Gene editing is here and with it, the ability to customize human embryos. For generations, it has been a dream to be able to correct birth defects before a child is born. Now it is possible. Of course, as with new technologies, this one raises questions. While almost everyone would agree with correcting a debilitating or painful condition, what about selecting eye color, height, or sex? Gene editing technology brings these questions front and center.
Genetic engineering involves altering the genetic code. DNA is altered, deleted, or even inserted into the genome of a living organism. With the use of engineered nucleases, most commonly known as molecular scissors, editing the genome has finally become truly effective.
Advancements in Gene Editing
In 2015, four families of engineered nucleases processes have advanced the methods of gene editing.
- Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs)
- Transcription Activator-Like Effector-Based Nucleases (TALEN)
- Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)
Out of the four, CRISPR/Cas9 is the most innovative. The approach won the 2015 Breakthrough of the Year by Science.
CRISPR Therapeutics says that all of the approaches have been bombarded by numerous challenges. The safety and efficiency of all four have been questioned. The engineered nucleases have not yet developed the degree of control necessary to address a range of genetic changes precisely. But CRISPR offers a new horizon because it has the capacity to correct DNA changes in somatic cells of patients with critical illnesses.
The practice of gene editing is already making a difference in countries like Great Britain and China. This year, America joined the bold and innovative trend that is attracting a great deal of attention from investors and businesses.
Breakthrough in First Human Embryo Edit
Notably, for the first time, the U.S. has edited an embryo. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, an Embryologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, led the research. Mitalipov’s Team conquered the problem of “off-target” and incomplete gene editing that tormented previous attempts. They targeted a gene that is associated with a significant human illness.
According to Jeffrey Kahn, a Bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland: “It’s one more step on the path to potential clinical application.”
“This is the kind of research that is essential if we are to know if it’s possible to safely and precisely make corrections in embryos’ DNA to repair disease-causing genes,” said R. Alta Charo, a Legal Scholar, and Bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Notably, Business Insider discussed that the United States experiment was deemed safe because it dodged the process of mosaicism. Mosaicism is when only some cells of an embryo have the intended DNA changes.
The experiment that was led by Mitalipov faced numerous challenges from many quarters. They were questioned about moral and ethical rules. According to both the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Congress, the U.S. is not going to fund research that makes use of genome editing in order to change embryos. Nonetheless, the team performed their gene-editing experiment in the United States, although they have refused to release details of the experiment’s results. It is not precisely known what they had planned to do or what was accomplished.
Why is Genome Editing Important?
China first attempted gene editing in order to eliminate the cause of a rare blood disorder. The said country has also been doing research with CRISPR technology in order to treat cancer. In spite of the challenges for bioethicists, the CRISPR method has big potential to cure serious diseases.
The technology of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing has given researchers and scientists an invaluable tool to reach their fullest potential in the field of medicine. The bold method is a ticket for a better and improved future. This innovation will greatly expand opportunities and health outcomes for the next generation.
Imagine if you were able to find rent rating system before you rent an apartment or house? Picture it being as easy as checking the Zagat rating for a restaurant. That’s what Yale Fox, Founder, and CEO of Rentlogic want to do in New York City.
In this exclusive Bold Interview, Fox describes how his new company, Rentlogic, makes the rental market more transparent and efficient. In a city like New York, bursting at the seams with economic growth, housing is at a premium, and tenants are at a big disadvantage. Right now, the system seems to reward landlords who cut corners and disregard tenant concerns.
Rentlogic can change all of that. The company allows rent rating system to landlords and tenants, based upon government records. This is a win-win on both landlords and tenants because the rent rating system makes more transparent.
…it is about time that we have a rent rating system that rewards good landlords and tenants to make the housing search just a little bit easier.
It’s no secret that New York housing costs are sky-high. According to Fox, the average New Yorker spend about 65% of their net income on rent. This is double the national average of about 30% of income.
With rent absorbing such a large share of tenants income, it is even more critical that tenants know what type of situation they are getting into before they sign the documents. Rentlogic helps them to avoid the bad landlords and buildings and puts both parties on a more even footing.
“When you rent,” Fox said in a recent Ted Talk, “you are not in control of your own home, you are dependent on your landlord. And, even though many landlords are great, at the end of the day, these are all businesses that are built to maximize their bottom lines. This results in keeping operating costs low and charging as much as you can get away with for your product.”
Exposing the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Housing
That is, of course, how the market is supposed to work. But in the case of rental housing, the two parties have very asymmetrical knowledge. Things that a landlord may know perfectly well is if the roof leaks or the plumbing are bad, and not entirely understood by the tenant. And long leases can leave tenants trapped in unacceptable and even unhealthy situations for a year or more.
The real problem is that when a tenant has two options, option A and option B, one is a good landlord and the other not so good, they have no way of knowing which is which. Both apartments may be freshly painted and look clean on the surface. But, one landlord may have hidden problems and refuse to make repairs, while the other one bends over backward for the tenant.
This is the type of information Rentlogic wants to bring into view. Fox believes it is essential for this information to get out there, so that good landlords who in fact, do spend a bit more taking good care of their properties and tenants can be rewarded for it. Plus, it can help to sort out the bad apples. It gives tenants knowledge and flexibility, with less risk.
The information for Rentlogic comes from government records, which include tenant complaints and inspection reports, among other things. It is all compiled into an easy to use and transparent rent rating system. The company intends to earn revenue from licensing their seals and displays to landlords who score high.
