In one sense, Dolly is best understood as one drop in a towering wave (of genetic research) that is about to crash over us. The achievement will prove enormously valuable if it galvanizes us into readying ourselves for this inundation of helpful, treacherous, value-shattering and lifesaving information.
Jessica Mathews, researcher, Council on Foreign Relations
"This is Karen Weizman, Tokyo. I'm standing here outside the Diet as the police attempts to disperse a demonstration of mostly school children protesting against the ban on genetically enhanced pets, fuzzies or the MetaNeko as they are called here in Japan. After international pressure the Diet voted today to ban the sale and breeding of the controversial pets, causing a nationwide protest among mostly younger children."While nanohacking has the potential to remake the economy and give us control over matter, biohacking can remake ourselves and give us control over life. No wonder it is the most controversial area of technology around.
[Clip to a crying girl with a MetaNeko shirt, carrying an adorable kitten] "They want to kill my little Nanako! But she hasn't done anybody anything evil, she is just my little MetaNeko!"
[Clip to the police trying to disperse nearly rioting children, many of which bear placards with MetaNekos and slogans in kanji. Picture of a policeman struggling with a seven year boy trying to bite him through his riot armor; somewhere somebody shoots colorful paintball bullets at the police]
"Other protests have occurred on the net, where the Diet servers are overloaded by protesting citizens, not just children. While the fuzzies haven't become a big issue in the US or Europe, they have become extremely popular in Japan with people of all ages. The fight about whether it should be allowed to modify pets and other animals will likely rage on for quite some time. Karen Weizman, Tokyo. Back to the studio."
Biotechnology in 2015 is a fairly mature field. The entire human genome is mapped since ten years back, dozens of other species are well understood and the complex processes of development, immunology and genetic switching are reasonably known. Genetic modification of new organisms is a routine process for a genetic lab. Genetic therapy, where new genes are inserted into an adult organism, is becoming more and more practical (especially if combined with nanotechnology). Predicting the results of genetic changes is still somewhat tricky, but researchers are getting quite experienced. On the downside, there is no area of research that is as tightly controlled and opposed as biotechnology.
During the gene-rush at the turn of the century biotechnology corporations tried to patent every useful or potential useful gene they could get their hands on. While the legality of biotech patents is still disputed, they managed to claim a large portion of the genome in the biosphere. The result was that they could claim ownership over certain lifeforms, make copyrighted crops (the farmers must buy new seed for each planting; the plants themselves do not produce any viable seeds) and generally force research away from "their" turf. This promoted a certain resistance, and rouge biotech firms have sprung up in many countries with laws not allowing patented genes. The biotech giants have struck back by supporting the strict UN guidelines on biotechnological testing (expensive, only the giants can afford it) and more or less overt embargoes. The TU is actively involved in the struggle over who controls the genome, often involved in the black market of improved crops or the design of bacteria producing copyrighted products.
Fears of biological warfare, ecological disasters and an overall unease with genetic modifications have prompted governments worldwide to place strict restrictions on the use of biotechnology. Guess who works against it?
Old Mac Donald had a lab, AT GC TOne of the areas where biotech competes with nanotech is the production of useful chemicals. People have been making bacteria, yeasts and plants produce useful chemicals for decades, and the procedures are by now extremely streamlined and easy to follow. Just download the gene package producing what you want from the Net, run it through a sequencer, add it to the transgene kit and after 48 hours or so you have a strain of bacteria producing whatever it is. This is quite similar to the abilities of a MC Mark I, but the bacteria can be bred in huge vats instead of test tubes. Spider silk, drugs, hormones, flavors, toxins and proteins of all kinds can be produced; if there is a species somewhere that does it, the genes can be mapped and used.
And in this lab he had some sheep, TT AG C
And a clone clone here, and a clone clone there
Here a clone, there a clone, everywhere a clone.
Old Mac Donald had a lab, CC TT A
Old Mac Donald had a lab, AT GC T
And in this lab he had some mice, TT AG C
And a gene gene here, and a gene gene there
Here a gene, there a gene, everywhere a gene.
And a clone clone here, and a clone clone there
Here a clone, there a clone, everywhere a clone.
