muscle tissue to drive the current. It wasn’t that long ago that the 5th element showed the 1st fully visualized system I’d come across. It wasn’t long after that i saw the 1st gen rapid prototyping machines and thought of the connection then came skin print. The first real step was taken and according to all accounts successful. Better still the creator himself described the exact same idea for replicating organs as a potential to be developed out from skin print. Obviousdly it isn't as unrealistic as it initially seems.
Ever since I read that I’ve been working the process over in my head and it surprised me to realize that essentially the entire tech to begin working out the 'replicator' *for lack of a better term* was already on the shelf. For organs muscles bone or any transplant item to be made you have to start with the basics, the cells that do the work of the item. We have been able to grow cultures of every cell our bodies produce for ages now so this isn’t a major issue by itself. The lattice for laying down the tissues in the proper arrangement depends on the item to be built, if it is to be soft tissue a collagen type lattice that can be broken down and absorbed into the body with relative ease. For bone a calcium base or some other material suitable for infusing with and supporting bone cell growth.
With a source of the cells necessary to produce the item the next thing is the machine to actually produce it. At this point we are several generations into stereo lithography and it wouldn’t be difficult to modify one of the newer machines to feed the materials for the product into the assorted print heads necessary to ensure exact placement of cells. Precision would be a must so the system would have to work to unprecedented levels but this isn’t an issue as precision is what computers do best, so long as the operators do their job right in the instructions.
Ok now there’s the tissue source and the means to assemble them into a usefully structure but you have to define the exact structure, here is where the 3d MRI comes in handy. Using the advanced 3d MRI techniques exacting maps of a given body part organ or bone can be generated detailing blood vessel and nervous tissue layout and if I recall correctly the orientation of muscle tissue. With a map detailing the placement of the various elements of the organ the final part of the replicator is in place.
Sounds a bit too simple, too fantastical to be possible but with a bit of googling and some diligent reading the truth becomes hard to ignore. Even without the advances in cloning tech to provide a person's own cells without invasive sampling all the elements are available in some fashion. No real need to tweak cloning just need to tweak and fine-tune skin print to use multiple cell types and the collagen lattice and interface that with an MRI model to build from. Yes there is a lot of work to make this work but its work on proven technologies to make a new process. Something I’m rather fond of actually.
Another thing that had my mind buzzing was the Sony patent for ultrasonic neural interface. Yes they say the idea is decades away from realization but the granting of the patent sets a precedent and encourages other companies to investigate similar interfaces thus accelerating the research. The Japanese have long been interested in a much more immersive interface where in reality could be displaced entirely allowing a complete sensory experience. Doing so without extremely invasive surgery to implant cybernetic interfaces is the obvious better option. The fact that Sony applied for a patent for this tech clearly indicates active research into the interface regardless of public statements. I honestly don’t blame them for downplaying the patent. They are in the middle of a new generation of media systems and need the public to be focused on what’s at hand right now not what’s to come in a few years.
With the rate of improvement in computer speed processing power audio performance and graphics a totally immersive experience is close at hand just from a visual and auditory standpoint. Incorporating the other stimuli will require vast improvements in computers but here also we see the beginnings of systems capable of the task. 64bit cpus will probably see the initial test runs before being replaced by the next gen processors. I don’t personally see cpus remaining in their current format much beyond the next 5yrs, new processes in creating cpus and new cpu design will make a major jump in capability from 64 to 256 or higher. Nanotech processes are already producing incredible systems any of which could change computers, as we know them.
It wouldn’t be bad to assume that there will be three specific areas that will drive the interface starting with military applications then the adult entertainment industry and followed by gaming/entertainment. I leave out regular media like television or movies, as I believe those venues will be entirely displaced by home entertainment systems. Video gaming has after all displaced movies as the biggest moneymaker. I see the US catching up in a single stroke in regards to broadband Internet access nationwide. Its been a while since it went in for fcc testing so it should be nearing the end of the testing cycle and green lighted for commercial application. I’m talking about ultra wide band broadband. The data volume increase and distance between towers for this system make it one of the more appealing since it requires very little in regards to infrastructure as compared to similar cable or telecom services.
