×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Most Dangerous Lines of Scientific Inquiry?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the don't-even-ask dept.

Science 456

gbrumfiel writes "The battle over whether to publish research into mutant bird flu got editors over at Nature News thinking about other potentially dangerous lines of scientific inquiry. They came up with a non-definitive list of four technologies with the potential to do great good or great harm: Laser isotope enrichment: great for making medical isotopes or nuclear weapons. Brain scanning: can help locked-in patients to communicate or a police state to read minds. Geoengineering: could lessen the effects of climate change or undermine the political will to fight it. Genetic screening of embryos: could spot genetic disorders in the womb or lead to a brave new world of baby selection. What would Slashdotters add to the list?"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

456 comments

In other words... (3, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#39814639)

Ask Slashdot: What's your favorite Sci-Fi apocalypse?

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814689)

The most likely given current lines of research is grey goo, superpandemics aren't likely to wipe out enough of the world population to do much more than put a dent in the growth rate for a few years.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814805)

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but we're nowhere close to being able to create an actual, apocalypse causing grey goo and we may well never be unless we can develop something like ice nine [wikipedia.org] . A superpandemic is far, far more likely to wipe us out than something that doesn't exist at all!

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814873)

Ask Slashdot: vi or emacs?

FTFY

Re:In other words... (4, Interesting)

Guppy (12314) | about 2 years ago | (#39815329)

Speaking of Sci-Fi, the lead female character (Mira) in the book "Evolution's Darling [kirkusreviews.com] " is an assassin who targets scientists that have been judged by Mira's AI-overlords as being too close to making undesirable discoveries.

For instance, one of her past targets included a researcher working on teleportation (which they calculate will lead to the collapse of civilization), and much of the story involves her mission to assassinate a rogue AI who has developed a method of making perfect copies of AI minds. All for the protection of society of course.

Black Swan events (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814645)

All science aspire to make something happen. What this "something" is, is rarely defined. But, once in a while the results from science is a black swan events. That is something that couldn't be predicted, but changes everything.

A second possibility could be that science reinforces some systems in society because they are not socially responsible enough to be impartial. Be it big pharma and their needs to patent everything or eugenic doctors supporting fascism.

Re:Black Swan events (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814725)

All science aspire to make something happen. What this "something" is, is rarely defined. But, once in a while the results from science is a black swan events. That is something that couldn't be predicted, but changes everything.

Why's it gotta be a black swan?! Is that some kind of subtle racism? Something wrong with it being black? Black means it is out of place? You know white people can harbor racist thoughts without being conscious of it, right? Whites were never an oppressed minority so they don't understand this. I know most of them mean well and would never consciously think that way but the sickness is deep. The sickness is deep.

Re:Black Swan events (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814795)

"Why's it gotta be a black swan?! Is that some kind of subtle racism? Something wrong with it being black? Black means it is out of place? You know white people can harbor racist thoughts without being conscious of it, right? Whites were never an oppressed minority so they don't understand this. I know most of them mean well and would never consciously think that way but the sickness is deep. The sickness is deep."

I'm not sure if your comment is a joke or if you are truly so stupid that your comment is serious.

The black swan is used as an example because a black swan is extremely unusual to find in nature.

The color has nothing to do with whether it is good or bad, you numbskull.

Re:Black Swan events (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814817)

White people have rarely been minorities but we know all about being discriminated against. Like when you make a statement completely unrelated to race and it magically makes you a racist, not because of what you said, but because you are white.

Win win? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814653)

Geoengineering: could lessen the effects of climate change or undermine the political will to fight it. If we successfully engineer the problem away, shouldn't we worry about it less?

I'm not saying their might not be downsides, but both of these sound reasonable together.

Re:Win win? (4, Insightful)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 2 years ago | (#39814845)

I think the theory is, that geoengineering is unlikely to succeed in the long term and so it's just kicking the problem into the long grass. I see your point, though, that kind of statement is playing into the hands of AGW deniers by implying that the only reason to worry about AGW is because we have an ulterior motive for making people panic over nothing.

Re:Win win? (1)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | about 2 years ago | (#39814977)

I'm pretty sure that the real danger of geo engineering is that it could fuck the planet up, matrix style.

Screening embryos already happens (5, Interesting)

abigor (540274) | about 2 years ago | (#39814683)

Where I live, certain ethnic minorities (actually, taken together they are actually a majority) are notorious for screening embryos for gender. Then they abort the females until a male is born first. It's become such an issue that it's now illegal to specify an embryo's gender until the window for legal abortion has passed (I don't remember how many weeks/months that is).

