Biotech: Human Modification and Augmentation
This Episode is sponsored by Audible Biotechnology offers us a road to virtually endless ways to modify, alter, and improve on nature… but should we use it to do the same to ourselves? So today we will be examining biotech and we should start by asking what we mean by biotech. We are likely at the start of what will be a long revolution in biotechnology which will change life for humanity as thoroughly as the industrial revolution and information revolution have, if not more so, especially given that it might involve changing people literally. The word “biotech” means a lot of things to a lot of people, so I think it would be useful to spend a little time discussing what we mean when we use the word in this episode. The most obvious type is genetic manipulation. In principle, if any person, animal, plant, or microbe has an ability, it should be possible to recreate that ability through genetic manipulation. This should allow everyone to be as smart as the smartest human who has ever lived,
as strong as the strongest, and so on. It could allow us to hibernate during long journeys through space, or navigate by the Earth’s magnetic field. In reality, the possibilities are probably far greater than what has naturally evolved and happens to have not gone extinct. It could allow the restoration of long dead species, or the creation of ones which we’ve never seen, like walking trees, or intelligent trees, or trees that grow candy or bacon.
I suspect that when most people hear the term genetic manipulation, what first comes to mind is something like CRISPR, or using tailored retroviruses as a way to alter the genes of a living person by adding, subtracting, or altering their DNA. This is known as “in vivo gene therapy”, and is such an incredibly risky and difficult approach that it may be very rare. Retroviruses are pretty sloppy machines, and tend to cause a lot of damage while making such edits, potentially resulting in cancers. On top of this, those viruses can also trigger dangerous
and potentially fatal immune responses. Since this approach is akin to modifying an airplane while it’s in flight, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s difficult and very risky. Of course, if it can be made more reliable it could hold a lot of potential, but we often instead imagine using more artificial approaches like tiny robots instead of viruses, which itself can be a fairly blurry distinction of life versus machine, especially given how tenuously viruses tend to meet the definition of life and that such machines would likely be reproducing and aping the viral approach to that. Be it nanobot or retrovirus, we still have a long way ahead before such methods would become available for mainstream use. An alternative to gene editing that might be more likely is known as ex vivo gene therapy. This is where you remove some tissue from a person, perhaps just a few cells, and conduct your gene modification on that. This approach is much safer, since it’s completely external.
If there are any problems with the editing process, the cell culture can be destroyed and a new culture started. This method also makes available the use of some chemicals which might be tolerated by the cell culture, but are unsuitable for injection. Perhaps a chemical has some benefit for a culture of liver cells, but produces psychedelic effects on neurons: being able to modify those liver cells in isolation could be a handy solution to that problem. The third gene editing approach, and by far the most controversial, is germline editing. Folks
often make the mistake in assuming this involves germs somehow as an analog to retroviruses, but it’s using the other, older meaning of ‘germ’ as a seed or sprout, and works from the premise of making your genetic edits from that first seed with its single DNA copy. This is where you would modify the genome of an embryo, which then is modified in every cell subsequently divided from that embryo, and grows up with those edits integrated into the future child or adult. Not only does this alter the genome of every cell that child is ever able to grow, but it also alters the genomes of that child’s descendents. The consequences of any decision to conduct germline editing will last a lifetime, perhaps many lifetimes, and could have far-reaching consequences indeed. But despite its currently controversial status, my guess is that germline editing is likely to be very widespread in the future, especially for non-human use. Incidentally, this is generally
why I tend to like retrovirus and nanobot options over germline editing. They rely on using untold trillions of little viruses or robots to change every necessary copy of DNA inside a mature organism, which is trillions of times more work, but leaves the door open for agency. An adult would still be able to decide for themselves what to change about themselves, including whether they want to change themselves back if their parents modified them earlier and they, as an adult, decided they don’t want those changes. Whether or not parents have a right to modify their child’s genes, and how broad that right is if it exists, is an interesting debate, but one you can mostly circumvent if you have the option of waiting and the option of reversal. In general, we should probably expect gene editing of humans in the foreseeable future to be widespread but cautious. Swapping out dysfunctional or lower-performing genes for better-performing examples already found in the wild human genome is pretty low risk, but it’s difficult to imagine ethical ways for novel genes to be safety tested.
