Every now and then, nature politely taps us on the shoulder and hands over a world-changing gift. A mold spore wafts through the open window of a laboratory, and lo, we have penicillin. A military radar array melts a chocolate bar in an engineer’s pocket, and voilà, it’s humanity’s first microwave oven.
The discovery of the gene-editing technology known as Crispr was just such a fluke. Seven years ago, scientists realized they could harness the immune systems of certain microbes and use them to cut and paste DNA. The results have been revolutionary. Crispr is fast, cheap, and shockingly simple to operate. It is gradually giving us the power to alter not only our own genetic destiny, but also that of the entire planet—to eradicate illness, develop new crops and livestock, even resurrect extinct species. If we are to use this power responsibly, writes Jennifer Kahn in the April issue of WIRED, “we’ll need a firm grasp of the facts and an accurate understanding of Crispr’s many benefits and risks. We’ll also need to confront a difficult question: How far do we, as individuals and as a society, want this technology to go?”
A handful of WIRED reporters set out to find the answer. Gregory Barber visited the Beef Barn at UC Davis, where researcher Alison Van Eenennaam is experimenting with gene-edited cattle. (One of them, a winsome heifer named Princess, appears on the April cover.) Van Eenennaam’s ultimate goal is a kinder, less wasteful farming industry. She is raising a small herd of animals that are programmed not to grow horns, which she hopes will spare future calves the trauma of having their horns burned off with a hot iron or caustic chemicals. The work itself can be difficult; as she tells Barber, “science is a bitch.” By far her biggest frustration, though, is the slow pace of government regulation. Before hornless cattle—or flu-proof chickens, or disease-resistant pigs—can reach the market, policymakers have to come to some consensus about Crispr. For now, Van Eenennaam’s hornless herd is in limbo: “They’re either all going to be incinerated or they’re all going to become steaks.”
Erika Hayasaki stopped by the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, where Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and his colleagues are using Crispr to create human-animal hybrids, also known as chimeras. Their aim is to address the critical shortage of transplant organs—thousands of hearts, kidneys, lungs, and so on every year—by growing them inside pigs. Along the way, they’ll traverse some of the muckiest ethical ground in all of biology. “What if scientists inadvertently created a pig able to intellectualize its own suffering, one with a sense of moral injustice?” Hayasaki asks. “Even if you could accept killing a farm animal to harvest its organs—which many animal welfare activists don’t—surely it would be monstrous to kill one with humanlike intelligence.”
And to answer the question of how all this genetic slicing and dicing actually works, I took a quick look at the latest tools of the Crispr trade.
Anthony Lydgate | Senior Editor, WIRED
Iowa Dawg Is In the Hospital
Who in the hell is Iowa Dawg? Well let me tell ya….
Iowa Dawg is the accountant guy who gets home late one night and Linda, his wife says, where the hell have you been?
Iowa Dawg replies: I was out getting a tattoo!
A tattoo?’ she frowned. What kind of tattoo did you get?
I got a hundred dollar bill on my dick, he said proudly.
What the hell were you thinking? She said, shaking her head in disgust. Why on earth would an accountant get a hundred dollar bill tattooed on his dick?
Well, One, I like to watch my money grow.
Two, once in a while I like to play with my money.
Three, I like how money feels in my hand.
And, lastly, instead of you going out shopping, you can stay right here at home and blow a hundred bucks anytime you want.
Iowa Dawg is in the Hospital, room 404
Iowa Dawg got up and was putting on his coat
His wife said, “Where are you going?”
He said, “I’m going to the doctor.”
And she said, “Why? Are you sick?”
“No,” he said. “I’m going to get me some of those new Viagra pills.”
So his wife got up out of her rocker and was putting on her sweater.
He said, “Where are you going?”
She said, “I’m going to the doctor too.”
He said, “Why?”
She said, “If you’re going to start using that rusty old thing again, I’m going to get a tetanus shot.”
The nurse at the sperm bank asked Iowa Dawg if he would like to masturbate in the cup. He said, “Well, I’m pretty good, but I don’t think I’m ready to compete just yet.
A professor at Drake University was giving a lecture on Paranormal Studies. To get a feel for his audience, he asks, “How many people here believe in ghosts?”
About 90 students raise their hands.
“Well, that’s a good start. Out of those who believe in ghosts, do any of you think you have seen a ghost?”
About 40 students raise their hands.
“That’s really good. I’m really glad you take this seriously. Has anyone here ever talked to a ghost?”
About 15 students raise their hand.
“Has anyone here ever touched a ghost?”
Three students raise their hands.
“That’s fantastic. Now let me ask you one question further…Have any of you ever had sex with a ghost?”
Way in the back, Iowa Dawg raises his hand.
