A few evenings ago I watched a television program about a group of New York police officers who were obliged to perform their sleuthing duties while wearing hazmat suits. Seeing them at their computers or attempting to answer cell phones through protective gloves and helmets provided some humorous moments. But, of course, the need to wear a hazmat suit is never funny. These protections are needed because science, in its pursuit of knowledge, has made discoveries that have become a danger to us.
One example is Rosalin Franklin’s uncovering of the basic structure of DNA, for which James Watson and Francis Crick took the bows. Her work gave birth to the study of the human genome and created a new science called synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is full of promise and one day, perhaps, it will lead us to the development of viable human organs for transplant. But the study also has the potential for discoveries that can be lethal to us, making the 21 Century the best and worst of times.
Aware of this new age we have entered, the International Association of Synthetic Biology and the International Gene Synthesis Consortium were created to provide codes of conduct to discourage research that could lead to bioterrorism. Compliance is voluntary, however and at the moment, the thin line of public safety lies behind the hazmat suit and little more. (“Keeping Science in the Right Hands,” by Ronald K. Noble, Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec. 2013, pg. 51.)
Given the precariousness of these day, Ronald Noble, Secretary General of Interpol, has propose to ramp up international law enforcement to meet the new challenges. So far his agency has created the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Terrorism Prevention Program (CBRNE)and a Bioterrorism Prevention Unit (BTPU) to centralize information. In 2014 tracking disease threats will become another priority.
To protect societies, plans are also underway to increase data mining on a international scale larger, perhaps, than the work done by the NSA. Eventually, everyone on the planet, good guys and bad guys, will be cataloged, stamped and coded somewhere in the cloud. When everyone is deemed a potential suspect, who will be deemed innocent I have to ask. The time may come when it no longer makes sense to question whom we are walling and walling out. Everyone will be a prisoner of technology and privacy will have no meaning.
(courtesy of www.indypendent.org)