Old Mac Donald had a lab, CC TT A
The maker cultures have to be kept pure, warm and well fed, but can produce practically unlimited amounts of chemicals. Some makers produce drugs that can be used directly just by drinking the culture (some biohackers even make "maker beers" -- puts a whole new meaning into microbreweries!), others have to be fractionated and purified, requiring a lab (or why not a plant if the production is on an industrial scale). There are even maker gut bacteria that will produce a dose of a selected chemical when given a special nutrient in the food.
Macromakers are plants or animals producing chemicals or other things. One of the most popular inventions of the gene hackers are the drug plants: ordinary house-plants that have been modified to produce various drugs, available in their leaves or berries. What looks like an ordinary living room can house a hidden pharmacopoeia.
There is a huge market for pirated livestock and crops; the Calcutta gene pirated are amassing fortunes with their improved cow inseminations despite the violent opposition from some Hindu fundamentalists.
Another area of genetic smuggling is fuzzies. Fuzzies are genetically enhanced pets, usually cats, dogs or birds, cute and exotic (the Japanese MetaNeko makes tamagotchis look harsh -- it is a wonderful kitten that never grows up, with a very loving personality). While technically not illegal in many countries such as the PRC, there have been issued laws against "pointless genetic modifications" in other blocks to prevent the spread of fuzzies (often presented as monstrosities created for rich and ruthless patrons), even if they in many cases are much less bizarre and more healthy than the races that have been bred in the past. Of course, this has created an interesting market niche for the biohackers.
Another unusual use of genetically modified used organisms is art. In 2002 the US artist Seymor Tovée held the first major exhibition of biological artworks, mainly genetically modified colonies of microorganisms growing in elegant patterns. The bioart movement developed on the border between biohackers and technological artists, developing more advanced art-organisms such as the plant Arabidopsis aesthetica of the Archaea group and the "political zebrafish" by Kazushi Ikeda. As laws were instituted against bioart, many bioartists joined the TU and form a vital part of the UA and biohackers.
The Artistry of Microorganisms
Gene therapy is in regular use in modern hospitals, although it is tightly regulated and controlled. It is often regarded as a bit too expensive treatment requiring experts, many health insurance firms and politicians are uneasy about making it too accessible for cost reasons.
In the TU, some members have become interested in using gene therapy to illicitly insert new and useful genes into their cells, not just fixing diseases. Possibilities include inserting growth factor genes into muscles and other tissues, improving the immune system, inserting genes producing drugs into epithelial cells lining blood vessels and "boosted neurons" that can help replace lost neurons or even improve brain connectivity. The efficacy varies quite a bit from person to person, but it is generally regarded as a promising area by the biohackers. With nanotech it can likely become even more powerful.
The technology of improvement may be hindered or delayed by regulation, but it cannot be permanently suppressed. Human improvement, like abortion today, will be officially disapproved, legally discouraged, or forbidden, but widely practiced. It will be seen by millions of citizens as a liberation from past constraints and injustices. Their freedom to choose cannot be permanently denied.While gene therapy (which changes just some cells in the body, not the germline cells) is reluctantly accepted, genetic modifications of humans is a big no-no. For decades bioethicists have warned against it and politicians have passed ever more stringent laws, but the possibility is still open. Thanks to other advances in gene technology it is now fairly simple to insert or change new genes in an embryo during an in vitro fertilization, and the changes will affect the entire organism as it grows up. In addition, many tempting sites to improve are now known. The children of the TU will definitely not be mediocre.
Freeman Dyson, Imagined Worlds
I've come to this patch of fire-seared grass because in its own way this wildflower field is another item of human construction ... The burnt field makes a case that life is becoming manufactured, just as the manufactured is becoming life, just as both are becoming something wonderful and strange.Ecological technology has gone from small restoration efforts to big business. Improved understanding of how ecosystems work and react to changes, the ability to simulate complex ecological webs under a variety of situations and a large political pressure to fix the environment has turned ecotech into a booming scientific and technological area. Ecotechnologists analyze environmental problems, model how they can be fixed and direct projects to create or recreate ecosystems. For example, by digging channels in certain places and implanting some key species while removing others, it is possible to recreate wetland ecosystems and use them to filter away some of the excess fertilizer from farming. By controlled fires and weeding away shrubs prairies can be restored and become self-sufficient.
