- Ability to create cells. Craig Ventor last year told us of the first fully programmable cell, where you could insert DNA into any cell and create the organism of your choice. This is not future stuff. It's here today.
- Ability to create tissues. We can now create not just cells, but whole tissues. A recent operation sprayed stem cells on an artificial trachea, which grew a new trachea in 72 hours flat. You can grow mice molars in petri dishes, and also human teeth this way. You can create new ears for injured soldiers. Nine women in Boston are walking around with newly generated bladders instead of colostomy bags. You can scrape away the cells of a diseased heart down to the cartilege, spray with stem cells and regenerate a heart. It's here today.
- Robots. The Turing test says that if you can have a conversation with a computer and that conversation is indistinguishable from talking to a person, then you have true articifial intelligence. A physcial Turing test is when a robot can have physical movement that is indistinguishable from a live organism. A video of Botson Dynamics' Big Dog showed such robot behaviour. It's here today. An exciting front is robots that can be implanted in humans, such as ears or eyes. And as soon as those robots deliver an organ 'as good as' our own, you can be sure the next step will be to deliver organs better than our own.
These advances have profound consquences for society that we need to think about and prepare for. In fact, returning to the theme, you can think of them as rebooting a species. In fact, Enriquez predicted that these advances will change the characteristics of humans enough to justify being called a new species - Homo Evolutis. After all, he pointed out, 5 species of hominids have overlapped, and there's no reason to think there won't be another hominid species that will overlap with our own. He suggested this is all close enough that while we might only see glimmerings of this future, our grandchildren will live it. It's that close.
On the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, this is indeed food for thought of how humans might evolve.