Klaus Schwab said something recently that got people’s hackles up.
“Artificial Intelligence, but not only artificial intelligence, but also, the metaverse, near-space technologies, and I could go on and on – synthetic biology. Our life in ten years from now, will be completely different, very much affected, and – who masters those technologies, in some way, will be the master of the world.”
Here’s the problem: he’s not wrong. People get pissed off when they hear statements like master of the world because they think it’s an empty threat; little more than the idle bluster of a megalomaniac. It most certainly isn’t. The reason why people don’t see what this technology is capable of is because, for one thing, they aren’t cursed with an overactive imagination, and for another, they aren’t used to holistic systems thinking, and lastly, there has been next to no mainstream media coverage of synthetic biology, because if there was, people would rightly be having a conniption fit.
I’m going to ask you something that may strike you as a little bit strange. What is an internal organ? The textbook answer is something along the lines of specialized tissue in the body that performs a specific function. But what if I told you that an internal organ can be whatever the heck we want it to be?
RSC – A morphospace for synthetic organs and organoids: the possible and the actual
Efforts in evolutionary developmental biology have shed light on how organs are developed and why evolution has selected some structures instead of others. These advances in the understanding of organogenesis along with the most recent techniques of organotypic cultures, tissue bioprinting and synthetic biology provide the tools to hack the physical and genetic constraints in organ development, thus opening new avenues for research in the form of completely designed or merely altered settings. Here we propose a unifying framework that connects the concept of morphospace (i.e. the space of possible structures) with synthetic biology and tissue engineering. We aim for a synthesis that incorporates our understanding of both evolutionary and architectural constraints and can be used as a guide for exploring alternative design principles to build artificial organs and organoids. We present a three-dimensional morphospace incorporating three key features associated to organ and organoid complexity. The axes of this space include the degree of complexity introduced by developmental mechanisms required to build the structure, its potential to store and react to information and the underlying physical state. We suggest that a large fraction of this space is empty, and that the void might offer clues for alternative ways of designing and even inventing new organs.
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