It's time to question bio-engineering - Paul Root Wolpe

It's time to question bio-engineering – Paul Root Wolpe

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today I want to talk about design but not design is we usually think about it I want to talk about what is happening now in our scientific biotechnological culture where for really the first time in history we have the power to design bodies to design animal bodies to design human bodies in the history of our planet there have been three great waves of evolution the first wave of evolution is what we think of as Darwinian evolution so as you all know species lived in particular ecological niches in particular environments and the pressures of those environments selected which changes through random mutations in species were going to be preserved then human beings stepped out of the Darwinian flow of evolutionary history and created the second great wave of evolution which was we changed the environment in which we evolved we altered our ecological niche by creating civilization and that has been the second great couple hundred thousand years one hundred and fifty thousand year flow of our evolution by changing our environment we put new pressures on our bodies to evolve whether it was through settling down in agricultural communities all the way through modern medicine we have changed our own evolution now we're entering a third Great Wave of evolutionary history which has been called many things intentional evolution evolution by design very different than intelligent design whereby we are actually now intentionally designing and altering the physiological forms that inhabit our planet so I want to take you through a kind of whirlwind tour of that and then at the end talk a little bit about what some of the implications are for us and for our species as well as our cultures because of this change now we actually have been doing it for a long time we started selectively breeding animals many many thousands of years ago and if you think of dogs for example dogs are now intentionally designed creatures there isn't a dog on this earth that's a natural creature dogs are the result of selectively breeding traits that we like but we had to do it the hard way in the old days by choosing offspring that looked a particular way and then breeding them we don't have to do it that way anymore this is a Beefalo a Beefalo is a buffalo cattle hybrid and they are now making them and someday perhaps pretty soon you will have Beefalo patties in your local supermarket this is a GEEP a goat sheep hybrid the scientists that made this cute little creature ended up slaughtering it and eating it afterwards I think they said it tastes like chicken this is a comma a comma is a camel llama hybrid created to try to get the hardiness of a camel with some of the personality traits of a llama and they are now using these in certain cultures then there's the liger this is the largest cat in the world the lion tiger hybrid it's bigger than a tiger and in the case of the liger there actually have been one or two that had been seen in the wild but these were created by scientists using both selective breeding and genetic technology and then finally everybody's favorite the source none of this is photoshopped these are real creatures and so one of the things we have been doing is using genetic enhancement or genetic manipulation of sort of normal selective breeding pushed a little bit through genetics and if that were all this was about then it would be an interesting thing but something much much more powerful is happening now these are normal mammalian cells genetically engineered with a bioluminescence Jeane taken out of deep-sea jellyfish we all know that some deep-sea creatures glow well they've now taken that gene that bioluminescent gene and put it into mammal cells these are normal cells and what you see here is these cells glowing in the dark under certain wavelengths of light once they could do that with cells they could do it with organisms so they did it with Mouse pups kittens and by the way the reason the kittens here are orange and these are green is because that's a bioluminescent gene from coral while this is from jellyfish they did it with pigs they did it with puppies and in fact they did it with monkeys and if you can do it with monkeys though the great leap in trying to genetically manipulate is actually between monkeys and apes if they can do it in monkeys they can probably figure out how to do it in Apes which means they can do it in human beings in other words it is theoretically possible that before too long we will be bio technologically capable of creating human beings that glow in the dark be easier to find us at night and in fact right now in many states you can go out and you can buy bioluminescent pets these are zebrafish they're normally black and silver these are sea brofist that have been genetically engineered to be yellow green red and they are actually available now in certain states other states have banned them nobody knows what to do with these kinds of creatures there is no area of the government not the EPA or the FDA that controls genetically engineered pets and so some states have decided to allow them some states have decided to ban them some of you may have read about the FDA's consideration right now of genetically engineered salmon the salmon on