If you're white, the doctor will still tell you if you ask though.

Re:Screening embryos already happens (4, Insightful)

sayfawa (1099071) | about 2 years ago | (#39815077)

Are you talking about Ontario? I think it's been up to the ultrasound practitioner's discretion, but in light of recent studies, some are advising their workers to not give out the information. I hadn't heard that it was illegal, thougth.

It's a conundrum, though. If abortion is legal, it has to be legal for everyone, for all reasons. Perhaps more effort should be made to make sure certain immigrants know that around these here parts, we appreciate our daughters.

But if it continues, well, it can't coninue for more than a generation or two. What's a sure-fire way to make sure your son abandons your sexist culture and marries someone from a different background who wont abort her female fetuses? Create a lack of women in your culture for them to date.

This is bullshit. (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#39814685)

All forms of scientific inquiry have "dual use"

You may as well try to go back in time and stop Og or Urgh from figuring out how to make fire.

Fuck this shit.

--
BMO

Re:This is bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814785)

You're right. The only reason any of this is terrifying is because we don't understand it. Life is all about knowledge and discovery; take that away and we might as well not exist.

Once we've mastered everything listed, I doubt they will be viewed as frightening any more, but we have to start from somewhere.

Here comes the flame war... (5, Funny)

xstonedogx (814876) | about 2 years ago | (#39814851)

Og may have been first to file, but it was Urgh who invented the method.

Re:Here comes the flame war... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814993)

And all was well with the world until Argh patented it.

Re:This is bullshit. (1)

million_monkeys (2480792) | about 2 years ago | (#39814903)

All forms of scientific inquiry have "dual use"

Yeah, knowledge isn't good or bad and by itself it's useless. The application of that knowledge can take countless forms, any of which might be judged good or bad depending on your perspective. To say some line of research is dangerous is merely saying you think there are uses you consider bad.

Re:This is bullshit. (2)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#39815049)

To say some line of research is dangerous is merely saying you think there are uses you consider bad.

It's like the people who find sexual images in the advertising of crackers by connecting the dots in the crackers in the ad.

If you have an evil mind, you will find evil.

--
BMO

Re:Sex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815209)

Once again, this article is full of shit.

"Ooh, death is the most dangerous".

Platypus Shit. Sex is the most dangerous.

Every movie from Disney on up talks about Death.

The second you talk about Sex you get whisked away.

Therefore Sex is the most dangerous research topic, hands down. Yes, Pun intended.

Re:This is bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815153)

Yeah, knowledge isn't good or bad and by itself it's useless. The application of that knowledge can take countless forms, any of which might be judged good or bad depending on your perspective. To say some line of research is dangerous is merely saying you think there are uses you consider bad.

You're right. There are plenty of applications of knowing the most cost-effective way to harvest organs. On a less humorous note, what possible benefit could come from knowing that one race was superior to another? It has been scientifically proven [wikipedia.org] , and ... well, no one wants to believe that it's been proven. And even if it *is* true, there is no benefit to knowing, unless we're willing to backtrack on human rights.

So in response to your ass-headed statement about "there is no bad science", well, yes, there is.

CO2 abstinence only? (5, Insightful)

JabberWokky (19442) | about 2 years ago | (#39814723)

"Geoengineering: could lessen the effects of climate change or undermine the political will to fight it."

Isn't this a bit like the whole "teaching condoms in school is dangerous because then teens will have massive amounts of sex"? You're omitting a valid (even if imperfect) solution that may help stave off tragedy if people choose a particular path in order to defend and mandate that your "morally superior path" is the only option presented.

Re:CO2 abstinence only? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814745)

Much like for multiculturalism it's "Left-Wing Society Or Everything Goes to Hell".

Re:CO2 abstinence only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815115)

"Geoengineering: could lessen the effects of climate change or undermine the political will to fight it."

Isn't this a bit like the whole "teaching condoms in school is dangerous because then teens will have massive amounts of sex"? You're omitting a valid (even if imperfect) solution that may help stave off tragedy if people choose a particular path in order to defend and mandate that your "morally superior path" is the only option presented.

I have to be honest, I'm tired and was skimming the keywords in your comment and went from "abstinence", "condoms", "massive amounts of sex", "solutions" and finally... "orally superior path". Then I re-read and realised that was not what you were saying, at all.

