Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA

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Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand

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agricultural Revolution, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, back-to-the-land, biofilm, borderless world, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, conceptual framework, Danny Hillis, dark matter, decarbonisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Elon Musk, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, glass ceiling, Google Earth, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, informal economy, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, Jane Jacobs, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Kibera, land tenure, M-Pesa, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, microbiome, New Urbanism, out of africa, Paul Graham, peak oil, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, stem cell, Stewart Brand, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Thomas Malthus, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, William Langewiesche, working-age population, Y2K

Scientists playing God, they declared, were committing abomination. Monstrous organisms would be created, environmentalists said, that could threaten everything living. There would be insulin-shock epidemics and tumor plagues. The Cambridge and Berkeley city councils—both cities the home of major universities—outlawed recombinant-DNA research. The U.S. Congress began introducing restrictive legislation. That was the atmosphere that led to the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA Molecules in California in February 1975. Coming from all over the world, some 146 genetic scientists and related professionals convened for four days to regulate their research. They instituted an array of laboratory containment practices and mandated the use of organisms that could not live outside the lab. Some experiments were banned entirely, such as tinkering with the genes of pathogenic organisms.

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Warnings by Richard A. Clarke

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The conference was hosted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. 16. The Paul Berg Papers: Recombinant DNA Technologies and Researchers’ Responsibilities, 1973–1980, Profiles in Science, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/Narrative/CD/p-nid/260 (accessed Oct. 11, 2016). 17. Paul Berg, David Baltimore, et al., “Summary Statement of the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA Molecules,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 72, no. 6 (June 1975): 1981–84. 18. Interview with Paul Berg, June 6, 2016. 19. David Baltimore, Paul Berg, et al., “A Prudent Path Forward for Genomic Engineering and Germline Gene Modification,” Science 348, no. 6230 (Apr. 3, 2015): 36–38. 20. David Cyranoski and Sara Reardon, “Chinese Scientists Genetically Modify Human Embryos,” Nature, Apr. 22, 2015, doi:10.1038/nature.2015.17378. 21.


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Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman

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This will be especially true as we drive toward the Internet of Things and see the arrival of highly disruptive technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. We can no longer neglect the public policy, legal, ethical, and social implications of the rapidly emerging technological tools we are developing; we are morally responsible for our inventions. There are good examples in history where we as a society have brought together expertise in anticipation of catastrophic risk before it occurred. One such case was the 1975 Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, which was held at Asilomar State Beach in Monterey, California. The event gathered 140 biologists, lawyers, ethicists, and physicians to discuss the potential biohazards of emerging DNA technologies and drew up voluntary safety guidelines. As a result of the event, scientists agreed to stop experiments involving mixing the DNA from different organisms—research at the time that held the potential to have radical, poorly understood, and potentially disastrous consequences.