Attitudes to life extension via genetic engineering

Patrick O'Neil patrick at corona
Wed Mar 1 15:29:50 EST 1995

On Wed, 1 Mar 1995, Peter Merel wrote:

> >  To make a comment on your above statement:  the deserts do not NEED to
> >be reclaimed.  Reclaimed to what?  Deserts are ecologies with perfectly
> >adapted species in their own right and have been here since before the
> >dinosaurs.  They ain't broke.  
> Never heard of the Sahara or the Gobi?  Those are _man-made_ deserts.
> They're the result of thousands of years of poor agricultural
> practices. Most of the continent I live on is one big man-made desert -
> before the arrival of the man and the dog, central Australia was a huge
> inland sea, with a fantastic variety of flourishing flora and fauna; a
> minimal desert ecology has evolved in its place, but for the most part it 
> is now nothing but flat dry red earth. Men destroyed it - why shouldn't
> men recreate it?

I agree, which is why I make the one caveat:
> >There ARE areas that were once plains or
> >forest that are now arid as a direct result of human activity
> >(overgrazing, over-cutting, over-tapping of water supplies, downright
> >STUPID farming practices) and could use a little reclaimation, but
> >hopefully not ONLY so people will buy real estate there to build houses
> >and cities on. 

> Imho, we have two ways to go from here. One way is down into a pit of
> constant resource scarcity, ignorance, war, famine and suffering; the

This is where I believe it will go before anything better arises.  It is 
part of our history, and part of normal human and societal short-sightedness.

> work", but real engineering problems. Stop waving your hands and tell
> us what the problems are - then your skepticism will be healthy. 

I am far from being against tech.  Hell, I love the biotech work I do but 
I realize, now that I have been doing it for a while, that there is a 
long road to walk and that no easy answers from tech are forthcoming.  A 
lot of technologies that have given people high hopes/expectations, have 
failed to deliver - CERTAINLY not performed up to expectations.  People 
are impatient and generally fail to understand that this isn't a 
supersonic jet to a specific destination, rather it is a high-speed 
off-road vehicle that take twists and turns that have little to do with 
the original goal or dream.  You simply go and things fall out of the 
side that may or may not be relevant or useful.  It's an old saw but true 
to the extreme:  every answer to a question produces ever more questions.


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