Biological Attack (Ch. 28) – Bionic Bug Podcast Episode 028

Hey everyone, welcome back to Bionic Bug podcast! You’re listening to episode 28. This is your host Natasha Bajema, fiction author, futurist, and national security expert. I’m recording this episode on October 28, 2018.

First off, I have a personal update. On Tuesday of next week, I’m headed to the United Nations in New York. I’ve been invited to talk about the digitization of biology at a side meeting of the UN Security Council on Resolution 1540. My colleagues and I published a paper on this topic. I’ll include a link in the show notes in case you’re interested in reading it. This is a particularly exciting opportunity for me since I began my career in WMD working as a Junior Political Officer at the UN where it was part of my job to track developments in the Security Council on various WMD-related resolutions.

Let’s talk tech. A few headlines caught my attention this week:

  • Designer babies aren’t futuristic. They’re already here” published in MIT’s Technology Review on October 22.
  • Many of you know that I’m working on my third novel in the Lara Kingsley series called Genomic Data. One of the themes I’ll be addressing in my novel is that of designer babies and related issues.

  • You may have watched the movie Gattaca in the 1990s which is a story about a naturally born man trying to navigate a world full of fully-grown designer babies who are not only viewed to have all the advantages, they are given preference over naturally born humans.
  • That future is here. Our knowledge of the human genome, vast repositories of genomic data combined with well-established procedures of in-vitro fertilization means that we are on the cusp of allowing parents to customize their children.
  • Parents are already selecting embryos for health purposes.
  • The only thing stopping us from picking traits in the near-term is public opinion.
  • “In general, Americans approve of using reproductive genetic tests to prevent fatal childhood disease, but do not approve of using the same tests to identify or select for traits like intelligence or strength.”
  • One of the major issues is that IVF and genetic screening are expensive. That means only the wealthy population can afford giving their children genetic advantages from the start.
  • Microlight3D Offers a New Kind of Microscale 3D Printing” published on October 18 at 3Dprint.com
  • One feature of advanced technology that I find fascinating (and scary) is our ability to study and manipulate matter at smaller and smaller scales, invisible to the human eye.
  • A company called Microlight3D is capable of producing parts at the microscale—100 times smaller than a strand of hair. “These microscopic parts have a wide variety of applications, including in micro-optics, microfluidics, micro-robotics, metamaterials, and cell-biology.
  • FLIR Nano Drone Creating a Buzz for Military,” published on dronelife.com on October 22
  • Speaking of microrobotics, my next headline involves a tiny drone system called the Black Hornet Vehicle Reconnaissance System. It is designed to be integrated with and launched from a robust vehicle.
  • These drones are tiny, one of the world’s smallest so far, about the length of a pen and flies with a single rotor. It can fly up to 25 minutes in close quarters and up to a mile. It is virtually undetectable from 15 feet away. It provides live video feed to the operator on a chest-mounted display. The total system of two drones, a controller and a video screen weighs less than three pounds
  • The company describes the missions of the tiny drones as “situational awareness, threat detection and surveillance.”
  • It could also be used by law enforcement and first responders.
  • Mystery of how black widow spiders create steel-strength silk webs further unraveled” published on October 22 at sciencedaily.com
  • Continuing the theme of very small stuff, my next headline addresses the popular topic of spider silk.
  • Scientists have been trying to synthesize spider silk or produce it on a mass scale for decades. Using instruments to see what goes on inside of black widow spiders to produce steel-strength spider silk, scientists think they have a new model to produce synthetic materials.
  • If they are able to “replicate the natural process to produce artificial fibers at scale, it would be transformative.”

Let’s turn to Bionic Bug. Last week, Lara went to Maggie’s apartment in a panic after being bitten by a swarm of bionic bugs. She was terrified of being infected with the plague. Luckily, Maggie had supplies on hand to test the saliva of the beetle for the bacteria. What were the test results? Let’s find out.

The views expressed on this podcast are my own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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