Of particular difficulty would be verifying that novel genes don’t cause mental illness, as proving safety would require testing on a large population of sentient humans. Any other testing protocol would still allow some outlying cases to slip through. If you’re planning on genetically modifying people to be vastly smarter and stronger, you might have to worry about them going all hyper-aggressive and narcissistic and trying to take over the world, like the classic sci fi example of Khan from Star Trek. Needless to say, that’s hard to test out safely or ethically, so you’d probably take an incremental approach, even just when using existing genes. We also have to keep in mind that whatever approach most folks think is safe doesn't mean that’s all we have to deal with. If some mad scientist and ambitious parents decide
to try making a person who is very outside the normal template, say they spliced in some squid neurons because they thought it would result in faster reflexes and overall mental augmentation, we’d still have to deal with that person made by that process. Similarly, while someone like Khan might be imprisoned or executed for crimes committed while trying to take over the world, any children they had would still presumably enjoy the same rights and if the Khan’s kids or the squid-person wanted to set up families that is something of a dilemma. An area that is often neglected when people talk about sci fi biotech is pharmaceuticals, but it’s important not to underestimate the enormous potential still left in the realm of drugs. In particular, developments in genetic research are assisting the development of new pharmaceuticals in a variety of ways. Better understanding of what genes are doing - especially when they malfunction - can also point the way to new drugs. For example, if a malfunctioning gene is causing a serious health problem by producing a malformed protein, you might solve the problem by supplying the right protein in a pill.
If the malformed protein is directly harmful, you might solve the problem by making a drug that binds to it, blocking its effect. If you want to introduce a highly complex molecule into a person’s cells, a more efficient route than injecting them with that molecule might be to inject them with messenger RNA, or mRNA, which codes for that molecule. mRNA serves as instructions that the cellular machinery follow to produce complex molecules in your cells. Incidentally, this is how some of the COVID-19 vaccines work - by tricking your cells to manufacture the spike proteins present on the surface of the outer shell of the virus. Beyond more familiar applications of pharmaceuticals, there are also some ways they might be used in combination with genetic modifications. You might control novel gene expression by making the gene require a chemical or element that it will never encounter in nature.
Some gene-tailored animals that needed Tungsten to live, for instance, are easily supplied with tungsten but not from random plants and animals in nature. This approach is potentially handy for controlling tiny designer microorganisms, viruses, or even nanobots we might make in the future. When pharmaceuticals can’t fix the problem, you might resort to cloned transplantation. Failing organs or amputated limbs could be grown as part of a full human body, or with more advanced techniques, as individual parts. It’s likely to be a slow process to grow
adult-sized body parts from an embryo, but there is likely a lot of potential for speeding up that growth rate from decades to mere years or months. Obviously the preferred goal is just to clone the needed organ, not a whole person, science fiction has a lot of examples of the latter case, people grown to maturity just to serve as an organ bank for another person, or for a full body transplant of someone who is old and plans to transplant their brain into a younger clone. Being able to grow the organs individually circumvents that issue. Being able to take donated organs or advanced prosthetics and implant them into people with no fear of rejection is another goal of biotech, and something that overlaps with the less-discussed fields of synthetic or xeno cellular implantation. Xeno Cellular Implantation is the implantation of animal tissues modified to be compatible with human biology and immune systems. For example, you might implant modified bird cells into a person’s scalp so they can grow feathers, or cuttlefish cells into a person’s irises to produce eyes that change color depending on mood.
Tissues might be living cells, or non-living scaffold material which is then colonized by human cells. The example you might have heard of is washing a pig heart free of its material until just the protein scaffold is left beneath, on which we may grow a human heart. This might be done inside or outside a human. Currently non-living scaffolds from pigs are used to grow organs from human stem cells. Since the non-living scaffold material contains no cells, it generally doesn’t trigger an immune response when implanted.
