The Brainy Mouse, the Robot Mom, and us

Trying to keep up with the rapidly emerging sciences of genetic engineering and AI, artificial intelligence, is a daunting task. I can only race along, trying to catch the highlights, but that’s enough to absorb a great deal of time and effort in itself. Here are a couple recent examples and a very interesting video. The relationship among the three will become more evident as you examine them.

Mice have more than 20,000 genes in their DNA, around the same as humans and other primates. Mice have tiny brains that never develop to the extent of a primate brain because they have a genetic “brake” that stops brain development. Very recently, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics tried an experiment. That took one (yes, just one) primate gene known to affect brain development and engineered it into a mouse embryo. Bingo! They created “transgenic” mice whose brains continued to develop and express primate traits. Not so many years ago, this would have been big news, the headline variety. No more. It’s a bit dense, but for those who like references, here is the Institute’s report –

I am not suggesting that we are soon to have a species of mice with primate brains running around. This is just one tiny step of hundreds, even thousands, of tiny steps being taken in laboratories all over the world that will eventually bring us to the “great leaps”. Those leaps will amaze us, very possibly scare the hell out of us. Nonetheless, I have no problem with experiments like this. They are simply part of the search for truth in genetics. They are necessary, they are inevitable, and they are worthy of note, if only in passing.

Here’s an interesting question. Can robots, utilizing artificial intelligence, evolve? At the University of Cambridge, the answer appears to be “yes”. You can read about it here – NOTE: The first video shown is a nice overview of their lab work, but it’s the second video, along with the text, that shows “mom” creating a new generation of “child”. Like the mouse experiment, one more step on a long journey to the truth, but here in artificial intelligence.

Now the video, always more interesting than text! It’s a TED presentation by Yuval Noah Harari, author of the NY Times best-seller and Mark Zuckerberg favorite, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. He explains his theory that humans are a unique species because we operate in two different realities at the same time. Very, very interesting and worth hearing just for that.

But the best is the last. In this case, the last two minutes of the video discussing Harari’s new book which is not yet available in English. He raises the very issue I am most concerned with. It is a tough subject to talk about, but one that has to be confronted, whether now by choice or later by necessity. The subject is already out there, but not widely. I will be discussing it frequently here. For the moment, I will leave it to Dr. Harari to share with you.


This is a personal blog, more of a personal notebook, unadvertised and without promotion. I try to post on a weekly basis, but there is no guarantee. Should you stumble across it and wish to be notified of new posts, just enter your email address at the upper-right of this page. I have no other use for email addresses. Rest assured, yours will be kept private. I also now tweet to share articles and essays that I think are important, but do not have room for here. You are welcome to make comments, if they are on topic and polite. I have no time or space for insults, foul language, or anything I judge to be offensive to readers.

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