Nothing... (5, Insightful)

Solozerk (1003785) | about 2 years ago | (#39814733)

Once you start blacklisting/limiting the release of scientific information, science is essentially dead. Science should be all about sharing of knowledge, collaborative work, cross confirmation of results. It's not scientists that should handle the 'risks' to society (taking into account ethics) - that's a job for politics (IE, you can publish how to make an atomic bomb but dissemination of nuclear material should be controlled by law). And in any case, any information you try to blacklist will eventually get out. Of course, I suppose there's a limit to that too - if we arrive at a point where a scientific discovery can lead to virtually anyone creating a WMD at low cost and with readily available materials, then there is a problem. But we're not there yet and anyway, at that point, there's no easy solution (though I personally believe a 'solution' should then be more along the lines of changing the root of the issue: why those people would want to create WMD to begin with).

Re:Nothing... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814877)

That's very good and all except scientists tend to not have ethics. They seem to think "let's take the worst virus possible and make it even badder and then publish the results" is an okay line of thought to go down. Sometimes an adult needs to step in, slap down the geeks, and take away their toys.

Re:Nothing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815277)

Some do think like that but they can't do crap without funding. And for getting funds you have to write research proposals showing (a) what you will do, (b) how that work aligns with funder's goals (generally benefiting the society, or discovering/inventing efficient processes), and (c) why you think that method described in (a) is likely to succeed.
Making a super virus violates (b) for most funders except for DoD and its counterparts.

Re:Nothing... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814925)

Exactly. If you outlaw research into weaponized virii then only criminals will have them and we won't even know how they work.

Re:Nothing... (3, Insightful)

million_monkeys (2480792) | about 2 years ago | (#39815015)

And in any case, any information you try to blacklist will eventually get out. Of course, I suppose there's a limit to that too - if we arrive at a point where a scientific discovery can lead to virtually anyone creating a WMD at low cost and with readily available materials, then there is a problem. But we're not there yet and anyway, at that point, there's no easy solution (though I personally believe a 'solution' should then be more along the lines of changing the root of the issue: why those people would want to create WMD to begin with).

I think the key is making humanity's morality improve faster than the rate of scientific progression. If you don't do that, it's not going to end well.

it's not predictable. the only answer is to (1)

decora (1710862) | about 2 years ago | (#39814741)

support human rights in and of themselves, and take charge of the state actors that tend to use these things horribly.

einstein and his friends were simply discussing the universe, and what would happen if you shined a light while riding on a superfast train. they had no 'intention' of investigating nuclear weapons, but that is where E=mc^2 eventually led.

lets look at the computerized lists used to help perform the holocaust. they began as census taking machines.

the attempt to cure disease was later used in Unit 731 to cause disease in Chinese civilian populations.

etc etc etc.

Similar things could be said about many other scientists, which is why so many of the big pacifists and anti-nuclear activists in the cold war were scientists... even people like Andrei Sahkarov who had specifically built their careers around weapons tech felt a responsibility to push against governments who were misusing it.

and i know everyones worried about 'lone wolf terrorists'. but alot of those guys, if you look at their history, were only enabled by state powers. without the CIA, ISI, and Soviet Red Army, there is no al Qaeda. it simply would not exist. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar would be selling fruitcakes on the side of the road not running a huge paramilitary organization from inside of a mansion. Pick a terrorist bombing over the last 50 years, the chances that is directly linked, or 'one-degree-of-separation' from a state run intelligence agency are very high.

Re:it's not predictable. the only answer is to (1)

renfrow (232180) | about 2 years ago | (#39814807)

Aum Shinrikyo and the nerve gas attack in Tokyo had no close link to any state organization.

that is true but im looking at (1)

decora (1710862) | about 2 years ago | (#39815095)

bombings like the Cole, Khobar Towers, Pan Am over Lockerbee, etc etc etc.

promoting a good police force is sort of part of the human rights agenda. rights activists are usually not asking for the end of the state, they are asking for the rule of law, and equal protection under the law.

which means for example that if a government murders a bunch of people with a research weapon, it should be held responsible. and maybe some of the Unit 731 people should not have their graves in honored places in Japanese cemeteries where the president goes and pays respects.

Brain scanning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814755)

We are already there on this one. Its just passive for the most part and the technology is classified.