If you want to produce complicated structures already present in the animal kingdom, it is much faster and easier to produce them this way rather than trying to program those structures into the genome. These techniques could also be used with fully synthetic cells which do not come from nature, but were instead designed by engineers from the ground up. Tremendously useful things can be done by modifying nature, but at some point in the past we stopped spending so much time modifying parts of trees and rocks and instead spent time casting metals and weaving carbon fiber. It seems likely that fully synthetic
biology will provide advantages over modified natural biology in certain situations. One type of biotech that is almost never depicted in sci fi is engineered microbiota. Microbiota are the various microorganisms which live on and inside of our bodies. Engineered microbiota can be naturally evolved organisms implanted from a different individual, domesticated organisms, or fully synthetic organisms designed by engineers. The gut microbiota can be used to produce and administer pharmaceuticals, detect ingested substances, control appetite, and metabolize previously indigestible substances - for example, lactose. Some people never develop dental cavities or obesity despite eating the same diet as those who do. Often this is due to a difference in microbiota.
On the other hand, perhaps the most wildly exaggerated type of biotech in sci fi is mechanical implants or cybernetics. Cyborg sci fi generally uses cybernetics for shock value, so they’re depicted as bulky, intrusive, asymmetrical, and almost always penetrating the skin. The writers and special effects team are specifically shooting for inhuman and disturbing appearances, perversions or adulterations of humanity, and as is often the case for science fiction, the science part often suffers for the fiction. Needless to say, adding a 150 pound steel robot arm in place of a flesh and blood arm doesn’t allow you to lift enormous weights as the arm is still attached to your flesh and blood torso. In fact, you would likely struggle to even stand up straight due to the asymmetrical weight load, so you would have to do a rebuild basically from the ground floor up and that shouldn’t look all non-symmetric and haphazard, though I suppose a cyborg sub-culture might have big cyberpunk roots and enjoy that look. Also any device that permanently penetrates through the skin is prone to infection.
In reality, mechanical implants will likely only be used when a biological solution is not yet available, either not being invented yet or because there’s a long lead time in manufacture, like it takes a year to clone a lung or heart or arm and you get the cybernetic version in the meantime. They will tend to be as small as possible, as soft as possible, and will avoid breaking the skin whenever possible, at least for physical augmentation, situations like mental augmentation by including digital memory implants or interfaces might need to be very inorganic. One of the most useful implants would be a digital radio circuit able to communicate with the future equivalents of bluetooth and wifi. This would allow internal systems to
communicate with worn objects, and objects in the environment. For example, you don’t need to implant large quantities of digital memory. Instead, you wear a small gadget on your person which contains the memory chips, and this gadget communicates with the implanted digital radio. This type of neural radio would also give one a communication capability that would have some similarities to telepathy. You might be able to communicate entire concepts or emotions,
or you might just be limited to something like hands free texting or silent phone calls. Even with the more limited versions though, people with this ability would seem connected in a way that is qualitatively different than what is possible via a cell phone. The cultural differences this would produce are likely to be analogous to trying to explain internet meme culture to someone who has never seen a computer. The second most useful implant would probably be input and output taps on your sensory systems, giving you access to augmented reality, virtual reality, and sensory recording. With the audio tap, you can play music with perfect fidelity without headphones. So long as your neural pathways are intact, it doesn’t even matter if your hearing has been damaged. You can turn off background noises, or the steady
whine of tinnitus. You can play audiobooks and podcasts while showering or scuba diving. By linking to an external gadget capable of voice transcription and real time language translation, you could mute the actual voice of someone speaking in a language you don’t understand, and replace that audio feed with the translation. With the video tap, you could overlay a wide variety of augmented reality elements, including anything you currently look at your phone to see. If that sounds annoying, imagine the display as less like a bunch of obnoxious cluttered icons, and more like a small window that you call into existence when you perform some gesture, for example perhaps reaching into your pocket. It behaves very similarly to a cell phone except
you can resize it to be as big or small as you want at the moment, and when you let go of it, it floats in midair. If you want, you can pull more windows out of your pocket. But they weigh nothing and they don’t make awkward, pointy bulges in your pocket. When you’re done with it, you just put it back in your pocket to dismiss it, or maybe just blink a quick pattern. Recipes or tutorials could hover in front of you as you try to learn a skill.