The professor takes off his glasses and says, “Son, all the years I’ve been giving this lecture, no one has ever claimed to have sex with a ghost You’ve got to come up here and tell us about your experience.”
Iowa Dawg replied with a nod and a grin, and began to make his way up to the podium. When he reached the front of the room, the professor asks, “So, Dawg, tell us what it’s like to have sex with a ghost?”
I got this email yesterday…
The last time you visited a porn website, I downloaded and installed the software I developed.
My program has turned on your camera and recorded the process of your masturbation.
My software has also grabbed all your email contact lists and a list of your friends on Facebook.
I have the – Iadolpholiverbush.mp4 – with you jerking off to porn as well as a file with all your contacts on my computer. You are very perverted!
If you want me to delete both the files and keep the secret, you must send me Bitcoin payment. I give you 72 hours for the payment.
If you don’t know how to pay with Bitcoin, visit Google and search. Send $2000 USD to this Bitcoin address as soon as possible:
buncha000fuckin’123bullshit000numbers789and000letters (←copy and paste)
1 United States Dollar = 0.00025 Bitcoin to the address provided above so send exactly 0.50 Bitcoin
Do not try to cheat me! As soon as you open this Email I will know you opened it. I am tracking all actions on your device.
This Bitcoin address is linked to you only, so I will know when you send the correct amount. When you pay in full, I will remove both files and deactivate my program.
If you don’t send the payment, I will send your masturbation video to ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES from your contact lists I hacked.
Here are the payment details again: Send 0.00025 BTC to this Bitcoin address:
You саn visit police but nobody can help you. I know what I am doing. I don’t live in your state and I know how to stay anonymous.
Don’t try to deceive me – I will know it immediately – my spy software is recording all the websites you visit and all keys you press. If you do – I will send this ugly recording to everyone you know, including your family.
Don’t cheat me! Don’t forget the shame and if you ignore this message your life will be ruined.
I am waiting for your Bitcoin payment. You have 72 hours left.
One night, Mrs McMillen answers the door to see her husband’s best friend, Paddy, standing on the doorstep.
“Hello Paddy, but where is my husband? He went with you to the beer factory.”
Paddy shook his head. “Ah Mrs McMillen, there was a terrible accident at the beer factory, your husband fell into a vat of Guinness Stout and drowned.”
Mrs McMillen starts crying. “Oh don’t tell me that, did he at least go quickly?”
Paddy shakes his head. “Not really – he got out three times to pee!”
An Irishman was flustered not being able to find a parking space in a large mall’s parking lot.
“Lord,” he prayed, “I can’t stand this. If you open space up for me, I swear I’ll give up drinking me whisky, and I promise to go to church every Sunday.”
Suddenly, the clouds parted, and the sun shone on an empty parking spot. Without hesitation, the man said, “Never mind, I found one.”
Two paddies were working for the city public works department. One would dig a hole, and the other would follow behind him and fill the hole in. They worked up one side of the street, then down the other, then moved on to the next street, working all day furiously without rest, one man digging a hole, the other filling it in again.
An onlooker was amazed at their hard work, but couldn’t understand what they were doing. So he asked the hole digger, “I’m impressed by the effort you two are putting into your work, but I don’t get it – why do you dig a hole, only to have your partner follow behind and fill it up again?”
The hole digger wiped his brow and sighed, “Well, I suppose it probably looks odd because we’re normally a three-person team. But today the lad who plants the trees called in sick.’”
What’s the difference between God and Bono?
God doesn’t wander around Dublin thinking he’s Bono.
Two men were sitting next to each other at a bar.
After a while, one guy looks at the other and says, “I can’t help but think, from listening to you, that you’re from Ireland.”
The other guy responds proudly, “Yes, that I am!”
The first guy says, “So am I! And where abouts from Ireland might you be?”
The other guy answers, “I’m from Dublin, I am.”
The first guy responds, “Sure and begora, and so am I! And what street did you live on in Dublin?”
The other guy says, “A lovely little area it was, I lived on McCleary Street in the old central part of town.”
The first guy says, “Faith and it’s a small world, so did I! And to what school would you have been going?”
The other guy answers, “Well now, I went to St. Mary’s of course.”
The first guy gets really excited, and says, “And so did I. Tell me, what year did you graduate?”
The other guy answers, “Well, now, I graduated in 1964.”
The first guy exclaims, “The Good Lord must be smiling down upon us! I can hardly believe our good luck at winding up in the same bar tonight. Can you believe it, I graduated from St. Mary’s in 1964 my own self.”
About this time, another guy walks into the bar, sits down, and orders a beer.
The bartender walks over shaking his head and mutters, “It’s going to be a long night tonight, the Murphy twins are drunk again.”
At an pub in Dublin a wealthy tourist announced that he had lost his wallet containing €10,000 and would give a reward of €100 to the person who found it. From the back of the pub an Irishman shouted, “I’ll give €150!”