All the best ones. (1)

Spottywot (1910658) | about 2 years ago | (#39814787)

Any worthwhile scientific avenue can be used or exploited in a positive or negative way. Human nature is the real question in point. Science seems to be over politicised in general at the moment, and questions like this simply epitomise the situation. If scientists could just get on with, for instance, the benefits of stem cell research, with funding that had no strings attached then we would all be much better off. Leave researchers to be researchers, and moralists to be moralists and ne'er the twain shall meet. Science should not be bound by the qualms of people that don't understand what research means. The potential use of conclusive research should be debated in a moral sense, not the research itself.

Re:All the best ones. (1)

TheLordPhantom (2527654) | about 2 years ago | (#39815401)

I would argue that, in some cases, morality and research are inseparable. How much more rapidly could our understanding of human development advance if we had no qualms about little things, such as manipulating the genes of a fetus? Mice, while a good analogue for humans, are far from perfect. Why don't we have test humans, instead of test mice? Surely, if morality doesn't matter, than research should trump in such a case.

I believe you see my point. This specific example is possibly a case of hyperbole, but the same principle applies to so many other things. Sometimes, no matter how much you would rather remove "morality" from science, it just can't happen. Scientists must make decisions concerning ethics. The Stanford prison experiment [wikipedia.org] is a good example of where research trumped ethics. A huge amount on human psychology was discovered, but was the experiment ethical? Science cannot amputate itself from morality.

They're all dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814793)

All scientific lines of inquiry could be considered dangerous. That also includes the bread in your kitchen and life itself.

Re:They're all dangerous (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#39815225)

"That also includes the bread in your kitchen"

Thank you for this insight! Ergot leads to ergotism which can lead to psychedelic experience which might lead to questioning authority.

Bread should become a controlled substance.

I'd say being an Iranian nuclear scientist tops th (1)

vakuona (788200) | about 2 years ago | (#39814809)

Just sayin'.

Re:I'd say being an Iranian nuclear scientist tops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815177)

Drank the koolaid, did ya?

Cybernetics/AI/Transhumanism (2)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 2 years ago | (#39814813)

Sapient artificial species which don't die of natural causes and can live virtually will more radically threaten our culture, society and civilization than any other change in technology.

For all of human history we've been adapting to the same species using different technology. We've never in history dealt with the fundamental nature of man changing before.

Steal a baby from 2,000 BCE and it'll probably grow up like any other human. Steal a baby from 2,500 AD and it will most likely be a new species.

Physics (1)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#39814815)

In my opinion, the most dangerous science is always going to be physics. It is going to produce the most direct methods to destroy whatever you want destroyed. It is going to pose the most direct challenges to whatever dogma the aristocracy is using to part the pesants from their meager treasure. The application of physics can and may destroy the entire world.

Everything else just make the danger slightly more efficient. Genetically engineered bird flu might be scary, but a few blankets with small pox has a mortality rate of maybe 30%. We might talk about screening for gender, but really just killing the girls after they are born has been a tested and proven tradition. Pretty much, we know how to do damage using conventional methods. Physics tells us who to do damage using methods unknown.

Re:Physics (0)

John Hasler (414242) | about 2 years ago | (#39815111)

> In my opinion, the most dangerous science is always going
> to be physics.

Which is, of course, why politicians continue to fund it generously. They keep hoping for another atomic bomb.

Furries! (human-animal hybrids) (0)

greenreaper (205818) | about 2 years ago | (#39814827)

Could result in intelligent beings with special abilities who save the human race from its flaws (and add really hot raves) - or pathetic half-beings who know only their inability to live in one world or another . . . or embittered slaves who ultimately rise up and overthrow their masters with their superhuman powers, laying waste to civilization.

Re:Furries! (human-animal hybrids) (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#39815167)

Go ahead and admit it, Green Reaper. You can hardly wait to write it up for Flayrah whichever way it goes! ;)

It's just old stuck in the muds like Kage standing in your way.

Oh, what the heck. I'd probably end up helping you out by locking Kage in a box. ;)

Really, though, that has no more or less intrinsic moral problem than any major elective germ line modification does. If you can resolve the moral questions for one, you can do it for the other. But even in the less radical case, they are formidable ethical problems.

The results of any such are likely to be much more boring and mundane than the above scenarios.

Re:Furries! (human-animal hybrids) (1)

greenreaper (205818) | about 2 years ago | (#39815519)

Yeah, I never really agreed with his position on that in those "furry science" panels. Whatever happened to doing things because we could, before we decided whether we should?