Multifunctional appliances used to have zillions of buttons and knobs, but then they started replacing that with touch screen interfaces. In an era of ubiquitous augmented reality, appliances will have almost no hardware interfaces at all. They’ll be stylish and sleek. If you need to make an adjustment to your breadmaker or 3D printer, you’ll just pull out a virtual interface that becomes as large as you need it to be. And when you’re done, you make the interface disappear again. They’d probably have no other buttons, just a jack for manually adding some universal
control device if needed. They might not even have power cords, as we are making progress on wireless power transmission and that too might be a very handy way to power some internal machinery on a person, like implants or nanobots. You could view movies on arbitrarily large, virtual screens, and even dim the rest of your vision if you want. The movie might completely
surround you, as though you were inside of a spherical screen. Go further with this concept, and you can imagine replacing all of your sensory inputs with a full virtual reality. If the computer generating the virtual imagery is smart enough, the VR experience might tailor itself to the real-world environment around you to prevent injury. Doorways and staircases would still be there, but they might look like a dungeon portal or a marble staircase from a mansion. Full VR would presumably benefit from an olfactory and taste override, so you could smell the jungle or taste elvish cooking. Humans have a lot more senses than the commonly claimed seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. For example, touch could be broken into a tactile sense,
proprioception, temperature, pain, and balance. Hunger and thirst don’t seem to easily fall into any of those categories. Some of these senses can be kind of dangerous to mess with, though. For example, it’s hard to imagine much good coming of messing with one’s sense of balance, unless you’re lying on the ground. Messing with proprioception (which is your sense of where your body parts are located in space) seems even more dangerous, as you could be flailing around without realizing it. Pain overrides might take some people aback,
but at least moderate levels could presumably spice up video games. Conversely, the usefulness of being able to dampen down severe, natural pain goes without saying. It’s still not without dangers though, as pain often serves as a warning that you’re doing something you shouldn’t be.
Presumably, plenty of injuries will result from people using pain dampening for stupid things, but that’s also the case with literally every technology ever invented. So how do you interact with all of these virtual objects? One way would be for a computer to read the neural signals actually produced by your retinas, and use that to determine where your hands are, assuming they’re in your field of view. A better method might be to tap into the neural circuits involved in your sense of proprioception. Either of these techniques would allow you to use your hands and fingers to interact with virtual objects and user interfaces. As we looked at in our episode on Mind
Augmentation, we also have the learned and programmable Universal Remote option. We can currently insert a few thousand leads into animal’s brain that would react to stimulation, which is what Neuralink has been working on for the last few years. In a human, these could act as a rather deliberate mental button the person learns to mentally push, with each connection being something a person could learn to flip by thinking in a certain way, much like flicking a finger or blinking, and this could act like some blank keyboard we could set each mental button or hotkey combination as a control for some device and the person would learn to be rather deliberate in flipping it. This gives you all the advantages of thought-control without the concerns about accidentally activating it, especially if its a mental button combination, as it would be more akin to accidentally punching in your pin code or accidentally saying a specific sentence. You’re not going to accidentally write a contract, sign it, and file it while you’re asleep. Such neural augmentation is something we
can already do, on animals anyway, and I suspect this will be where we see our first thought control devices emerge from. But presumably it would eventually be possible for a more invasive system to read your intentions directly. Rather than opening a virtual user interface for the air conditioner, you would simply desire the temperature to lower slightly and the machinery would respond. This is often how such things are depicted in science fiction, but reading intentions is likely to be a far more complicated task than simply reading sensory inputs. But as I said before, these types of implants
would likely only be mechanical until they could be replaced with biological versions capable of doing the same things. One technique that’s almost never discussed is what we might call “neural shaping”. This would be the artificial guiding of a person’s own neurons to produce engineered circuits. For example, one might implement digital calculator circuitry in a
tiny corner of your brain, giving you the ability to calculate the cube root of a 10 digit number as quickly and easily as you parsed this sentence. It also allows wiring shunts around neural damage/scarring, enabling us to cure most forms of paralysis, and some mental illnesses. Lastly, there is the possibility of nanobots, and as I mentioned earlier the line between them and something like a retrovirus or engineered microorganism can be blurry. But I think it’s reasonable to say the term nanobot should only be used for things which don’t already have a good name, and thus would not apply to bacteria, viruses, or enzymes. This is more to do with defining our terms for the sake of easy discussion than accuracy.