Kevin Kelly, Out of Control
Practical ecotechnology is very expensive. The surveying, modeling and planning stage requires skilled ecoengineers, analyzing large amounts of samples and very complex computer modeling, but the real cost is the practical implementation of the ecological modification. Often the expense is time and work rather than money; the projects may require remodeling of the topsoil, weeding out certain species and planting others, waiting until the ecosystem have adapted to an intermediary state and then doing more changes. Fortunately for the ecocorps labor is readily accessible; ecological reclamation has gradually begun to replace military service in many nations, and the governments loan the servicepeople to the ecocorps (as well as paying them for the projects). In the environmental climate after the Hanoi summit, the ecocorps have grown immensely. Some of the Chinese ecocorps are both running the ecology and economy whole regions.
Ecotech has a darker side; by being able to understand ecosystems it is also possible to figure out how to destabilize them. Ecological warfare is a real possibility, although it is currently not considered a serious threat. In the InfoWar ecotech may still be in the background, but some transhumanists like to point out that it isn't just a way of restoring nature, it also allows us to design new ecosystems at will. In the long run ecotech is just as subversive for the traditional view of the relationship between human and nature as nanotechnology, biotechnology and AI.
Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases.
"Just hypothetically, could we have a child with each other?"
They look like an ordinary suburban gay male couple, young, fairly well read and ambitious. Two incomes, no children. They want this - whatever others or the law may say.
"Hypothetically, yes. I would just need a cell sample from one of you, induce meiosis, put the nucleus into an oocyte, and then fertilize it with sperm from the other. And then put it into a surrogate mother."
They look at each other, obviously already well aware of the technique, and nod. There is hope and intent in their eyes when they both turn to look at me.
"If we can provide a surrogate mother, can you give us our child?"
One possibility is to use xenografts, organs from animals such as pigs or baboons. Using genetic engineering it is quite possible to create animals that have the same tissue types as humans and can serve as donors. The technology is well developed and can be used, but a widespread fear of trans-species infection where a new contagious disease could emerge from the implants (strengthened by the common taboo of mixing animal and human) has led to strong restrictions or outright bans on its use. This has of course opened up an interesting market for the TU.
Tissue culture has developed far since the '90s. By now it is a standard procedure to use engineered skin and cartilage to cover wounds and restore appearance. Muscle cells cultured from patient samples can be implanted, restoring function after severe accidents (they can also be used to enhance strength, although this use is rare and of course illegal for non-medical reasons). Artificial liver tissue is being tested, with apparently good results.
Cultured neural stem cells are used to restore cut nerves, which has enabled people with a damaged spinal cord at least some walking ability, and to counteract some degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease. Researchers in the TU speculate that injections of neural stem cells (possibly together with the right neurotrophic factors) could have beneficial effects in healthy people, but there is no conclusive evidence yet.
None of these methods are cheap, but compared to the cost of tending patients requiring constant medical supervision, dialysis or other forms of therapy, implant technology is quite cost effective for society.
Implants aren't that common in the TU; they are hard to get, expensive, unsafe and quite often non-invasive devices like wearables can do what they do even better. And then there is the natural reluctance to get surgery of course -- even in 2015 that means bandages, pain and inconvenience. Still, some implants originally developed for other uses have found use by some TU members in order to give them the edge. The trick is finding a friendly doctor who can get them and implant them.
Some TU researchers are interested in using the standardized neural interface electrodes on healthy people to give them a built- in dataglove. There is a minor risk for a decrease in dexterity and/or touch due to the implantation, but it should give a direct hidden interface for gesture interaction and touch feedback.
Medizin Süd Exoskeleton: A lightweight composite framework that can be strapped around the body, moving by direct neural connection. Intended for serious paralysis cases and is fairly slow (STR Mediocre, AGL Mediocre), but could possibly be boosted (making it rather dangerous). Price: 7,000 IOU Spec. Rest.