The reality is that we are nowhere near it yet, and perhaps will not be in our lifetimes - and it'll probably turn out differently than we now imagine. Still, a norn can dream!

Grey goo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814887)

Nanoscale self replicating robotics.

Some things you just don't want to get lose in the world at large...

Religious experiments (3, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#39814895)

are banned in advanced technical civilizations, for good reasons.

Suppose scientific experimentation confirms the existence of the soul, and that we all end up in Hell (or some very unpleasant equivalent), but the older you are when you die, the more painful it becomes? Or, that afterlife is extremely pleasant, better than anything you've ever experienced on earth, and the scientists build a machine that can give you a brief preview of this?

That's right, mass suicides. The population of an entire planet disappeared this way.

It's all up to the people employing it. (2, Insightful)

meerling (1487879) | about 2 years ago | (#39814917)

There are a couple of things to be remembered.

First: Everything man has ever created has been used for such negative things as murder and war. For that matter, every thing we ever will create will also be used for such things until such point as mankind has surpassed the need and desire for such negative activities.

Second: Once a thing has been done, it will be done again. Once it is known by anyone that something is actually possible (as opposed to theoretically possible or even believed impossible) it becomes capable of being repeated. Just look at nuclear proliferation for an example. It was believed that splitting the atom was impossible. Once it was demonstrated to be possible, many others repeated the discovery despite the best attempts at others to prevent that from happening.

The only thing they are really doing by blocking research from those in that field is to waste resources duplicating effort, and reducing or eliminating potential benefit from that knowledge while failing to prevent it's eventual and inevitable misuse. I would even hazard to say that such censorship increases the devastation that will be caused by such inhumane uses by limiting if not eliminating the positive research and understanding that comes from shared research and peer review.

Only a moron, a paranoid, or a politician could come up with such a stupid and counterproductive scheme as censoring research.

Re:It's all up to the people employing it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815311)

The only thing they are really doing by blocking research from those in that field is to waste resources duplicating effort, and reducing or eliminating potential benefit from that knowledge while failing to prevent it's eventual and inevitable misuse. I would even hazard to say that such censorship increases the devastation that will be caused by such inhumane uses by limiting if not eliminating the positive research and understanding that comes from shared research and peer review.

I really doubt that the argument is as one-sided as you have portrayed it. Blocking, say, nuclear proliferation might not be able to prevent its "eventual and inevitable misuse", but it has significantly raised the bar (no non-state actors currently) and timescale (six decades so far!) till the day it happens. When the consequences of a single event of misuse is astronomical, it might be worth delaying until we can better deal with the threat, or until such a day where there is no need to fear it.

Downsides to delaying research might exist, but giving everyone the technology needed to manufacture WMDs in their backyard would certainly change the geopolitical situation of today, in a way that might not be for the better.

Pretty sure (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#39814951)

I'm pretty sure there's a "political science" joke here somewhere, but I can't seem to make it work. Anybody else want to take a shot?

And the biggest scientific taboo of all is... (1)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#39814957)

... eugenics.

Did I just manage to invoke Godwin's Law without using a certain historical name? (Never mind that said person didn't invent or implement it first.)

Successful Alchemy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814965)

Just ask any successful - or credible - alchemist ;)

The Singularity (1)

dumuzi (1497471) | about 2 years ago | (#39814981)

AI

Re:The Singularity (5, Insightful)

ganv (881057) | about 2 years ago | (#39815189)

I that that artificial intelligence that is more effective than human intelligence is the main long term issue. I don't expect it in the next few decades as some do, but sometime in the next 1000 years, someone is going to build a machine that is better at general problem solving and design than a skilled human. And a little while after that, human intelligence will be largely obsolete. This holds by far the most powerful and dangerous possibilities.

Artificial Wombs and eggs cloned from adult cells: (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#39814997)

They could be quite a boon. They could give more women with reproductive problems the chance to have a genetic descendant child. You might even be able to correct dominant genetic problems (Huntington's Disease comes to mind) before implantation.

They could also be terribly abused.

Before, you had to convince/coerce a woman to get pregnant and carry a child to term. This put at least some practical limits (physical ones in the case of coercing, moral and persuasive ones in the case of convincing) on creating children for bad purposes.

Now you can create babies without even that small oversight. And you can create them as quickly as you can field more artificial wombs.

