used an evolutionary algorithm to create thousands of candidate designs for the new life-forms
This is the description from the article:
” Then the team at Tufts, led by Levin and with key work by microsurgeon Douglas Blackiston—transferred the in silico designs into life. First they gathered stem cells, harvested from the embryos of African frogs, the species Xenopus laevis. (Hence the name "xenobots.") These were separated into single cells and left to incubate. Then, using tiny forceps and an even tinier electrode, the cells were cut and joined under a microscope into a close approximation of the designs specified by the computer.”
According to the article, the starting point was embryos.
"Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells—scraped from frog embryos—and assembled them into entirely new life-forms."
I don't see much difference between "scraped" and "cut up"... perhaps a nuance of scale.
If the stem cells had been harmlessly extracted from living frogs would you still use the same terms? The experiment itself would be 99% the same in that case, it would just have a more complicated resource gathering step.
> If the stem cells had been harmlessly extracted from living frogs would you still use the same terms?
That would be perfectly fine in my view. I have no qualms about using living tissue. It's the unnecessary sacrifice of intelligent life that I find objectionable.
Because those steps remain basically the same across both versions.
I think the parent post's comment is very astute, as the article mentions how it's taking frog cells and passing electricity through them and calling it alive. How is that not Frankensteinian? It's kind of the definition of it.
There is also the argument of making the assumption that there's an emotional reaction...
Morals and ethics classes are taught in nearly all university degrees these days to try and highlight the issues around this stuff, and I think it unfair to bluntly force it into black and white. For some people it's a question of how deep into the murky quagmire one goes, whereas for others "it's just science" is completely sufficient. But, it's clear that the latter will never have complete approval, nor will the former ever have its way entirely.
For me, I look at this experiment as such: Were any frogs killed in doing this experiment? If so, how is the destruction of a life-form comparable to making a laboratory made one? Do the two actually have the same 'life' in them? Philosophically speaking, I'd say not, and as such I call this experimentation a 'dark pattern' and should be avoided: no matter the perceived marketing benefit.
Is it the destruction of a life-form? Is it the creation of a different life form? Why does it matter if they are equivalent?
I'm not sure what you find nauseating about this. If you want muscle and skin cells frog embryos are as fine source as any, I suppose.
There's the issue. I prefer to see us pursue technologies that don't require the harvesting of parts from intelligent life, even if we deem that intelligence to be low or embryonic. Yes, I am aware that we are omnivores, but I believe we can make ourselves into something better. I see this kind of experimentation as a step backwards.
How do you define "intelligent life"? If frogs and embryos are considered intelligent life, then you really are painting yourself into a corner.
> Yes, I am aware that we are omnivores, but I believe we can make ourselves into something better.
What's better than omnivores? Evolutionarily speaking, that's the best out there. Not sure we can do better, but I'd love to hear what you had in mind.
Currently, my simplest definition is "any self-aware organism capable of predicting the future to some degree."
> What's better than omnivores?
I think we are rapidly getting to the point where we will be able to sustain ourselves effectively with non-animal foods in a way that will be more nutritious, more sustainable, and more environmentally friendly.
I want humankind to prosper longterm and I think our most immediate challenge to that is our violence towards each other and towards our environment; either one of which may very well destroy us in the next 100 years. If the majority of us adopted a view that intelligent life at all levels should be protected, I believe that our violence towards each other and towards our environment will abate. I hope this will allow us to address the next major challenge, which I see as a mass extinction event similar to one of the many we see written in Earth's geological record. To overcome this, we will need to become more intelligent, we will need to dramatically advance our technologies, and we will probably need to populate other worlds. But first, we need to not destroy ourselves.
Frogs and certainly embryos are not self-aware.
> I think we are rapidly getting to the point where we will be able to sustain ourselves effectively with non-animal foods in a way that will be more nutritious, more sustainable, and more environmentally friendly.
Nothing more nutritious than animal foods. This is basic science and evolutionary truth. The only other alternative to fit your description is the environmentally ruinous vegan diet which is terrible for humans.
> I want humankind to prosper longterm and I think our most immediate challenge to that is our violence towards each other and towards our environment;
I want humankind to prosper as well. Look how virtuous, caring and good we both are. Aren't we great? The immediate danger is the messianic lunacy being spread by traditional media and social media.
> If the majority of us adopted a view that intelligent life at all levels should be protected
Sadly, I don't think you could convince those militant and violent vegans set on destroying as much intelligent plant life as possible. But maybe you, caring as you are, can single-handedly stop them.
If intelligent life must be protected then I guess we have to take dogs and cats from their owners since these animals require meat to be healthy ( for cats to live since they are obligate carnivores ). I don't know how you sleep at night knowing that trillions of animals are being killed and eaten by other animals every day.
Also, the most environmentally friendly diet is the hunter-gatherer diet, which you in your immense wisdom probably reject in support of mass agriculture - the worst thing for the environment.
The evidence indicates that frogs are most certainly self-aware. Embryos are potential intelligent life.
> Nothing more nutritious than animal foods.
Maybe I was unclear. I believe we will create better alternatives.
> Sadly, I don't think you could convince those militant and violent vegans set on destroying as much intelligent plant life as possible.
While there are indications of a degree of plant intelligence and even some self-awareness, edible plants generally rely on being consumed in order to proliferate. I do think it is in our best interest to protect plant life though.
> I don't know how you sleep at night knowing that trillions of animals are being killed and eaten by other animals every day.
I have no problem with animals eating each other.
> Also, the most environmentally friendly diet is the hunter-gatherer diet,
I agree. Unfortunately, it's not practical for 8 billion people to forage this earth. Also, it doesn't leave much time for advancing ourselves.
Uh, what? you think eating veg instead of meat is bad for the environment? you're wrong.
> nothing is more nutritious than animal foods
look, I like meat, but this is expicitly wrong, and it doesn't even really make sense.
"The big question in biology is to understand the algorithms that determine form and function," ?
This is the true Information Revolution: when we learn to "talk" to the four-billion-year-old nanotech that the world and we ourselves are made of.
All sorts of work about setting the electrical potential between cells/parts of the body to certain states to induce the desired growth. E.g. growing a eye on the gut of a tadpoles.
The trend spread. GELFs, Genetically Engineered Life Forms, were everywhere,
and soon virtually every consumer product was made of living tissue. Gelf
armchairs, which could sense your mood, and massage your shoulders when
you were feeling tense, became a part of everyday life. Gelf vacuum
cleaners, which were half kitchen appliance, half family pet,
waddled around on their squat little legs, doing the household chores and
amusing the children. [...]
The rebellion started in the Austrian town of Salzburg, when a vacuum cleaner
and Gelf Volkswagen Beetle robbed a high street bank. They took the manager
and a security guard hostage, agreeing to release them only if Valter Holman
was brought to justice for murder.
Valter Holman had killed his armchair, and the whole of the Gelf community
was up in arms, those that had arms, because the law courts refused to accept
that a crime had been committed.