Cochlear Implants: Restoring Hearing to the Deaf
TU biomedical engineers can connect the dedicated microprocessor to a wearable computer system, enabling easy display and control. This kind of neural implants are rare and usually regarded as dangerous, but they have the potential to give the users extra control over their bodies.
A standard brain interface, used for experimental treatment for blindness or severe paralysis, consists of a flexible patch placed on the cortex covered with microelectrodes linked to cultured neuroblasts that grow into the cortex and link up with the neurons already present. They can detect activity quite well, and also stimulate individual cells. Unfortunately the cultured cells tend to connect in a haphazard way, making the signal noisy and diffuse; a lot of research is being done to make them grow to exactly the right cortical layer.
Some prototypes exist where nanodevices insert a thin network of fibers into the brain, connected to a small receiver/transmitter that can communicate with an outside system. These prototypes have so far only been tested on animals, with unclear results. The latest experiments have not suffered from acute brain swelling or other fatal side effects in the test animals and produce what looks like reasonable signals, but it is not clear yet if it is useful for humans other than as a research tool. Still, there are people who might want to take the risk to see if they can use the interface to connect their brains directly to their computers. The software is being developed, and the first human implantation could in principle be done at any time.
The monitor/injector can also be reprogrammed and used for other purposes, like releasing suitable levels of nootropics or growth hormones, or linked to a wearable for software controlled drug release.
It should be the function of medicine to help people die young as late in life as possible.People have always wanted longer lives, but now science can provide them. Life expectancy has risen steadily the last century, and researchers are getting more and more convince that the maximum human lifespan of around 120 years can be lengthened. Today people remain vital long into their '80s and '90s, a significant increase in life quality just the last decades.
There are few direct life extension therapies, since most of the life extension effects are due to better medicine and lifestyle rather than miracle drugs. Still, there are several therapies that have effects on aging or decline in old age.
Cardiovascular diseases are a major problem in the first world. One way of dealing with them is arteriolysin, "Scrubber", an artificial enzyme which dissolves arteriosclerotic plaques. Very useful, but requires medical supervision since treatments increases the risk of aneurysms and internal bleeding.
Hormone treatments increase the vitality of the elderly, using anaboloids and supplements. These treatments do not slow aging, but they reverse many of the effects such as loss of bone and muscle mass, decreased vitality and aged skin. They have side effects such as increased risks of diabetes and heart enlargement, but overall they are very popular. Usually the hormone treatments are given in the form of daily pills or monthly injections, but experiments are underway with gene therapy that makes cells in the body produce the lacking hormones again.
Caloric restriction is one of the few proven ways of slowing aging in 2015. It consists of lowering caloric intake while keeping the nutrient levels high, producing "undernutrition without malnutrition", a state which slows aging. Only a few die-hards have the willpower or ambition to use CR in its current form, but researchers are exploring the metabolic changes the diet induces and are on the verge of figuring out how to produce the same metabolic efficiency increase that slows aging in individuals eating a normal diet. If this can be turned into a working anti-aging therapy is as yet unknown.
Caloric Restriction FAQ
Speculations on the Future of Aging
I do my partDrug policy in 2015 is in general very restrictive; the War on Drugs continues unabated despite limited success. Thanks to decades of anti-drug campaigns and restrictions overt smoking and alcohol use (and even caffeine use) have decreased in the west; however, it has simply moved into the private sphere, a guilty pleasure nobody speaks about. Naturally, smuggling and distribution of drugs is highly profitable.
Behind the lines
Swabbing door handles of cop cars
Mixed with L.S.D...
Dead Kennedys, DMSO
The emergence of designer drugs and smart bullets (see below) have created a widening gulf in the underworld between the "farmer" syndicates who are involved in growing drug crops such as coca, opium or cannabis, and the "chemist" syndicates who synthesize drugs. Among the major farmers are the South-American and the South- East Asian cartels, while the chemists are dominated by the Russian Underground and Yakuza. The farmers feel threatened by the chemists, and have begun striking against their activities. This has caught some Concordat cells in the crossfire, as they are involved in illegal chemical synthesis and are sometimes mistaken for drug laboratories.
