Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. Chances are you haven’t heard of these women. And the chances are also pretty good your life will be changed in unexpected ways by their research. Just three years ago, they discovered CRISPR-Cas9. And that discovery has the potential to change everything.
In life, as in business, it is the things that remain stable that we need to build on.
Literally everything? Well everything with DNA. Which means every living thing—including you, me, our children, the food we eat and the pets we play with. If it’s alive, CRISPR-Cas9 matters.
Why? Because it provides a mechanism to efficiently, precisely and cost-effectively edit DNA. Could CRISPR be the miracle cure for genetic diseases? It looks promising. Could it be used to target cancerous cells? Very possibly. Can CRISPR be used to edit the DNA of human embryos? We don’t have to guess on this one. Chinese scientists announced this year the first ever DNA edit of a human embryo using CRISPR.
And CRISPR is just one of the stunning developments that appear set to fundamentally alter the world we live in.
Satoshi Nakamoto. That’s another name you probably haven’t heard before, but whose invention has the potential to radically alter the world. Nakamoto is a pseudonym used by the creator(s) of Bitcoin, a crypto-currency.
Would anyone really use an anonymously created currency with no nation state behind it and no physical notes or coins? You bet. Today you can buy a ticket to London on Expedia, a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 from Amazon to read on the flight and some woolly undies from Kmart to wear when you arrive, all using Bitcoin. In fact more than 100,000 merchants accept it. Want to buy just one Bitcoin? It will set you back more than A$300.
Imagine a world where there is a transnational currency out of the control of governments. If the state can’t impact the currency, is it responsible for the economy? And if not, how relevant is it? And what about collecting tax revenue? It’s hard enough now. Can you imagine a world where multinationals hold their revenue in transnational crypto-cash? And what will happen to the value of our quaint national currencies if transnational, private crypto-currencies become the flavour of the era?
November 7, 2015. That’s the date set for the first autonomous automobile testing in the southern hemisphere. And it will all take place in beautiful Adelaide.
What we know already is this: self-driving vehicles are on the way. Google’s making them. Mercedes is making them. The Swiss are experimenting with modified self-driving VWs in Zurich. And the Americans are investing in the technology with gusto.
And we also know this: computers can very likely drive cars better than we do. They don’t text while driving, get drunk or drop hot drinks in their laps. And that’s a good thing because globally more than 1.24 million people are killed every year in car crashes.
Is there a chance that our children will never need a driver’s licence? That our hospital trauma units will empty out? That commutes will be faster and more productive as we sit in our pods and are driven around? Not in 100 years from now, but in 10?
With so much changing, it can be hard to know how to respond. My friend Craig Price pointed me to the thoughts of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: “I very frequently get the question: ‘what’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ . . . I almost never get the question: ‘what’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two—because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time . . .”
Which brings me to life. It’s an exciting—even beguiling—time to be alive. But it’s also unsettling and at times confusing. And if we build our identities around knowledge, assets or cultural norms, we will more than likely find our sense of self swept aside. In life, as in business, it is the things that remain stable that we need to build on.
I hope CRISPR-Cas9 lives up to its promise. I might buy a Bitcoin or two. And, though I love cars, autonomous transportation can’t come soon enough in my book. However, no matter what happens in science, finance or technology, what gives my life meaning will not change: timeless values, eternal wisdom and infinite love.
James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.