The capabilities of these devices in fiction are often either wildly exaggerated, or just as often, wildly underestimated. For a nanobot to work it needs some systems which are very challenging to engineer at nano scales including power, data processing, and sensory input. It will also produce heat and get worn and torn by doing activities, which is the missing bit that prevents them from being the super-fast magic wands sometimes seen in fiction. The faster a mechanical device works, the more damage it causes to itself for each activity, and the more energy it needs to do that activity, generally speaking, while at the same time it produces heat faster simply from doing more things in a shorter time. As is often the case with technology, the real bottleneck on it is getting rid of the heat, and we explored this notion in more detail in our episode on the Santa-Claus Machine. Of course, to make heat it needs to have a source power that’s fueling the work it does to produce heat as a waste product. The most readily available sources of power in an organism
are either blood sugar and oxygen, or beamed power from an external source. The latter is sufficient in a clinical setting, but can be awkward to maintain as part of day to day life. Beamed power for nanobots is more complicated than at macro scales due to minimum size restrictions on antennae versus wavelength. One alternative is the multi-tiered approach we sometimes discuss for nanotech, where you have bigger microscopic factory and controller bots who produce and manage many specialized species of nanobots, and in a similar way to how mitochondria produce fuel for our cells, you might have a large control bot producing some nanobot-specific fuel via beamed power. There are a lot of chemicals that
can be used as a fuel and assembled to provide abundant power, and this might make a good way to prevent problems like grey goo - where nanobots who build other nanobots get loose and turn everything on a planet into copies of themselves. In the same way a rare element or alloy could limit excessive production, a control-fuel specific to the body, or to certain situations, could provide an extra layer of safety. Data processing would also consume a large portion of a nanobot’s total power budget, and space is limited for complicated logic circuits. Sensory input is important too, as you probably only use nanobots if you have a task that needs to be done at a particular location in your body, but not in others. Most importantly, they might not self replicate. Designing a device to self replicate is more challenging than designing a similar device that doesn’t, and requires additional hardware, resources, and capabilities. It also raises enormous liability risks in the event that it colonizes
people without their consent, or replicates out of control within the intended host. Again this is why the larger microscopic, or even macroscopic, robot factories and control centers we discussed a moment ago might be handy, potentially with many tiers of bot, each manufacturing the next lower tier of smaller robots. An important subject worth mentioning with networked biotech is data security. A complete VR sensory overlay sounds like amazing fun until you contemplate someone hacking your hardware to blind and deafen you while cranking your pain levels up to maximum. Or the hacker could compromise your sensory taps in order to see and hear everything you do without your knowledge or consent. More advanced implants allow more advanced hacks, allowing the hacker to literally read your thoughts or expose you to fake realities. Hacked nanobots could do whatever nanobots can do, and it won’t be pretty.
So what’s possible with all this stuff? I’ve already mentioned a number of applications here, but the possibilities are almost infinite. Other easy stuff includes curing all genetic disorders forever and using vaccines and other immune system enhancements to eradicate many contagious diseases the way we have eradicated smallpox. Cancer is an inherently tricky disease, but survival rates have been increasing and will likely continue to do so for a long time. Appearance modifications have always been on the cutting edge of medical science and this will undoubtedly continue. The trend toward increasing obesity will suddenly go into rapid reversal.