top is a genetically engineered chinook salmon using a gene from the salmon and from one other fish that we eat to make it grow much faster using a lot less need and right now the FDA is trying to make a final decision on whether pretty soon you could be eating this fish it'll be sold in the stores and before you get too worried about it here in the United States the majority of food you buy in the supermarket already has genetically modified components to it so even as we worry about it we have allowed it to go on in this country much different in Europe without any regulation and even without any identification on the package these are all the first cloned animals of their type so in the lower right here you have dolly the first cloned sheep now happily stuffed in a museum in Edinboro Ralph the rat the first cloned rat Cece the cat four cloned cat Snuppy the first cloned dog Snuppy for Seoul National University puppy created in South Korea by the very same man that some of you may remember how to end up resigning in disgrace because he claimed he had cloned a human embryo which he had not he actually was the first person to clone a dog which is a very difficult thing to do because dog genomes are very plastic this is pro media the first cloned horse it's a halfling or horse cloned in Italy a real gold ring of cloning because there are many horses that win important races who are geldings in other words the equipment to put them out to stud has been removed but if you can clone that horse you can have both the advantage of having a gelding run in the race and is identical genetic duplicate can then be put out to stud these were the first cloned calves the first cloned gray wolves and then finally the first cloned piglets Alexa Chrissie Carol Janie and dot-com in addition we've started to use cloning technology to try to save endangered species this is the use of animals now to create drugs and other things in their bodies that we want to create so with antithrombin in that goat that goat has been genetically modified so that the molecule fools of its milk actually include the molecule of antithrombin that GTC genetics wants to create and then in addition transgenic pigs knockout pigs from the National Institute of Animal Science in South Korea are pigs that they are going to use in fact to try to create all kinds of drugs and other industrial types of chemicals that they want the blood and the milk of these animals to produce for them instead of producing them in an industrial way these are two creatures that were created in order to save endangered species the guar is an endangered Southeast Asian ungulate it was a somatic cell a body cell was taken from its body just stated in the ovum of a cow and then that cow gave birth to a guar same thing happened with the mullen where it's an endangered species of sheep it's it was just hated in a regular sheep body which actually raises an interesting biological problem we have two kinds of DNA in our bodies we have our nucleic DNA that everybody thinks of as our DNA but we also have DNA in our mitochondria which are the energy packets of the cell that DNA is passed down through our mothers so really what you end up having here is not a guar and not a muffin but a guar with cow mitochondria and therefore cow mitochondrial DNA and a Moo Flynn with another species of sheep's mitochondrial DNA these are really hybrids not pure animals and it raises the question of how we're going to define animal species in the age of biotechnology a question that we're not really sure yet how to solve this lovely creature is an Asian cockroach and what they've done here is they've put electrodes in its ganglia and its brain and then a transmitter on top and it's on a big computer tracking ball and now using a joystick they can send this creature around the lab and control whether it goes left to right forward or backwards they've created a kind of insect bot or bug body it gets worse than that or perhaps better than that this actually is one of DARPA is very important DARPA is the defense research agency one of their projects these Goliath beetles are wired in their wings they have a computer chip strapped to their backs and they can fly these creatures around the lab they can make them go left right I can make them take off they can actually make them land they put them about one inch above the ground and then they shut everything off when they go but it's a close as they can get to a landing and in fact this technology has gotten so developed that this creature this is a moth this is the moth in in its poopa stage and that's when they put the wires in and they put the computer technology so that when the moth is actually emerges as a moth it is already pre-wired the wires are already in its body and they can just hook it up to their technology and now they've got these bug BOTS that they can send out for surveillance they can put little cameras on them and perhaps some day delivering other kinds of ordnance to war zones it's not just insects this is the rat pot or the Robo rat by Sanjeev Talwar it SUNY Downstate again it's got technology it's got electrodes going into its left and right hemispheres it's got a camera on top of its head the scientists can make this creature go left right they have it running through mazes controlling where it's going they now created an organic robot the graduate