It's not instantly destructive the way that some of the ones mentioned are, but it could be terribly misused.

Imagine creating fully aware normal children genetically identical to aging adults to be dissected for transplant organs. Save for the sucessful human cloning, you could do this already if you were repressive enough, but this would make it much easier. No wrath of the parents to deal with. You might even be able to keep the source of the organs a closely guarded secret.

In truth though, nearly any powerful technology can be used for horrible things. It's up to us how we use it.

Re:Artificial Wombs and eggs cloned from adult cel (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39815085)

There is better technology coming on line the keeping a child alive until its' old enough to have useful organs.

OTOH, you could create something without a brain, and then get a head transplant ever 20 or so years.

I'm up for that!

Re:Artificial Wombs and eggs cloned from adult cel (2)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#39815283)

Yes, the idea of creating anencephalics for that purpose has been thought of.

However it has complications. For many parts of the body to develop normally they have to be used. A digestive tract that has never processed food or muscles that have never moved are not going to be normal. You would have to have enough brain function to run those processes during growth. Or, alternatively, you would have to be able to interface a control system to the brain stem to take over that function.

The Evil Overlord way to do it is just raise the kid normally, let them play and grow and then kill them for the organs or whole body. Much simpler that way, but your neighbors may say bad things about you.

Re:Artificial Wombs and eggs cloned from adult cel (1)

Gerafix (1028986) | about 2 years ago | (#39815453)

Your scenario is ridiculous. If you have sufficiently advanced technology to do that it would simply be easier to grow the organs themselves.

Dual use... in spaaaacccceee! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39814999)

Any tech can be used for good or ill. Suppose Government A or Multinational Corp B engineered a good way to clear space junk from useful orbits. How does one distinguish "junk" from "competitor's satellite" ?

Teleportation/Clone Army (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815011)

Depending on the method of teleportation, cloning could be another implementation of the same technology.

Investigating the causes of homosexuality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815013)

Interesting topic and not impossible as there are developmental / phenotypic markers that are correlated with same-sex attraction. BUT no one want to do the work as its the kind of thing that could be misused. On one hand it could substantiate the "some people are just gay, get over it" but on the other hand it could be used to persecute the people with these markers. I wonder what would happen to some of the religious anti-abortion groups if there was a way you could abort the gay.

Re:Investigating the causes of homosexuality (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#39815503)

The "radical" anti-abortionists (ones who picket abortion clinics) that I've known are unlikely to reverse their stance just because of that.

It's a position based on the belief that the soul joins with the body at conception. To them, it would be just as much murder as any other abortion. A newborn or a fetus has committed no "sin".

Any prior justification for aborting wouldn't be applicable to anything they could object to.

A newborn baby may be potentially homosexual based on genetics, but how could homosexuality even be defined in an infant? It's based on sexual feelings and activity that develop later. Until someone has had those feelings, or taken those actions, it isn't meaningfully defined.

Baby selection already happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815025)

As long as we permit women to have abortions for no reason other than because they want to, is it really so hard to swallow the idea of genetic selection? We already kill fetusus for no reason at all, and society is tolerant, if not accepting, of it. Why then would it be repugnant to select fetuses based on actual quantitative bases? How can that be worse than terminating pregnancies because we feel like it?

Re:Baby selection already happens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815109)

Because "because we feel like it" is either:

1. Random.
2. A result of certain unsuccessful combinations of genetics and environment.

The end result to the gene pool is at worst slightly less diversity, but given our numbers, those genes are probably duplicated a thousand-fold.

If we start selecting based on other factors we run the risk of having significantly less diversity.

genetic manipulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815125)

In our efforts to understand and control the source code for all biological life, we will discover that we will be able to use those building blocks to "create " new life forms and manipulate existing ones. We'll, at some point, be able to choose characteristics for our children (height, hair color, nose size, webbed feet, etc) . We will also discover that we can create bacterial and viral attackers which target specific ethnicities or even individual traits (freckles, blondes, tall people, etc) .

It is easier to destroy than to create. We will wreak unimaginable genetic destruction before we learn to control our base urges, if ever.

Several (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815131)

1. Mr Fusion home energy;
2. The Emacs Gene Editor mode for fun, profit and mayhem;
3. Self replicating robots, evolution does the rest;
4. Private use rail guns coupled with item 1.