Noses and jawlines will be sculpted, and sometimes in ways that are inheritable. Presumably there will be a brief period where there are suddenly large numbers of people walking around looking like Barbie dolls or Conan, and possibly a phase afterward where this was seen as excessive and tacky. I mentioned that early cyborgs might embrace the cyberpunk genre and intentionally go for the jarring or gross imagery we often see with cyborgs in that genre, while others would presumably try more desperately for a natural human look the more augmented they were, like getting moles, baldness, or liver spots added. So that could go either way, with folks embracing inhuman forms, or idealized human forms, or very natural forms, and we’ll probably have periods and subgroups doing all of the above in various ways. A lot of the stigmas we have about body alteration have to do with safety and cost, and concerns about the psychology of the person doing them when we view those as potential problems. We view getting a rhinoplasty to alter the nose to a more preferred but normal human shape as being vastly different than putting on cosmetics that include colors found on no human skin, because the latter is cheap, safe, and fast to add or remove, so why someone might choose to do it doesn’t raise concerns about an unhealthy mental state or body image.
In a civilization where you can change physical characteristics cheaply, quickly, and safely, and change them back again cheaply, quickly, and safely, you would presumably see a lot of folks doing so, and with less concerns about mental health and body image. Extensive Biotech should let people live longer, and they'll be healthy for longer too, so I would not be surprised if folks felt like changing things up physically from time to time. I mentioned mental health a moment ago and Biotech has a role to play there, as well. Mental health problems such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder are likely to become less and less common as we develop a better understanding of the causes, and better drugs and implants to help us treat them, as well as better counseling techniques I would hope, but we’re focused on biotech today. Certain gene variants are likely to
be associated with certain mental health problems, and Biotech should allow options for easy early detection and intervention. Augmentations - possibly excluding cosmetic ones - are likely to creep in slowly and quietly unless some avenue for unethical human experimentation suddenly opens up. The risks to subjects being augmented are literally life and death, and the risks to organizations doing this research are severe financial and reputational damage, possibly even criminal penalties if everything isn’t above board. A certain amount of risk is
likely to be viewed as acceptable when battling leukemia or MS, whereas scientists taking risks to add cat ears to people is likely to get a lot less leeway or sympathy when something goes wrong. One of the big risks is the potential for unanticipated interactions between different biotech treatments. Maybe a rare gene variant is discovered that is associated with cavity free teeth, and another one is discovered that is associated with champion weight lifters. Great! So, a generation of parents pays gene clinics to add these two discrete genetic modifications to their embryonic offspring. Unfortunately, when the children reach middle age,
it’s discovered that the specific protein forms produced by the two gene variants combine to leave plaques in the brain, resulting in early onset dementia or hyper-aggression in the mid-life. Doctors have been administering these two genes to kids for decades by the time the interaction is discovered, and now you have a bunch of musclebound, cavity-free lunatics wandering the Earth, presumably turning to cannibalism with those perfect teeth of theirs. In the more distant future, people living in space habitats and colony ships will likely no longer experience muscle wasting or other maladies which result from long periods in zero G. Their tissues might be made tougher to allow them to hold their breath for long periods of time
while working unprotected in space. You might add something like an additional eyelid, like cats have, with the intent of allowing folks to keep their eyes open in a vacuum, where liquids normally freeze or turn to gas. It’s uses in turning desolate planets habitable, either by molding the planet to be more earth-like, terraforming, or sculpting species to be more adapted to that planet - Bioforming - are topics we have examined on other occasions, but are clearly enormous. Biotech is potentially both a great danger to
humanity, but also a great potential boon, as is often the case with an emerging technology. But it differs from most, as it doesn’t just allow humans to alter their environment or interact with it in novel ways. Biotechnology lets us alter the human itself, for better or for worse. So we have a couple of announcements along with our upcoming schedule, but first... Last week we were looking at the impact of Multiverses on the Fermi Paradox and we mostly looked at the alternate reality types of Multiverses, not those dealing with older Universes or parts of our own Universe beyond the edge of the Observable Universe, where the CMB originates, the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, and it's a topic we’ll probably look at in the future but I wanted to give a shout to my friend Brian Keating, host of the Into the Impossible Podcast which is also available here on Youtube. Brian’s been one of the strongest forces for conceiving and pushing forward research for Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, having worked on BICEP2, and he’s currently the Director of the Simons Observatory under construction in the Atacama Desert that will continue that research. He’s also the author of the book “Losing the Nobel Prize” which discusses the BICEP experiments but also zooms in on some problems we have nowadays with how we go about these super-large or important research projects and how it might be hindering scientific progress.