students and Sanji's kawaras lab said is this ethical we taken away the autonomy of this animal and get back to that in a minute there's also been work done with monkeys this is Miguel Nicolelis of Duke he took all monkeys wired them up so that a computer watched their brains while they moved especially looking at the move the right arm the computer learned what the monkey brain did to move its arm in various ways they then hooked it up to a prosthetic arm which you see here in the picture put the arm in another room pretty soon the computer learned by reading the monkeys brainwaves to make that arm in the other room do whatever the monkeys arm did then he put a video monitor in the monkeys cage that showed the monkey this prosthetic arm and the monkey got fascinated the monkey recognized that whatever she did with her arm this prosthetic arm would do and eventually she was moving it and moving it and eventually stopped moving her right arm and staring at the screen could move the prosthetic arm in the other room only with her brain waves which means that monkey became the first primate in history of the world to have three independent functional arms and it's not just technology that were putting into animals this is Tomas de marsay University of Florida he took 20,000 then 60,000 disaggregated rat neurons so these are just individual neurons from rats put them on a chip they self aggregated into a network became a integrated chip and he used that as the IT piece of a mechanism which ran a flight simulator so now we have organic computer chips made out of living self aggregating neurons finally Musa Ivaldi of Northwestern took a completely intact independent lamprey eel brain this is a brain from a lamprey eel it is living fully intact brain in a nutrient medium with these electrodes going off to the sides attached photosensitive sensors to the brain put it into a cart here's the cart the brain is sitting there in the middle and using this brain as the sole processor for this cart when you turn on the light and shine it at the cart the cart moves towards the light when you turn it off it moves away it's photo philic so now we have a complete living lamprey Oh brain is it thinking lamprey eel thoughts sitting there in its nutrient medium I don't know but in fact it is a fully living brain that we have managed to keep alive to do our bidding so we are now at the stage where we are creating creatures for our own purposes this is a mouse created by Charles Vacanti of University of Massachusetts he altered this Mouse so that it was genetically engineered to have skin that was less immunoreactive to human skin put a polymer scaffolding of an ear under it and created an ear that could then be taken off the mouse and transplanted onto a human being genetic engineering coupled with polymer physio technology coupled with xenotransplantation this is where we are in this process finally not that long ago craig Venter created the first artificial cell where he took a cell took a DNA synthesizer which is a machine created an artificial genome put it in the cell and net of a different cell the genome was not of the cell he put it in and that cell then reproduced as the other cell in other words that was the first creature in the history of the world that had a computer as its parent it did not have an organic parent and so asked The Economist's the first artificial organism and its consequences so you may have thought that the creation of life was going to happen in something that looked like that but in fact that's not what Frankenstein's lab looks like this is what Frankenstein's lab looks like this is a DNA synthesizer and here at the bottom are just bottles of ATC and G the four chemicals that make up our DNA chain and so we need to ask ourselves some questions for the first time in the history of this planet we are able to directly design organisms we can manipulate the plasm of life with unprecedented power and it confers on us a responsibility is everything okay is it okay to manipulate and create whatever creatures we want do we have free rein to design animals do we get to go someday two pets are us and say look I want a dog I'd like it to have the head of a dachshund the body of a retriever maybe some pink fur and let's make it glow in the dark does industry get to create creatures who in their milk in their blood and their saliva and other bodily fluids create the drugs and industrial molecules we want and then we're house them as organic manufacturing machines do we get to create organic robots where we remove the autonomy from these animals and turn them just into our playthings and then the final step of this once we perfect these technologies and animals and we start using them in human beings what are the ethical guidelines that we will use then it's already happening it's not science fiction we are not only already using these things in animals some of them were already beginning to use on our own bodies we are now taking control of our own evolution we are directly designing the future of the species of this planet it confers upon us an enormous responsibility that is not just the responsibility of the scientists and the Ephesus or thinking about it and writing about it now it is a responsibility of everybody because it will determine what kind of planet and what kind of bodies we will have in the future thanks

