Jamie Metzl on the Future of Genetics – The Joe Rogan Experience

Key Takeaways

  • People have been manipulating life for a very long time and our power to manipulate it will only continue to grow
    • We’ve gone from genetically modifying food to having the ability of genetically modify humans
  • In about a decade, it will be possible to create a bunch of embryos in the lab, and based on their genetics/estimated IQs, decide which one to keep
  • In the future, people who have babies the “natural” way through sex will be seen as risky (just like how parents who take the “natural” route and don’t vaccinate their kids are actually putting their kids in danger)
  • “Our model of what is normal is just going to change”
    • Today, people see immunizations as normal, but our ancestors probably wouldn’t
    • Gene editing may seem radical today, but in the future it will probably be accepted as the status quo
  • The cost of genome sequencing went from $1 billion in 2003 to $800 in 2019
    • That price will only continue to drop
  • Instead of focusing on entertainment news, people need to focus on educating themselves about upcoming technology and how it will impact their lives
  • As time progresses, humans will continue to merge with technology

Intro

Hacking Humans

  • People have been manipulating life for a very long time and our power to keep manipulating it will only grow in the future
    • We’ve gone from genetically modifying food to having the ability of genetically modify humans
  • What would happen if society approached modifying humans the same way we approached modifying food?
  • One big problem though…
    • What will happen if the rich use technology to modify themselves and their offspring, allowing them to gain a hugely unproportionate advantage?
    • Look at history – when European countries developed better weapons, they ended up taking over the entire world
      • Rules and regulations need to be put in place before a single group of people use this technology to dominate society

The Genetic Arms Race

  • Last year, China created the world’s first genetically modified babies
    • China has a national plan to become the world’s economic power by 2050 and be the leader in technology (computers, biotech, AI, etc)
    • The US needs to be competitive
  • A small number of gene therapy case have already been approved in the US
    • In the future, scientists will easily be able to change eye color, skin color, etc.
  • Genetic modifications will affect many areas:
    • Healthcare: The system will shift from general medicine to personalized medicine based on your genes, making it much more effective
    • Sex: People will still have sex but babies will be made in the lab where parents can decide what genes they want their children to have
      • People who have babies the “natural” way will be seen as risky, just like how parents who take the “natural” route and don’t vaccinate their kids are actually putting their kids in danger
        • Today, there are health benefits and social pressures to vaccinate kids – the same will be true about genetically modifying your baby in the future
  • In about a decade, it will be possible to create a bunch of embryos in the lab, and based on their genetics/estimated IQs, decide which one to keep
  • The cost of genome sequencing went from $1 billion in 2003 to just $800 in 2019!
    • That price will continue to drop

Genetics & Sports

  • Genetics is the ultimate big data problem – you need giant pools of data in order to unlock the secrets
    • This is will be a multi-trillion dollar industry
  • When it comes to sports, China already tests kids all across the country, finds the ones with the most potential, and then sends them to specific Olympic sports schools
    • Gene technology will allow countries to identify kids with specific abilities/advantages that would allow them to excel in certain sports
      • Does this count as cheating? It’s debatable – People already take drugs, supplements and other performance-enhancing products
  • “Our model of what is normal is just going to change”
    • Today, people see immunizations as normal, but our ancestors probably wouldn’t.
    • Gene editing may seem radical today, but in the future it will probably be accepted as the status quo

The Major Concerns

  • Humans are incredibly complex – What unintended consequences will arise from gene editing?
    • People have different microbiomes, metabolisms, diets, personalities, etc. – We don’t know exactly how gene editing will affect all of these areas and if any unseen consequences will arise
  • Every technology has first adopters – Who will get access to gene editing technology first and how will they use it?
    • Once a small group of people use the technology, say the rich and powerful, will it be only be used by them or will everyone eventually have access to it?
  • How will the diversity of our species change when we start controlling for mutations?
  • Government regulations – Most elected officials don’t understand tech companies, how will they understand biotech companies?
    • When Mark Zuckerburg testified at Congress, most officials there didn’t understand Facebook as a business and how it operates
      • It’s unlikely they’ll be able to understand the dangers of gene editing and other cutting-edge technology

Combining Humans & Tech

  • In Sweden, people have already started putting RFID chips in their arms to unlock doors
    • “Technology is coming inside of our bodies, that is the future of where it’s going”
      • The future is human plus tech/AI
      • Humans will co-evolve with technology
  • A lot of scientists aren’t trained to communicate with the average person and have a difficult time explaining technical information in layman’s terms – as a result, most people aren’t aware of the dangers of upcoming tech/don’t understand it
  • AI is only going to get smarter
    • People used to think AI would never beat the world’s best chess player, until it did
    • People used to think AI would never beat the world’s best Go player, until it did
      • What will AI do next?
  • Elon Musk’s company NeuralLink, and similar startups, are trying to find ways to connect the human brain to AI
    • It’s possible that in the future, people will be able to download and upload their ideas from/to a cloud
  • VR tech is also improving and soon will have the same one-to-one pixel image as life
    • With haptic suits, it might even smell and feel like the real world

China’s Progress

  • China has a ton of money, lots of brilliant scientists and are “hell-bent on leading the world in advanced technology”
  • On multiple occasions, China has destroyed its civilization to make a giant leap forward
    • They have burned books, smashed historic relics, blocked certain internet sites, etc.
      • “If you want to see great Chinese art, you have to go to Taiwan”
  • China is a country run by engineers while America is run by lawyers and reality TV stars
    • When Chinese people visit Silicon Valley, they say “we cannot believe these people are so lazy, like why are they not working 24 hours a day”
      • Meanwhile, Chinese tech workers are racing to develop and ship as much product as possible
  • The founder of Huawei is a former military officer who stole lots of source code from American companies
    • Americans should be worried if Huawei becomes the leading infrastructure supplier of the 5G network

North Korea

  • The last thing North Korea would do is give up its nuclear weapons because it’s their means of survival
    • All of the US intelligence agencies were telling Trump this, but he thought otherwise
      • The North Koreans got a presidential meeting, something they’ve wanted for 30 years, but the US got nothing in exchange
  • You need 3 or so generations of loyalty to even set foot in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital
    • Even if you don’t do anything wrong, if a family member gets caught doing something that is seen as rebellious, everyone in the family can be sent to jail or prison camps
      • It’s a ruthless act of collective punishment that leads everyone to become an informant
  • Eventually, the North Korean regime will collapse under its own weight
    • There are famines, prison camps, and frequent mass executions
    • Sooner or later, leaders in North Korea will come to the conclusion that it’s safer to oppose the Kim family than wait for the Kim family to get you
      • When North Korea collapses, it’s very likely that the Chinese will come to help the country or possibly invade it while parts of it get absorbed by South Korea

Additional Notes

  • Instead of focusing on entertaining news such as the new royal baby, people need to focus on educating themselves about upcoming technology and how it will impact their lives
  • Scientists are running of out space to store information on silicon, but there is a near infinite amount of space to store information on DNA – this may be where information is stored in the future
    • “DNA is the greatest information storage mechanism ever imagined”
  • Predictive genetics will be able to predict a person’s health and life span
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