Mad Science (1)

Stargoat (658863) | about 2 years ago | (#39815135)

The Mad Science is the most dangerous form. Yes, the volcano fortress is cool, but eventually James Bond comes around and blows the place up.

The Holodeck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815169)

Man's last invention. "Computer, load Scarlett Johanssen program 2....he he"

The things that already exist. (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about 2 years ago | (#39815207)

Pure and innocent Scientific Inquiry in the pursuit of knowledge generally hits a pretty thick wall pretty quickly as soon as it steps into the realm of things that already being researched, with the qualification that they are things the military is researching, or has researched within the past decade.

Even now, just to use the results of certain types of this research -- such as very accurate nuclear interaction cross-sections (discovered for the purposes of nuclear weapons, but) used for the purposes of cancer treatment -- puts you under the watchful eye of the FBI.

Yes, not everything falls under this category, and no, nobody needs to be reminded of the benefits of such research like how our microwave ovens defeated the germans, but just think about some of the examples we DO know about:
WWII to Cold war era: Nuclear Science
Cryptography (Government mandated PGP backdoor, anyone?)

Sources:
MCNP:
http://mcnpx.lanl.gov/ [lanl.gov]
PGP:
http://books.google.com/books?id=cSe_0OnZqjAC&pg=PA352&lpg=PA352&dq=pgp+government+mandated+backdoor&source=bl&ots=cVtmm3vwYK&sig=fwjn6mfbXVWngTS0pgHIFWFV9bE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5OyZT8_pLsXUgAf3gNX1DQ&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=pgp%20government%20mandated%20backdoor&f=false [google.com] )

that's entirely the wrong perspective (2)

holophrastic (221104) | about 2 years ago | (#39815275)

Each of those four items are the potential subject of nightmares and downfalls, but each and every one of them is a guarantee -- all eight.

Imagine the year 2150. Distant to any human life, not at all distant to government, mediocre to construction (some city construction projects take 70 years), and eons to technology.

In your 2150, can we spot genetic defects before birth? Of course. Can we select babies for the life that we want? As in can I choose the embryo with athletic skills over the embryo with mathematic skils? I'd sure hope so. It sounds dangerous today, but it's only dangerous in advance, like everything. By the time it's ubiquitous, it's just another form of choosing your child's academic goals. It just starts even earlier.

Same goes for the other six in your 2150. I'd sure as hell hope that we can read minds to some extent by then. But just like the polygraph didn't destroy interrogations, and the mouse didn't destroy the keyboard, and television didn't kill radio, and the plane didn't kill the car, it won't be the only form of communication.

As for police states reading minds, that's the ethical equivalent of humane execution. It's already a police state, it's already killing people, I'm not worried about the mind reading.

Geoengineering is absolutely required in order to live anywhere but terrestrial land. Period. So it's guaranteed to happen. And it'll happen quite suddenly the day before it's required. And by the time it can be used to "undermind the political will to fight it" it'll be so easy to do that it'll be a part of normal construction.

Nuclear weapons don't kill people. People's mistakes kill people. But people don't kill asteroids. Nuclear weapons kill asteroids. That's another period, by the way.

I like how bird flu wasn't one of the top four, having inspired the thing in the first place. But that's the same concept. Of course we're going to have a major outbreak of something. We've had it before. Everyone's so worried that this time, with common means of global transportation, it'll be much worse. I think that they forget one thing. In probably under an hour, every airport and every border can instantly have screeners for whatever the current outbreak is. We have TSA and border and customs security everywhere nowadays. It'd be easy to suddenly, and globally, halt anyone displaying symptoms, or quickly test everyone as a part of transportation procedures.

My point is that, as a civilization, we can't not have those things. Being scared of the research in advance is stupid. Focus on being scared of the initially flawed execution of that research. Work on that while the research is underway. We have M.A.D. for nuclear weapons. That's already worked a few times. It's dumb, but it worked. I'm stunned, but it worked. That's the sort of thing that we need for the rest of them. A Nash equillibrium for each one.

Re:that's entirely the wrong perspective (1)

Gerafix (1028986) | about 2 years ago | (#39815489)

To be honest I think you're extremely overestimating (to the point of ridiculousness) the effectiveness of "screeners" and the TSA and the rest of that bureaucracy.

The worst of worst-case outcomes (3, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 2 years ago | (#39815335)

There would be ethical and humanitarian applications for it, but mere death and pain would be hard pressed to compete with the potential damage of perfect propaganda. If some combination of psychology, hypnosis, drugs in the water, drugs in the drugs, or whatnot made it possible to get people to believe anything you said, that could be the end of all freedom forever.