30 thoughts on “It's time to question bio-engineering – Paul Root Wolpe

  • Fx 1C

    So where are the Kidney,Lungs and Hearts for transplantation instead of paying god elsewhere.

  • Royal Byrd

    Worst Tedtalk i've seen. I think it's funny that he says "None of this is photoshopped" right after he shows a photoshopped picture of a liger.

  • Georg Wilde

    Just don't go for collectivism and let individual be responsible for his choices and there will be no terrible atrocities. The collectivistic regimes of 20th century was source of the atrocities, not too much of individual freedom.

  • Georg Wilde

    No, you are taking no control. Leave these scientists and engineers alone. You are not taking their freedom away. Keep your pseudo-ethical freedom-infringing agenda for yourself.

  • Greg Veggellj

    haha remember that this video was posted 6 years ago omg haha in those 6 years it has all escalated immensely for sure!

  • Greg Veggellj

    remember the ancient history where Greek and many other ancient civilizations had depictions of hydras and all manners of creatures of apparently mixed genetic traits – perhaps abominations but in a beautiful sense – we deemed these ancient "abominations" as legends and myths but might just be a reality soon soon … perhaps too soon 😉 and this might lead us to a spin off where we will discover that we are just a species that is evolving cyclically – from rock bottom (literally) to hyperspace evolution and then we self destruct – some leave the planet and keep evolving while others survive the re-emerging cycle and this is who we are nowadays – the re-emerging of what was left after self-destruction and the UFO/Alien phenomenon is actually us from the past cycles which didn't end up as a restart but kept on going in depths of the space – returning here to this Earth to see what has become of it only for them to find that new cycles have emerged. perhaps a potential interesting hypothesis

  • edward John

    Professor Montgomery Weirdo and his assistant Count Kook knew what to do when making bio-engineered Milton the Monster. They gave him a touch of tenderness for without a touch of tenderness he might destroy them… Oops too much. 👍

  • Dimanjan Dahal


  • Malcolm Burton

    Such a freak technology why would anyone as a human want to glow in the dark

    Then the guy says we will be eating g.m.o. salmon soon but don't worry about it because most food we eat are already g.m.o. that are not regulated or labeled thank you F.D.A. for selling out the American Public

    I do not want to go to school for bio-engineering after watching this

  • Hoodhippo


  • Carlos Mantilla

    Haha,lets build an army of mindless meek slaves that can lift a thousandpounds work for days without food and when needed,provide organs.Um..Maybe not.How about crossing a large python with a dog?Would the dog like it(I could care less what the snake thinks)Any one see the classic film"The fly"?And even worst combos can be conjured.A website could be created distasteful as such things can be,there will always be rogue science,beyond ethics,scruples or morals.Its just the way things are.

  • Camil Serapian

  • Oh thats Reagan

    Im still beliving the zorse is photo shoped, where is the shadow? Cool concept tho

  • Benjiman Vaughn


  • Mardochee Jeant

    This is so wrong Man trying to be God the end is almost here

  • LinaE

    It was interesting

  • Nova Martin

    Me left ear enjoyed this

  • tob ffutsmodnar

    Another part i liked is when he said " Is it thing lam pray eel thoughts?" is it?

  • tob ffutsmodnar

    So wait if we eat steak with gigantism within our growing ages we could have gigantism?

  • Injectoplaktor

    I do not know if I am fascinated or…

    VERRY FUCKING FASCINATED. Absolutely everything in this video is amazing. We have gotten to a point, in which we have done all these things. In fact I am so close to my childhood dream of creating an ant in a lab and then have absolute controll over it. I will be the king of a hive! Yes I am fun at parties.

  • Majestic

    My poor left ear!

  • Dlxgp

    my left ear enjoyed this

  • Penguin


  • Cheese

    Audio only comes out of one side of headphones 0/10

  • piscesbambina

    I totally want to glow in the dark!!

  • Bjørn Larsen

    My left ear enjoyed this

  • Celayna Pearl

    We already know that the loss of certain species would cause a chain reaction that effects other species (bees for example)

    We have no way of knowing 100% what the impact would be (down the road) of adding species that previously never existed…

    “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” (yes Jurassic Park quote but ffs…. Think)

  • The Grand Daddy

    tfw ur only watching this cause of Science Class

  • Zander Chen

    time to build the Spartans. John-117 green lit

  • Zander Chen

    God gave us dominion , so yes , yes we do

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