MIXING APPLES, ORANGES, AND FLOPPY DISKS . . .
If it seems like your world has been topsy-turvy over the past few years . . .
Consider what's coming.
Your genetic code will be imprinted on an ID card . . .
For better and worse.
Medicines will be tailored to your genes and will help prevent specific diseases for which you may be at risk.
(But . . . your insurance company and your prospective employer may also find out that you are genetically disposed to, say, heart disease, or breast cancer, or Alzheimer's.)
Meanwhile, lone individuals are birthing not just companies but entire industries that rapidly become bigger than the economies of most countries.
But unlike growth industries of the past . . . cars and aerospace, for example . . . the industries that will dominate our future depend on just a few smart minds . . .
Not a lot of manpower . . .
So during a period of prosperity and economic growth . . .
Wealth is ever more mobile and concentrated.
You and your children are about to face a series of unprecedented moral, ethical, economic, and financial issues.
The choices you make will impact where you live, what you earn, what your grandchildren will look like, how long you live.
It all starts because we are mixing apples, oranges, and floppy disks.
Put an orange on your desk . . .
Next to a floppy disk or CD . . .
Although each seems very different today . . .
They are becoming one and the same.
Your computer runs on a code based on "1"s and "0"s.
If you change the order and number of these 1s and 0s . . .
By tapping the keyboard . . .
You capitalize a letter, change a sentence, send an e-mail, transmit a photograph or music.
The floppy disk is simply the container for these 1s and 0s.
But it is reading and rewriting the code inside that drives change.
As of 1995, we began to read the full gene sequence of . . .
Bacteria, insects, plants, animals, humans.
It is written in a four-letter code (A, T, C, G) . . .
If you change this code, just as if you change the code in a floppy disk or on a CD . . .
You change the message, the product, the outcome.We are beginning to acquire...
Direct and deliberate control...
Over the evolution of all life forms...
On the planet...Including ourselves.
The skin and pulp of the orange that sits on your desk . . .
Is just packaging . . .
What matters is the code contained in the seeds.
Each seed has a long string of gene data that looks like . . .
The seed guides growth, how a tree and its leaves develop . . .
The size, flavor, color, shape of fruits.
If you can read the code . . .
And rewrite it . . .
You can turn an orange into a vaccine, a contraceptive, a polyester.
Each of these things has already been done in corn.
Today, bananas and potatoes can vaccinate you against things like cholera, hepatitis, diarrhea.
You can harvest bulletproof fibers . . .
Grow medicines in tobacco.
And it's not just apples, oranges, and corn that are rapidly becoming different organisms.
are flying hypodermic needles.
They can infect you with malaria, dengue, and other awful things.
They do so by transferring a little bit of genetic code
through their saliva . . .
Into your bloodstream . . .
Which then reprograms part of the way your cells operate . . .
By changing your genetic code ever so slightly . . .
In ways that can make you very sick.
So why not engineer mosquito genes so that they have the
If mosquito saliva contained antibodies . . .
Or if you made it hard for malaria to mutate inside a mosquito's body . . .
You could immunize people and animals . . .
By making sure they were bitten.
Because the language of genes (A, T, C, G) is the same
for all creatures . . .
You can mix species.
If you are an artist, the genes that make jellyfish fluoresce
at night . . .
Can be used to make a bunny glow under black light.
If you are an M.D., the same genes can be placed in monkeys
to serve as markers . . .
Which help identify cures for diseases like Alzheimer's
By reading and rewriting the gene codes of bacteria, plants,
and animals . . .
We start to turn cells, seeds, and animal embryos into the
equivalent of floppy disks . . .
Data sets that can be changed and rewritten to fulfill
We start deliberately mixing and matching apples and oranges . . .
Species . . .
Plants and animals.
These discoveries may seem distant, abstract, more than a little scary today.
But they will change the way you think about the world . . .
Where you work . . .
What you invest in . . .
The choices your children make about life . . .
What war looks like.
Many are unprepared for . . .
The violence and suddenness with which . . .
New technologies change . . .
Lives . . .
Companies . . .
Countries . . .
Because they do not understand what these
technologies can do.From the Hardcover edition.