Editor’s note: Yesterday, we featured part one of a conversation between Casey Research founder Doug Casey and tech expert Jeff Brown.
At the Legacy Investment Summit in California, they talked about the biggest advances on the horizon in tech, from life-extension science to artificial superintelligence.
Today, joined by Chris Lowe, editor of Legacy Research’s Daily Cut newsletter, Jeff and Doug wrap up their discussion on the life-changing breakthroughs in our future, starting with the gene-editing technology called CRISPR…
Chris Lowe, editor, The Daily Cut: Jeff, we have this technology that can be used for good. We can CRISPR ourselves and make ourselves better. But we’ve also seen that, in China, for instance, a doctor kind of just tore up the rulebook – as Doug is suggesting – and edited an embryo, trying to make it resistant to the HIV virus, and made a mistake. Is that how I understand it?
Jeff Brown, editor, Early Stage Trader: Well, that particular case caused absolute outrage on an international level. There was – how can I say? I was up at the Broad Institute in Boston not too long ago, and the topic came up.
These were basically the top geneticists in the world, and the executives that worked for a lot of these gene-editing companies, and it was just absolute disgust and outrage over what happened in China. Germline editing is, first of all, ethically an absolute no-no.
Chris: And germline is where you’re going to change the whole lineage of somebody, going down through the –
Jeff: Absolutely. You’re doing that at an embryo level. And obviously, that particular human, that sentient being, has no say in the matter. What makes it even more reckless is the fact that at that stage, we hadn’t even begun the first phase one clinical trial for CRISPR genetic editing anywhere in the world.
That’s how reckless the event was. Even more worrisome is we might say, “Well, the scientist’s intention was good.”
After all, he doesn’t want the children to get HIV, right? But the power of CRISPR, the ability to literally create what could potentially be designing superhumans, creating a genetic structure – not correcting a mutation but actually creating or programming a genetic structure which directly impacts intelligence or muscle density or height or speed or athleticism.
This is an area that genuinely concerns me.
Chris: And Doug, do you think it’s possible that we’re going to develop these – most technology seems to have come out of government. You had that nuclear bomb – government. Even the internet, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), started by the government.
Is it kind of possible to keep government out of these technologies, or is it always inevitable that they just move in, take over, and they’ve got the money?
Jeff: I’d love to hear Doug’s thoughts on this, but from my perspective, the government cannot control this, and the reason is, anybody in this room can go on the internet and pay $400 and have a genetic editing kit overnighted to them and you can start editing.
Chris: And what can you edit? Your eye color, I believe?
Jeff: Anything. Again, you can edit yourself. Not recommended, but you can do it.
Chris: And it’s an injection?
Doug Casey, founder, Casey Research: This is absolutely wonderful. I totally agree. I think it’s absolutely fantastic, actually. It’s wonderful.
This is one of the best things about the ongoing, and hopefully soon final – although I’m injecting my wishes with the bankruptcy of the U.S. government. Because as their expenditures – which is mostly, as you know, on welfare, it’s mostly on social security, Medicaid, and Medicare, and the rest goes to the Defense Department.
So, between those three or four things, really, I think already something on the order of 80% of their budget just goes. I’m not going to have the money to divvy out for research, because the capital still exists.
They grab the capital from society and cut off a huge part of it and then reallocate it. And then they get credit for the occasional breakthrough, which is creating a highly politically corrupt area of science.
Science has become dishonest. The best example of this is this whole anthropogenic global warming scam, which has been run and is still accelerating unbelievably.
Listen, I hope that things advance quickly enough that – what do I want? I’d like to have – maybe 10 or certainly no more than 20 years from now – I want Bruce Jenner’s body, but I want it just before he won the decathlon. I want to keep my own head; that’ll do.
What was that book, Jeff? You probably read a huge amount of sci-fi too. I think it was called This Perfect Day, about a future with a guy that actually rules the world, where the new guys are Ford and who else? He was a Chinese guy who every 10 or 20 years transplanted his head onto a new body. I think it was called This Perfect Day by Ira Levin. I think this is all possible.
Chris: What’s your favorite sci-fi book, Doug?
Doug: Oh, goodness.
Chris: One of them.
Doug: As kids – and I know everybody starts out this way with the big three: Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. Things have evolved since then. Almost anything those guys have written, they’re all geniuses.
But my favorite sci-fi guy today that’s writing is Neal Stephenson. Any of you guys read sci-fi and Stephenson in particular? He’s great. He’s written a bunch, but my favorite by him is The Diamond Age. It’s a work of genius.
Chris: What’s it about?
Doug: It’s about the near future. The book was written 25 years ago. It was about 50 years in the future, and it’s a world where nanotechnology has blossomed. I think he’s conservative, quite frankly.
Chris: And what is nanotechnology? I don’t really know what it means or what it is.
Doug: Well, in the past, we’ve always put stuff together – well, let’s go this way. With most computer technologies, you try to make things smaller and more efficient. The smaller you can make it, the less time the electrons take to go from one place to another.
Nanotechnology takes a different approach. Instead of making stuff smaller, you’ve got to make stuff bigger, because you’re going to start at the molecular level.