It’s a wonderful exploration of how scientific progress takes place and the audiobook version is excellently narrated, so I’m glad to name it our May 2021 SFIA Audible Audiobook of the Month. Audible has the largest collection of Audiobooks out there, indeed it is so large you could hit the play button and still be listening to new titles a few centuries from now, and as an Audible member, you will get (1) credit every month good for any title in their entire premium selection—that means the latest best-seller, the buzziest new release, the hottest celebrity memoir or that bucket list title you’ve been meaning to pick-up. Those titles are yours to keep forever in your Audible library. You will also get full access to their popular Plus Catalog. It’s filled with thousands and thousands of audiobooks, original entertainment, guided fitness and meditation, sleep tracks for better rest and podcasts—including ad-free versions of your favorite shows and exclusive series. All are included with your membership so you can download and stream all you want—no credits needed. And you can seamlessly listen to all of those on any device, picking up where you left off, and as always, new members can try Audible for 30 days, for free, just visit Audible dot com slash isaac or text isaac to 500-500.
As a sidenote, this episode and the one from two weeks back, Post-Human Species, began as a a single episode suggested by a pair of our regular editors, Jason Burbank and Jerry Guern, and evolved into two separate topics, and maybe a third for down the road, each of which they assisted in writing with Jason being the principal co-writer of today’s script and Jarry the Post-human script from two weeks back. I’ve said it before and will say it again, it’s awesome to get to meet and work with so many talented folks, and most times they come right from our own audience, pitching an episode idea to me or volunteering some time to edit script or make graphics. On a personal note, my wife Sarah and I are moving this month so there may be some disruptions, delays, or errors as we get out and over and settled into the new place and studio. It's more out in the country so I can further enjoy solitude and the hermit life, and Sarah can move and expand her blueberry farm and start her new beekeeping hobby - which I blame in part on my friend Cody don Reeder from Cody’s Lab - though mostly for me finding them interesting and safe enough to have hives in my backyard. If you’re looking for some fun stuff to watch while waiting on our next episode, Cody’s Lab and Brian Keating’s “Into the Impossible” both contain endless hours of fun and mentally stimulating content.
Speaking of those upcoming episodes, this was our first for May and we have plenty more ahead. Next week we will move on to Alien Languages and how to decode them, then we have our mid-month Scifi Sundays episode on Laser Pistols, Lightsabers, and other scifi weapons. After that we’ll be discuss Arcologies, giant buildings containing whole communities and ecologies and how to design them, before wrapping up our episodes with Solar Flares and their impact on the Fermi Paradox. Then Closing May out with our Monthly Livestream Q&A on Sunday, May 30th, hopefully from our new studio. If you want alerts when those and other episodes come out, make sure to subscribe to the channel, and if you’d like to help support future episodes, you can donate to us on Patreon, or our website, IsaacArthur.net, which are linked in the episode description below, along with all of our various social media forums where you can get updates and chat with others about the concepts in the episodes and many other futuristic ideas. You can also follow us itunes,
Soundcloud, or Spotify to get our audio-only versions of the show. Until next time, thanks for watching, and have a great week!