Most dangerous discovery of all (1)

barv (1382797) | about 2 years ago | (#39815343)

A new political system to replace what we've got. It would have...

1. Ability to remove anybody from power at any level of government by a poll of interested parties.
2. Any law or regulation to be affirmed by at least 20% (or whatever) of voters every 10 (or whenever) years.
3. & 4. I'll think of a couple more soon.

Most dangerous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815355)

1) human behaviour modification
2) experimenting with food supply/drinking water/energy etc
3) playing with dangerous virus outbreaks
4) transferring dangerous animals from one continent to another(bees are good example where this happened already)
5) terraforming planets / weather modification
6) self-duplicating robots/nanostructures
7) mythbuster style explosion/destruction research
8) dna modification
9) global physics parameter modifications
10) gun/missile/bomb research

Re:Most dangerous? (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#39815523)

"1) human behaviour modification"

You mean like school?

Very dangerous (see Orwell), but it already exists.

Global Warming (0)

drsmack1 (698392) | about 2 years ago | (#39815475)

In terms of bad things most likely to happen, researching global warming in the same way you would research any scientific hypothesis is incredibly dangerous. One step outside the narrow path dictated by politics and orthodoxy - you'll find your funding cut off and you will suddenly be on the outs with mainstream journals.

Basically, unless you recant any contrary opinion, your career is over as a researcher.

The only two things you are even *allowed* to discuss in the "climate change" "debate" are:

1) *How bad is it* (ranging from horrible to catastrophic)

2) *how drastic the action that EVERYONE (except for countries that are already compliant, such as any communist country).

You'll notice that the only countries attacked with any rigor by the extremists are those that are capitalist strongholds. This is because fomenting stalinism is the only real goal.

Muhammed: Jokes vs Cartoons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39815477)

Abstract:
Researchers investigated the relative effect of jokes vs cartoons about Muhammad. Subject size was approximately 1 billion individuals. Cartoons were determined to elicit a stronger response with a higher researcher fatality rate (p.01) and subject fatalities due to riots (p.01).

Intelligent Design (0)

Technician (215283) | about 2 years ago | (#39815511)

Looking at the complexity of the universe and the DNA chains that map life and trying to find evidence that this was not random probability. Life is fragile. How has it survied this long. The sun, how was it made to not burn out in a few hundred years? Why is it stable? How long can the fire burn? Without intelligent design, science has many questions to find the answer to. It is harder to believe this thing called life started on it's own and DNA which is universal in life was not designed. Why isn't there life without DNA, but uses something else instead? Since DNA is universal, did we really decend from pond scum along with iguanas and brine shrimp?

I do agree the design permits natural selection. To say that natural selection is part of devine design is a very dangerous discovery.

Targetable nanotechnology (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 2 years ago | (#39815535)

Any kind of nanotechnology is in general bad news, because it'll be hard to control in the wild. Once you can make a lot of them, you can let them loose on a subject population and well, at least they'll wear out after a while.

Because they're so small you pretty much need a trigger nanobot/signal to activate it ie: in the the presence of bot A bot B starts its thing, like disassembling RNA.

There's not a lot you could do against these things, except stay out of the way. The good thing is that they probably wouldn't be very contagious - they'd go in via your lungs/nose and stay there.

Poison is still cheaper, but with nano you can really get to scale.

Final Exam (The Outer Limits) (1)

giorgist (1208992) | about 2 years ago | (#39815537)

This was a great episode. I highly recommend it, if you can find it see it.

In it a student simply uncovers that fusion is a trivial to access. It is simply asymmetric. Power corrupts, what will happen if more power is easily available. As geeks we see that in the power given to us by computers such that kids can conceivably launch denial of service attacks.

Nanorobots and Artificial Intelligence. (1)

vistapwns (1103935) | about 2 years ago | (#39815559)

Picture something like the Matrix, except..There is no possibility EVER of the "One", no escapees from the system, no resistance, no nothing just slaves in a system. Might look like this world, might look like something else. Assuming some mad man that controls nanobots/AI doesn't decide to say, kill all the men and take the women as slaves..*forever*. Pleasant dreams..

Two sides to nearly every coin (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 years ago | (#39815603)

The technological device that probably killed more people than anyone else in WWI was General Haig's telephone.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...