16 February 2015

Bionic biofuels and molecular synthesis from sunlight: implications for the big picture

There's an article in Scientific American about how "bionic" systems are going to be better than plants at producing biofuels and other useful molecules using the energy of sunlight. I think this is a milestone, and extremely interesting. It's inevitable, I would argue, that as human understanding of chemistry and energetics increases, the time must come when artificial systems outperform natural ones at the particular purpose for which they are designed (since, after all, evolution results in adaptation to natural environments, not particular human purposes). There is no reason at all to be resistant to this kind of technology. In the future, the extent to which we are able to consciously and deliberately minimize our adverse impact on the Earth's natural environments will be precisely the extent to which those environments are able to continue to exist.

Human "interference" with nature cannot be avoided. If one group of people altruistically control their behavior in this regard, another will not. The only option is to understand nature fully, serve human purposes in such a way as to avoid destruction of natural environments, and thereby create positive synergy. The alternative is the opposite: downward spiral and extinction.

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