While being interviewed for a job, the personnel manager said to the Maguire brothers:
“We’re going to give you a written examination. Ten questions. Whoever gets most right we’ll hire.”
Papers were produced and the boys set to work answering the general knowledge questions. When the time was up the personnel manager collected and marked the papers.
“Well,” said he, “you’ve both got nine out of ten, but I’m giving Mick the job.”
“Why’s that?” asked Pat.
“Well,” said the manager, “you both got the same question wrong but he had ‘I don’t know this’ and you had ‘Neither do I!'”
Only Irish coffee provides all main essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.
God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.
The Irish are always the first ones to come to the aid of their fellow
man. Shortly after take-off on an outbound, evening Air Lingus flight
from Dublin to Chicago, the lead flight attendant nervously made the
following painful announcement in her lovely Irish brogue: “Ladies and
gentlemen, I’m so very sorry, but it appears that there has been a terrible mix-up by
our catering service. I don’t know how this has happened, but we have
103 passengers on board, and unfortunately, we received only 40 dinner
meals. I truly apologize for this mistake and inconvenience.”
When the muttering of the passengers had died down, she
continued,”Anyone who is kind enough to give up their meal so that someone
else can eat, will receive free and unlimited drinks for the duration of
our 10 hour flight.”
Her next announcement came about 1/2 hour later: “If anyone is hungry,
we still have 40 dinners available.”
And I’m more than twice as old as the internet.
THE WORLD WIDE WEB TURNS 30. WHERE DOES IT GO FROM HERE?
TODAY, 30 YEARS on from my original proposal for an information management system, half the world is online. It’s a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go.
The web has become a public square, a library, a doctor’s office, a shop, a school, a design studio, an office, a cinema, a bank, and so much more. Of course with every new feature, every new website, the divide between those who are online and those who are not increases, making it all the more imperative to make the web available for everyone.
And while the web has created opportunity, given marginalized groups a voice, and made our daily lives easier, it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.
Against the backdrop of news stories about how the web is misused, it’s understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the web is really a force for good. But given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for the better in the next 30. If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.
To tackle any problem, we must clearly outline and understand it. I broadly see three sources of dysfunction affecting today’s web:
- Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behavior, and online harassment.
- System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.
- Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarized tone and quality of online discourse.
While the first category is impossible to eradicate completely, we can create both laws and code to minimize this behavior, just as we have always done offline. The second category requires us to redesign systems in a way that changes incentives. And the final category calls for research to understand existing systems and model possible new ones or tweak those we already have.
You can’t just blame one government, one social network, or the human spirit. Simplistic narratives risk exhausting our energy as we chase the symptoms of these problems instead of focusing on their root causes. To get this right, we will need to come together as a global web community.
At pivotal moments, generations before us have stepped up to work together for a better future. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, diverse groups of people have been able to agree on essential principles. With the Law of Sea and the Outer Space Treaty, we have preserved new frontiers for the common good. Now too, as the web reshapes our world, we have a responsibility to make sure it is recognized as a human right and built for the public good. This is why the Web Foundation is working with governments, companies, and citizens to build a new Contract for the Web.
This contract was launched in Lisbon at Web Summit, bringing together a group of people who agree we need to establish clear norms, laws, and standards that underpin the web. Those who support it endorse its starting principles and together are working out the specific commitments in each area. No one group should do this alone, and all input will be appreciated. Governments, companies, and citizens are all contributing, and we aim to have a result later this year.
Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age. They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative, and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people’s rights and freedoms online. We need open web champions within government—civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open web.
Companies must do more to ensure that their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact, or public safety. Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity, and security in mind. This year, we’ve seen a number of tech employees stand up and demand better business practices. We need to encourage that spirit.
And most important of all, citizens must hold companies and governments accountable for the commitments they make, and demand that both respect the web as a global community with citizens at its heart. If we don’t elect politicians who defend a free and open web, if we don’t do our part to foster constructive, healthy conversations online, if we continue to click consent without demanding our data rights be respected, we walk away from our responsibility to put these issues on the priority agenda of our governments.
The fight for the web is one of the most important causes of our time. Today, half of the world is online. It is more urgent than ever to ensure that the other half is not left behind offline, and that everyone contributes to a web that drives equality, opportunity, and creativity.
The Contract for the Web must be not a list of quick fixes but a process that signals a shift in how we understand our relationship with our online community. It must be clear enough to act as a guiding star for the way forward but flexible enough to adapt to the rapid pace of change in technology. It’s our journey from digital adolescence to a more mature, responsible, and inclusive future.
The web is for everyone, and collectively we hold the power to change it. It won’t be easy. But if we dream a little and work a lot, we can get the web we want.