The basic idea that was put together – and once again my memory for names and faces has never been good, but who’s the guy that started the whole nanotechnology thing? Eric Drexler. For years I put on a conference call at the Eris Society in Aspen, where I lived during the northern summer. And Eric came to one back in the 90s, I guess after his first book came out which was called Engines of Creation.
I haven’t really kept in touch with him much since then, but he describes it perfectly in that book.
Here’s the way nanotechnology works. It’s that you take atoms, and you have supercomputers on a molecular level that he called assemblers. And the assemblers take these atoms – carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, whatever you want – and assemble them into little machines. And then those machines build bigger machines and it’s pixie dust.
The way nanotechnology would work on its ultimate scale is, you take the pixie dust, the assemblers, and the molecular-sized supercomputers, and you toss it at that platform over there.
And if you want, if it’s programmed to do that, it’ll disassemble that podium and then reassemble the atomic components into something new. I mean, that’s going to change the entire nature of life irreversibly.
People say, “Well, maybe it’ll turn the planet into grey goo as these things get out of control.”
It’s like the Walt Disney thing, where you’ve got the sorcerer’s apprentice and the brooms. Well, okay, there’s a chance of anything happening. I’m a solipsist, essentially, and a solipsist is somebody that believes – well, there’s many varieties of solipsism, but it’s basically that anything you can imagine happening can happen.
In fact, if you wait long enough, anything that can possibly happen will happen. That’s what nanotechnology is. That’s the biggie. It’s bigger than artificial intelligence, eventually.
But they’re both going to happen more or less at the same time, I guess, ultimately – the final evolution of them.
Chris: Jeff, do you have nanotechnology on your radar? Is there anything happening there? Is it far away from being implemented?
Jeff: I think it is singularly the biggest disappointment that I have in the world of technology so far. It’ll get there. But since Drexler envisioned all of this in his book, almost no progress has been made over the last 20 years with regards to developing nanotechnology. That’s one of the areas that will definitely take a lot more time to get there.
One comment I did want to make on The Diamond Age, the Neal Stephenson book. The other interesting thing, in addition to nanotechnology, that was so pervasive in that book was a concept of phyles, a concept of society organizing itself into smaller phyles or tribes of people that had aligned interests.
The reason that’s interesting to the world of high tech right now is, we’re seeing something very similar to that in the blockchain industry.
Many blockchain projects are assembling because of a common belief and a common goal, without even any salaries, and producing a technology that can be used for specific purposes. They’re issuing tokens and they’re paid within their own microeconomic network.
And so, what Stephenson is describing is really fascinating in terms of what the blockchain industry tends to refer to as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), where people just insert themselves into those areas that are important to them, and they can leave them just as quickly, completely free of any restrictions whatsoever.
Doug: Absolutely. Great point, Jeff. This has got huge practical – the concept of phyles – huge practical and also political implications.
I mean, I’ve felt for many years I don’t have much loyalty to the United States. It’s a geographical area controlled by a governmental entity. I’ve got far less in common with the people that live in the trailer park down the road from me in Aspen than I do with friends of mine in the Congo, frankly.
That’s what this is about, is being enabled by a computer technology where you can find out who your real countrymen are, people that you share values with.
This is hopefully going to be what could actually destroy the nation-state, where people are loyal to their real psychological and intellectual and spiritual countrymen, as opposed to some entity in Washington D.C. or London or whatever these capitals are. That’s developing right now. Big deal.
Chris: I think we have to wrap up, but I’ve got one more question, Jeff, because today in the news there was a – I don’t know what it is, some interstellar object has entered our solar system. What is going on there? Could it be extraterrestrial life?
Jeff: I wish I had a very clear answer to that question.
Hopefully, many of us have actually read about this, but this is the second interstellar object that’s actually entered our solar system. The last one, I think it was called Oumuamua. It was basically a big rock, a big long rock. It looked like a cigar, basically.
And of course, some conspiracy theorists thought that it was disguised as a big rock, but it was actually a spacecraft.
Not surprisingly, this is what Arthur C. Clarke envisioned in Rendezvous with Rama. His Rama series of books were fantastic, where an interstellar object entered the solar system. Everybody thought it was a rock, but in fact, it was a spacecraft, a very large spacecraft. I won’t spoil the book, but it’s about unraveling the mysteries of that particular spacecraft.
The latest one actually appears to be a very large comet, so it’s a different entity that’s entered our solar system, and certainly is an exciting scientific development to watch. But if you wanted to check out extraterrestrial life, that’d be a great way to do it, wouldn’t it?
Doug: Yeah. Of course, one of the best ways – at least with any kind of remotely current technology – to go interstellar is to use a giant asteroid, so that you’ve got all that material that’s going to shield you from cosmic rays and so forth, and is kind of disguised, because it looks like you’re not going to be able to go faster than light. So it’s going to take you almost forever to get anywhere. But sure, it’s wonderful.
How many stars are there in the Milky Way galaxy? Is it 100 billion? 300 billion? Nobody knows exactly of course, but I guess it’s 300 billion.
And how many galaxies are there? Well, nobody knows, but it’s billions. So, you multiply billions times billions, and then there might be another universe or an infinite number of universes out there.
It’s not only things get unimaginably big, but then things can get unimaginably small down to the nano level. This is absolutely credible, and here we concern ourselves with picking a stock that’s going to go up.
Chris: I think we leave it at that. Thanks, guys.
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