The military use is a given. Immersive interfacing with military hardwire will revolutionize mechanized combat. No real need to cite examples but I would like to note this is another area where the Japanese have long held the lead. The interface combined with the secure nature of uwb-bb would allow combat pilots to operate the various mechanized elements from the relative safety of a secure area behind the front lines. Since the pilot wouldn’t be exposed to the hazards of combat the machines can be formatted to endure considerable damage and continue operating or in the case of fighter aircraft the telepresence operator would be able to put the jet through maneuvers that would kill a person. Of course it wouldn’t do to talk about the combat end of the interface and ignore the medical aspect. The interface would allow for an unprecedented means of remote surgery and trauma care. Both macro and micro surgical systems would take on new depth and functionality.
The military implications are the obvious 1st uses in this day and age but it should be noted that there is 1 area that dominates the global market like no other; globally the sex industry is the most lucrative business period. Good example of this fact is viagra. 'nuff said. *grin* of course this too is an area where the Japanese have a notable lead, as the adult videogame industry there illustrates so well. As soon as the interface hits the market someone will use it for erotica or explicit cybersex, which will take on an entirely new meaning. Someone will also use the interface to experience sex from a different perspective, say from the perspective of his or her partner. Of course this also raises the question 'since its virtual reality and completely immersive why remain human?' In virtual space there’s no reason a person shouldn’t be able to experience life as a tentacle monster right? This leads into the third driving force that will push the interface forward gaming.
The anime/video game series .hack is a good example of how it might work out from a gaming standpoint. An entire universe hosted on massive servers where the players experience reality as conceived by someone else. The ability to choose what you appear like in that virtual universe as defined by the game creator. No real need for holodecks when you can project the experience directly into your brain right?
Yeah yeah I know it sounds terribly fanciful pie in the sky and all that rot but at the rate of progress we are seeing now and factoring in the very secretive nature of some companies in regards to their research is it so hard to believe? It wasn’t long ago that things like clones and ion drive engines were mere fiction. The idea that a space program could be done in a reasonable price range has also been proven recently, Rutan is moving to capitalize on his success with ss1. The deal with virgin will pay for the next phase of his project ss2.
As computers have gotten more powerful the scientific spectrum has matched pace, as it continues it gains speed and as of right now it’s moving at an exhilarating pace. I don’t see the declarations that 'its still a long way off' as being very accurate on any of the tech I’ve rambled on about here in. The general public is privy to only a small fraction of the information on these topics. In the interest of security both national and corporate the vast majority remains in the black sector. Guestimation based on what is available for perusing screams interesting things to come.
The debate over the clone aspect of the stem cell collection stands to set the tone for progress however. Turning what should be a purely scientific endeavor into a political hotbed. The production of a cluster of cells specifically for dissection has been done for as long as we have been able to see individual cells. Considering that the cluster in question is manufactured and allowed to develop only long enough for the stem cells from it to mature for harvesting it shouldn’t even be an issue. The cells wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the people putting them together in the 1st place and aren’t intended to go full term. There is no ethical issue here. Yes it is possible the cell cluster could develop into a full embryo effectively cloning the donor of genetic material but the cells are dissected long before that even becomes an issue.
The ability to generate stem cells without using embryos left over from invetro or the other method should be seen as the ideal solution to research into changing stem cells into the various tissues that compose our bodies. As I’ve stated from the start the advancement of stem cell research will go hand in hand with other new techs and effectively eliminate the issue of growing a clone or cloned organ to full maturity. Since the combination of stereo lithography MRI and skin print would allow the generation of entire organs or limbs the once major concern of 'how to get full size parts from duplicated cells' is gone. No need to grow an entire body when only an arm is needed.
Some organs wont be as easy to replicate as others obviously and its unlikely there will be any attempts initially to try the big one. Things like eyes will require some extra work, the liquid lens of a human eye isn’t exactly easy to replicate. Attempts at duplicating a brain will likely never become viable with this technique, while the lattice would provide the structural framework to support the initial layout of neuro tissue there is no way to ensure the neurons link up in a functional manner. Attempts to do so will also be met with a furor the world over no doubt though I am interested in the research. Someone somewhere will try it regardless so I guess it’s just a matter of wait and see.
I believe in all honesty that the next few years will be unprecedented in terms of social and technological changes. The old curse 'may your children be born in interesting times' will be well represented. The two major technological systems I rambled on about here are just singular elements in the whole picture. The ultrasonic interface is not alone in its promise to change the way we connect to the machines we make. There is considerable research being done in the surgical direct neural interface and research is showing that neuro tissue actually likes interfacing with electronics and actively does so. Then there is the research into nanotech, there is now a mechanical motor plenty sufficient for powering the nanomachines long envisioned. Compared to individual cells the machines would be much larger but would still be considerably smaller than the best current medical tech. Yes there’s a lot of hype around nanotech but its justified.
