Bionic Bug Podcast

Bionic Bug Podcast

The Lab (Ch. 34) – Bionic Bug Podcast Episode 034

December 09, 2018

Hey everyone, welcome back to Bionic Bug podcast! You’re listening to episode 34. This is your host Natasha Bajema, fiction author, futurist, and national security expert. I’m recording this episode on December 9, 2018. 

First off, a quick personal update. I’m now in the editing phase for Genomic Data, Book Three of the Lara Kingsley series. If you’re enjoying Bionic Bug thus far, you can order Project Gecko. I’m offering print versions on Amazon and the ebook version on Kobo or Walmart. Also, I’ve selected a professional narrator to produce the audiobook for Bionic Bug. I expect that will become available in February or March of 2019.

Let’s talk tech. Two headlines for this week:

Last week, I talked at length about the CRISPR baby controversy. This week’s headline is “Despite CRISPR baby controversy, Harvard University will begin gene-editing sperm” published on November 29 in MIT’s technology review by Antonio Regalado.

This article highlights a critical dilemma surrounding many emerging technologies, the many benefits they offer to society. Of course, these are juxtaposed with risks and ethical gray areas. What troubles me most is the lack of discourse and awareness beyond the scientific communities who are concerned with the research. Do we want to prevent genetic diseases from birth? If so, under what conditions?

At Harvard University, scientists will use CRISPR to edit the DNA of sperm cells in order to reduce the risk of Alzheimers. Unlike the controversial experiment in China, this research will not produce embryos or the birth of genetically modified babies.

We’re getting closer to the reality in which we can alter the DNA of children before they are born to enhance their health prospects. But should we?

This article raises some important questions: “What if a new killer virus arises and sweeps the world? Maybe there will be no vaccine but some people will be able to resist it thanks to their genes, as some fared better with the Black Death in medieval times. Wouldn’t we want to then give the genetic antidote to all members of the next generation?”

Last week, the Atlantic came out with a great summary of the issues surrounding the CRISPR baby controversy: “The CRISPR Baby Scandal Gets Worse by the Day.” I’ll include the link in the show notes.

My next headline is “The coming cyberwar: China may already be monitoring your electronic communications,” an opinion editorial published by Morgan Wright on The Hill on December 4.

Over the course of this podcast, I’ve talked a lot about China and its appetite for data. I’ve also spoken about some of its predatory technology transfer practices. In fact, this is a running theme in the Lara Kingsley series that starts in Project Gecko, the second book.

This op-ed highlights yet another example of China’s activities designed to support its “Made in China 2025” strategy. And it shows how we’re missing the big picture. 

In the article, Mr. Wright discusses how U.S. subsidiaries of Chinese transportation companies are competing for contracts in the United States. In fact, they’ve “won four contracts valued at $2.5 billion.”

For example, one of these Chinese-owned companies won the bid for producing 254 subway cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The bid was half the amount of the next highest bid. How’s that possible? The Chinese government offered the company massive subsides to give it the upper hand in the competition. 

If you’re upset about this, then you’re really missing the big picture. The real issue is the technology installed on these subway cars: “Wi-Fi. Surveillance cameras. Automatic passenger counters.