Sunday, May 25, 2008

Next a book by Michael Crichton

{{en}} Image via Wikipedia I love reading Michael Crichton. His subjects are always well researched and there is always a bibliography at the end of the book.

The subject of Next, is genetic engineering. Transgenic parrots,transgenic apes and the folly of granting patents to companies of human genes is the subject of this fast paced and amusing story. In fact, all of Michael Crichton's books are fast paced and entertaining. What's even better is that when you finished reading his books, you feel like you've done a brief course in a scientific subject. Entertainment with an educational underpinning. It doesn't get any better for me.

Now this book raises a very serious subject. In the Author's note at the end of the book there are a few pages of conclusions from the author.

"...gene patents contradict long-established traditions of intellectual property protection."

"First, genes are facts of nature. Like gravity, sunlight and leaves on trees, genes exist in the natural world. Facts of nature can't be owned."

"The (gene) patent consists of pure information already existing in nature. Because there has been no invention, no one can innovate any other use of the patent without violating the patent itself, so further innovation is closed."

For examples of genetic engineering see this link on the Cactus Project where human hair grows on a cactus plant

This is just one weird example of what is possible. Of course possibilities are only limited by human imagination. The rabbits that glow in the dark is another.

The main theme in Next is the possible scenarios that might occur when corporations that own human genes (in this case, genes specific to one individual) might go one step further and consider that their ownership of a gene entitles them to harvest an individuals genes at whatever time they feel necessary without the individual having any say in the matter. In fact the scenario develops into one where the right of the state to take private property without the owner's consent, in this case the private property being the person's genes. The justification for such an action in the interests of eminent domain. That means that the interests of society override the interests of the individual.

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1 comment:

Jeannie said...

I, too, enjoy Crichton. I read Next a while back and it does bring up some very uncomfortable scenarios. It's time that some value other than greed and profit become desirable in life.