When I first learned the term nanite I knew it would be very important in the future, it was in a book called Gryphon I read in the mid to late 80s and it completely altered how I looked at the world. The time since reading that book has been spent in constant learning and as I've watched the idea has gone from mere fiction and hopeful speculation to a serious matter with laboratories the world over working themselves into the ground to be the 1st to announce success. The word nanotech is tossed around with surprising familiarity in a relatively short period of time. Most people don’t realize just how pervasive nanotech has become in society. Nanopowders in makeup carbon fibre nanotubes used in composites heck even the cpus in modern comps is nearing the nanometer scale if they're not already there. How many bits are stuffed onto a cpu?
As nanotech matures it will offer a fundamental change to us but it comes with the potential to destroy it all if misused. The use of medical nanites has been envisioned as making new treatments and medical procedures possible but this lacks the forward thinking seen in the book I referenced earlier. Even in the 1st generation of medical nanites the potential is far more than most people can imagine. I saw some article that mentioned nanites being used to remove toxins in a person’s blood stream so muscles don’t fatigue or to augment the function of kidneys. This is a valid use and a good idea but I offer something else.
Instead of the nanites simply servicing our systems why not replace them entirely? Working from the inside out nanites would be in position to replace natural muscle fibre with synthetic and maintain it over the course of use. Replacing muscles alone allows for some dramatic alterations, with synthetic muscles blood isn’t as important so the bones themselves can be altered. Instead of producing blood the bones can be made stronger and lighter and function purely for structural or can be used to store energy like a battery. Without muscle blood or bone you don’t need nearly as much food, your brain only needs the end result of the digestive process, which is delivered by blood. Ok to answer the question before it’s asked, if the bone marrow isn’t there to produce blood anymore and thus there is a shortage of blood to transport said nutrients to the brain then there must be a system to serve this purpose. The nanites themselves are prefect in this regard capable of transporting both nutrition and o2 in more than sufficient quantities to keep the brain happy and functional.
Ok now I know the previous statements will get laughs and scoffing because it is so far out there but consider its not my idea. The guy who wrote gryphon thought this up. Back in the 80s. The day the 1st successful nanite is announced the ideas become possbile. Some people will inevitably refuse and denounce the practice while others will embrace it whole-heartedly. I am of the latter as should be obvious from the body of this absurdly long-winded post. The moral and ethical issues presented by the clone/stem cell debate will pale in comparison to the questions raised by the nanite revolution. The definition of life will need to be redefined as we incorporate more technology into our bodies. Currently pacemakers are the most widely used cybernetic augmentation. Incorporating tech into our very being is already globally accepted, cybernetic prosthetics are currently under development the world over. Direct neural links connecting the prosthetic to the user are being developed, right now the limbs are very crude but the rate of improvement is unprecedented some are actively pushing the limits of tech and producing outstanding results. It is entirely possible that if prosthetics continue to improve at this rate in the very near future artificial limbs will function better and have greater endurance than the original limbs they replace. When that happens some people will elect to have limbs replaced voluntarily. The current trends in purely cosmetic surgeries attests to this, any improvement will be whole-heartedly accepted by those who can afford it.
When nanites come on the scene it shouldn’t be a surprise that some people will use them to rebuild themselves from the inside out. The military will likely be the first to implement this. Unsol anyone? Scary thought yes but entirely feasible.
The more I write the more unrealistic the entire thing seems even to me but every time I get that feeling I am reminded of the hard facts on hand. Skin print works. Nanotech is actively being pursued and progress is astounding. Stereo lithography hasn’t been applied to all the areas it’s applicable and while it is still a young tech it is maturing and evolving rapidly. Body imaging is improving at a rate on par with the other tech mentioned and the detail is improving to match the requirements of the replicator. On the whole while it all seems to be the stuff of the far future it’s surprising to note its not as far off as it may seem. Only politics stand in the way of tremendous opportunity. For me it’s a no brainer. Ever forward we must go. Once Pandora’s box is opened there is no returning to the way things were. Attempting to roll events back through legislation or declaration will only drive the research into sectors without proper control and oversight at worst or to places where no such restrictions exist and provide them with a significant edge over those who suppress it.
The box is open, there is no closing it and we need to take the initiative or be left behind. Current Mood: contemplative