Neurochemistry has developed significantly the last two decades; in 2015 there are drugs that effect single brain nuclei with extremely specific effects ("smart bullets"). Schizophrenia, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and many other mental illnesses can be treated chemically with small side effects. Other drugs enhance mental states; practically invariably these drugs are illegal or highly restricted across the world, although the TU naturally is greatly interested in their potential.
Drug prices vary, especially illegal drugs. To make matters worse, the TU has access to nanofacturing technology that can produce arbitrary amounts of drugs at a very low price -- just use a MC, some feedstock and a simple public domain recipe. This is of course an interesting opportunity to threaten the underworld with extreme price dumping, but also a dangerous temptation to get an extra income.
After each use, the user must make a Mind roll with difficulty depending the drug. If it succeeds, the use has not had any lasting mental effects. If it fails, the user develops a craving for the drug and will want to get it if opportunity presents itself, but can still control the drug use (at least with a Mind roll). A critical failure means the user enters the compulsive stage of drug use: they cannot resist getting more if opportunity presents itself, and will actively seek out the drug if they haven't got it for a time. Users with cravings will be be likely to try out the drug again, which of course increases the risk of a critical failure and compulsion.
Higher dosage or bad psychological circumstances (such as depression) may give a -1 or stronger negative modifier on the roll. If the substance is injected or otherwise fast acting, the difficulty always becomes one level higher.
Getting free of an addiction requires a number of successful Mind rolls to resist the drug; the number of rolls that have to succeed equals the addictiveness level of the drug. The difficulty is Fair. The addict can make one roll per week, modified by the circumstances (such as support or interference from friends, treatment, glutamate inhibitors or temptations). If the roll fails the number of gathered successes are halved and the struggle continues; a complete failure or if the addict takes the drug forces the process to start from the beginning. Craving tends to remain for a long time, possibly indefinitely.
Example: During one taxing mission Yutaka decides to use amphetamine to get that extra edge. Amphetamine has an addiction difficulty of Mediocre, and Yutaka has Fair Mind. Unfortunately he rolls a -2, resulting in Poor; Yutaka develops cravings for the drug.
At a later point, when infiltrating a cell of the Knights (some people live very dangerously) he is offered some stimulants. He has to make a Mind roll (the Coordinator judges it to be Good, since there is some social pressure involved and Yutaka is generally a bit too confident for his own good). Yutaka fails it, and takes the drug. He manages to miss this addiction roll again (bad luck), and now he is addicted: he will start to seek out the drug whenever he feels the cravings.
After the affair with the Knights has ended, his friends bring him home for rest and recuperation. They find him addicted to stimulants, and have a long and thorugh talk with him. Fortunately they manage to convince him to try to kick the habit, and a tiresome process begins. Yutaka has to suceed with three Fair Mind rolls (since amphetamine has a difficulty of Mediocre, three steps up from non-existent) over the span of three weeks. He has friends supporting him, giving him +1 bonus. If he can succeed with them, he will be free from the compulsion.
(The estimates of drug addictiveness have been taken from Pharmacology, Third Edition, H.P. Rang, M.M. Dale and J.M. Ritter, Publisher: Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1995)
Reduces penalties due to tiredness with 1.
Addiction difficulty: Terrible
+1 to Mind, but only if the user has used nicotine before and is in the craving or compulsive phase. Long-term use can reduce END.
Addiction difficulty: Fair
Addiction difficulty: Mediocre
Decreases the penalties for wounds or pain by one step.
Addiction difficulty: Fair
Makes the user calm (tranquilizers) or sleepy (sedatives). Both increase the difficulty of most tasks with one step, except for tranquilizers, that give +1 Mind and related skills when it comes to resisting stress, anxiety and outside demands.
Addiction difficulty: Poor
Amphetamines gives a +1 modifier to AGL, END, INT and CON, as well are related skills. Due to motoric disturbances DEX suffers a -1 modifier.
Addiction difficulty: Mediocre
Effects similar to the amphetamines but lasts a shorter time.
Addiction difficulty: Fair (Crack Good)
+1 Mind and related skills when it comes to resisting stress and anxiety. -1 INT and related skills.
