In this month's issue of The Atlantic, there's an interesting theory put forth in a story about biowarfare. Drawing on advances in genome decoding, the previous revelations that any stray materials containing the president's DNA are frequently destroyed, and that Hilary Clinton has ordered the collection of DNA from other foreign leaders, the Atlantic posits the idea that the next evolution in biowarfare will be the development of personalised bioagents designed to attack specific strands of DNA. The strands of world leaders.
The piece is largely speculative, but it does look at recent developments to stitch together a handful of logical reasons why we might actually see this pop up in the future:
- Improved ability in genome decoding: In 1998 it took $US300 million and two years to decode a human genome. This year, a human genome can be decoded in a couple of days for as little as $US1000. In a few years, it will only cost $US500 (who knows, it could end up taking MINUTES). And now the same man responsible for decoding the human Genome, Craig Venter, has created a synthetic chromasome capable of replicating itself. The delivery method for destruction exists.
- Internet crowdsourcing: You don't need to be a PhD level nerd to hack together a catastrophic bioweapon. You can draw from a plethora of information available on the web, or databases of gene sequences which are made available from previous public projects. Once you've hacked togther a genome, it's extremely easy to have it printed by a DNA lab.
- Cheap cost of technology: You can acquire all the technology required to grow, sequence and develop a blueprint of a genome for under $US10,000.
- Rise of the digital black market: Criminals know how to use the internet to their benefit as well as researchers and corporations. Guns and drugs can be easily had on the internet right this moment. If the genome of a world leader were to leak, containing that data would be tough.
- Tricky defense: Although there would be ways to prevent the escape of information, the durability DNA means that an evildoer could find genetic material from someone's past and decode that. Or a government could begin collecting material long before that person becomes a significant player on the international stage.
Long story short, we've only scratched the surface of biowarfare. And when we get deep into its belly, it could make for a scary future. Read the rest of the piece over at [The Atlantic]
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