Given that a home is a good deal, more substantial and more critical decision than going to dinner, it is about time that we have a rent rating system that rewards good landlords and tenants to make the housing search just a little bit easier. Rentlogic is a bold idea whose time has come.
Space X and Tesla Motors entrepreneur Elon Musk startled attendees at a National Governors Association meeting in Nevada when he warned about the economic disruptions that automation and artificial intelligence will cause. For good measure he also sounded the alarm about the threat AI could pose to human life on Earth. In an interview with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval from a state where Tesla is building a highly automated electric car engine “gigafactory” near Reno, Musk warned that “until people see, like robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react [to AI] because it seems so ethereal.”
Despite his skill as a hi-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is getting ahead of himself, or at least ahead of the data.
Sandoval along with the other governors attending the meeting were stunned into dead silence. But Musk didn’t backtrack or qualify. He doubled down. The threat, he explained “is very real, at least, it will be soon.”
“When I say everything, the robots will do everything, bar nothing,” he said. He went on, as the automation revolution continues, “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization, and I don’t think people fully appreciate that.”
These sentiments appear odd coming from the South Africa-born Stanford trained engineer-inventor and high-tech entrepreneur whose goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the “risk of human extinction” by “making life multiplanetary” by establishing a human colony on Mars.
Elon is Not Alone About the Threat of AI
But Musk is not the only high tech leader with such thoughts. Microsoft founder Bill Gates says automation “will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set.” Last May, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Harvard’s graduating class of 2017 that increased automation would strip us not only of our jobs but also of our sense of purpose.
Mark Nall, a program manager for NASA, told Pew Research Center’s Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson, who investigated AI, Robotics and the Future of Jobs, that “unlike previous disruptions such as when farming machinery displaced farm workers but created factory jobs making the machines, robotics and AI are different. Due to their versatility and growing capabilities, not just a few economic sectors will be affected, but whole swaths will be. This is already being seen now from robocalls to lights-out manufacturing. Economic efficiency will be the driver.”
“The central question of 2025 will be: What are people for in a world that does not need their labor, and where only a minority are needed to guide the ‘bot-based economy,” adds Stowe Boyd, lead researcher at Gigaom, an Austin, TX research group studying emerging technologies for business and industry?
Such is the conventional wisdom among the technoratti: Robots and AI are going to do away with our jobs. And if we are not careful they will lower our living standards in the bargain.
The only problem is that the evidence of the last two centuries points in the opposite direction: Automation has generated lots more jobs. People have been worrying about automation wiping out jobs since English textile workers, calling themselves Luddites smashed weaving machines in the early 19th century in an effort to roll back the technical advances of nascent industrialization.
Similarly in 1900, 41% of American workers were employed in agriculture, but by 2000, automated machinery brought that number down to just 2%. In the last 30 years computers are increasingly performing tasks humans once did. You may have noticed that the once ubiquitous typing pool has vanished. Despite the efforts of the followers of Ned Ludd 96% of the weaving work became automated, but the number of textile workers grew. The increase in productivity caused the cost of cloth to rapidly go down making it far more affordable for everyone to own multiple wardrobes, which in turn led to more demand for workers to produce more cloth.
In the 1970s the invention of the ATM was said to spell the end of bank tellers. Initially this was true, but the raised efficiency that this entailed allowed banks to open more branches, which in turn prompted the hiring of more tellers. U.S. bank teller employment rose by 50,000 between 1980 and 2010, but the tasks of these tellers evolved from merely dispensing cash to providing services like credit cards and loans—skills that ATMs don’t have. In fact, there is only one occupation where automation has actually destroyed jobs eradicating employment completely: Elevator operators.
History has taught us a great deal about how automation disrupts industries, but people seldom appreciate that its chief result is that of unintended consequences. Researchers at the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that only 5% of occupations are fully automatable employing currently available technologies. They noted that jobs that people do today, thanks largely due to high productivity made possible by technological advances, are vastly different from those that were done at the turn of the 20th century.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review Mark Muro and Scott Andes, both at Brookings Institute, report that when it comes to automation’s influence on the labor force there is a great deal of ambiguity. Research suggests that while one cannot rule out that there is no effect of automation on employment levels, the effects tend to vary depending on skill level. Robots, for example, tend to increase the employment and pay of skilled workers even as it tends to “crowd out” employment of low-skill and to a lessor extent middle-skill workers. While robots don’t seem to be causing net job losses, they do seem to change the sort of workers that are in demand. In other words robots and automation seem to improve productivity, not costing jobs overall.
Automation and AI’s impact on employment is more about changing the nature of work than it is about harming people’s prospects. Despite his skill as a hi-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is getting ahead of himself, or at least ahead of the data. The fields most transformed by technology have produced the biggest increases in employment, from medicine to management consulting. Disappearing factory jobs have been replaced by jobs in services, where highly skilled workers, like doctors and computer programmers are paid more.
James Bessen, an economist, who serves as Executive Director of the Technology & Policy Research Initiative at Boston University School of Law, told Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims, “that the problem of [automation] is not mass unemployment, it’s transitioning people from one job to another.”
Dr. Andrew Moore, Dean of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, said “I think it’s interesting we’re all so concerned about there being jobs available and there’s such a gap [in artificial intelligence training].”
Perhaps Musk, Gates and Zuckerberg and other members of the technoratti should take a look around sometime. Despite the looming threat of runaway A.I., technology also presents an opportunity to create a number of new jobs.