Millennial Musings, Chemical & Engineering News
Prepared for December 6th
issue of Chemical & enginnering News.
The last chapter of George Orwell’s satirical novel “Animal Farm” ends on the chilling note: “But as the animals outside gazed at the scene, it
seemed to them that some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of the pigs? … …
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say
which was which.”
I predict that we are likely to see that mankind and pigs are much less distinguishable in the future, thanks to chemistry. What I mean by this
remark is that the genetics of people and the genetics of pigs are relatively close. Porcine insulin was one of the first successful
substitutes for human insulin for treating diabetes. Already the body parts of pigs, such as pig heart valves, are being used to replace human
heart valves. As we learn to manipulate genetics, it seems not too far-fetched to imagine that we shall bio-engineer pigs so that their
body parts can be used to replace our own, as needed. Pigs and people are more alike than people wish to admit. But why stop at that?
With further advances, we may learn to replace not simply human parts but to substitute for them new living parts with augmented functions.
Indeed, it seems likely that not only will we achieve some form of ‘Animal Farm’ in which it is difficult to tell the pigs and the people
apart, we are also likely to blur the distinction between man and machine as we learn to put together life and non-life to achieve new
bionic beings. This trend is not new. Starting with Benjamin Franklin’s invention of bifocals, we have been using prosthetic aids and
enhancements. But the progress in this area will markedly accelerate as we penetrate the mysteries of life processes and develop a fundamental
understanding of them at the molecular level, which will be sufficient to allow us to exert some control. As George Orwell wrote in “Nineteen
Eighty-Four” BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. The prospects are scary, but there seems no turning back as we evolve beyond Darwinism and the laws of blind chance. In this way chemical advances will radically change our culture.