Addiction difficulty: Terrible
-1 on all mental tasks except Confidence. PCP also decreases wound penalties like analgesics (see below).
Addiction difficulty: Terrible (PCP Poor)
Modifies Charisma and other friendly social rolls with +1.
Addiction difficulty: Terrible
Increases Intellect and Mind (as well as related skills) with +1 during the effect, afterwards a prolonged period of -1. If any Mind roll critically fails during this time the user might act directly without thinking of the consequences: lashing out against irritating people, punching equipment or using obscene language, even if the consequences are disastrous. Taking more FA to alleviate the "hangover" works -- but the impulse control problem remains. Over time, it will also slowly grow, so after two weeks or so impulsive acts may occur at failed Mind rolls, not just critically failed rolls, and so on.
Addiction difficulty: Terrible
+1 to memory tasks, including recalled information learned under the influence of the drug. If used during training of an academic skill the cost is decreased by 25%.
+1 to a certain skill or task, and -1 modification to all others. Smaller distractions no longer affect the roll.
Addiction difficulty: Terrible
After 24 hours of work, performance begins to decrease by -1 per day.
-3 to Mind or INT when it comes to avoiding actions with bad outcomes.
Gives -3 to Combat Experience, but there is no need to roll CON to act.
Addiction difficulty: none, or Terrible if the user is normally somewhat fearful or worried.
Decreases the wound penalties with two steps. Incapacitated people can move around at -2. However, doing this is likely to cause further damage due to bleeding and extra injuries.
The inhibitors modify all intellectual activities with -1, especially learning. However, they also give a +1 bonus to attempts to break addictions. Naltrexone has no special effects other than decreasing the pleasure of alcohol and tranquilizers, thus giving an edge in breaking the habit.
Anabolic steroids have been in use among athletes since the middle of the 20th century, but in 2015 they have been largely replaced with artificial substances with more specific effects. Most medical development has been in the area of hormone replacement therapy for the elderly, as well as treatment of certain growth disorders; the resulting drugs are also used illegally for physical enhancement. At the same time the old steroids remain in circulation in developing countries as cheaper and riskier substitutes. Specific anabolics only affect growth (the rarest and most expensive form), but most anabolics simulate the effects of sex hormones which means they can have unwanted side effects such as virilisation of female users, decreases in testosterone production in males, liver dysfunction and increased risks of cancer and aggressive behavior. Another important group of anabolics influence the production of growth hormone or act as growth hormones themselves. Finally, erytropoietin (EPO) is a natural hormone that increases the production of hemoglobine and hence can increase the oxygen retention of blood.
The use of anabolics makes it easier for the users to increase their Strength or Endurance. The cost of increasing one of the stats decreases with 25%.
If taken before physical stress, such as hard exertion, poisoning or wounding, the chemoprotectants can give a +1 bonus to recovery.
All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy.Poisoning usually takes time. Ingested drugs will act after one or more hours, absorption through the skin takes minutes while inhalation and injection takes seconds to a minute to act.
Rules-wise, poisons act by causing wounds. A single dose of poison has a certain offensive factor, which is decreased with a defensive factor based on the victim's END as per ordinary wounds (chemoprotectants and antidotes might give an extra bonus). Additional poison acts as extra wounds of the same size.
For example, if a person with Fair END ingests 60 milligrams of arsenic he will receive two wounds (twice the dose). The offensive factor for 30 mg of arsenic is 6; he will first receive a Incapacitating wound, and then another one (making him Near Death). 90 mg would be fatal.(The doses assume a 70 kg body, and correspond roughly to LD50 in toxicological tables)
Toxicology and Exposure Guidelines
Toxicology Tutor I
Toxicology data search
Offensive factor: 8 per 5 mg. The effect is not real damage, but rather paralysis (produces the same penalties as the corresponding would level). Once near death is reached the victim cannot breathe, and will die within a few minutes. If artificial breathing is given (or the victim has diamond blood) the paralysis will end after half an hour or so with no other effects (however, celocurin causes the muscles to tense up, and the victim will have an awful muscle pain).
Chemistry of Chemical Warfare (CW) Agents