Bryan Bishop wrote:
> On Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 1:47 PM, Alec Nielsen wrote:
>> On Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 11:31 AM, Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
>>> It would seem to me that this could be done without any genetic
>>> manipulation, just with the right combination of physical support
>>> infrastructure, growing media, and plant auxins, applied to cells from an
>>> orange tree (or other fruit tree).
>> Someday we'll have our in vitro oranges though, someday...
> In the mean time, in vitro orange juice is slightly more practical.
> How about that, Paul? Would that be a good substitute for the time
Bryan, I've thought some more about your brilliant idea of producing
agricultural-like liquids, and here are a few more variations:
* you could produce grape juice directly,
* you could then produce wine directly, with arbitrary alcohol contents,
various flavorings, and with or without sulfites, (so, you might soon be
turning water into wine in a flood of biblical proportions, so to speak :-)
* you might be able to produce beer without the grain as a continuous
process with small tubes instead of batch process requiring large vats,
* you could produce *vegetable* juices like carrot juice or celery juice
(millions of US Americans have bought expensive juicers just to turn
vegetables back into juice to make the nutrients more available, or as part
of a "juice fast"; see:
* you could produce vegetable oils like sesame oil or olive oil.
You could also produce sugary syrups of various flavors.
And if you could do all that with fruits and vegetables, with or without the
pulp or other fiber structure, then you could think about various
meat-derived liquids used in cooking (so, not bothering to texture the
synthetic meat so it could just be ground up again). So, you could make:
* meat broths like chicken broths or fish broths,
* meat gravies, like beef gravy,
* bullions (dried broths),
* oils like fish oils, especially stuff high in omega-3s,
* milks without the cow or goat ("why buy the cow when you can get the milk
for free" :-) as well as butters and cheeses,
* egg yolks and whites without the chicken, for omelets or baking.
* saliva and mucus as comes from bird's nests for bird's nest soup (some
people like it :-)
Probably other things as well (synthetic blood).
So, building on your idea, you could do a lot even without being able to
produce a slab of synthetic meat as a steak.
Maybe you might also produce everything in a powdered form (powdered milk,
powdered wine, powdered vegetable juice, etc.). I can wonder if you could
have some sort of biotech that produces powders directly to cut down on
water use and drying costs?
Mushrooms would be another thing to explore, so you might produce a nice
mushroom gravy or powdered mushroom. (Powdered mushrooms are a big thing in
some healing preparations.)
Another thing to explore would be cultivating endangered or rare plants used
in medicine, but there are lots of herbs (and mushrooms, as above) used by
any herbalist you might be able to culture that are used in small
quantities, like Cat's Claw, Astragalus, Andographis, and so on. You could
also produce specific plant compounds like Resveratrol also used in health.
You could even produce synthetic animal products like ivory (some legal
issues there) or Rhino's horn or other things that are currently produced by
illegal poaching of endangered animals for use in traditional medicines or
traditional cultural rituals.
Now, there are probably lots of ways you could do this that you know more
about that I. But here is what I envision for home use (as opposed to big
You have two versions. One is for outdoors, and is a big machine you set up
in you yard with a glass top that has photosynthesizing algae that either
produce the liquids directly or produce something that feeds another culture
specific to a plant or animal derived culture specific to what you want to
make. You need to add water, but for extra nutrients, you also add ground up
rock dust (Smari could sell everyone some from Iceland :-) or you add seawater.
For indoor use, you replace your home furnace with these things as
presumably they would give off heat if indoors you lit them with artificial
lamps or if they consumed oil or natural gas (bio-derived elsewhere) as
feedstocks. Again, you add water and rock dust (or seawater). So, you have
year-round indoor agricultural liquid production at very low cost.
(I'll give away an idea here as a patent-preventing disclosure that I've
been hoarding. :-) You could have this or any other local industrial process
be thermostat controlled (or predictively controlled, or timer controlled,
or some combination), so if your house or facility needs more heat you run
the process; and if your building is hot enough for your needs, you don't
run it, thus using local industrial-like processes to regulate your homes
climate. For processes that absorb heat you could do the inverse for air
conditioning. You can do that with networked computers too, so if you need
heat you do local computation for the network, if you don't need heat, you
shut those processors down. Special processor units or industrial process
units for various purposes could be designed to replace regular electric
baseboard heaters or central furnaces. So, essentially, industry is running
for no extra energy charge where people use electricity to heat, and it runs
at a subsidy where people use currently cheaper ways to heat like oil or gas
or wood. And sometimes you might want to produce stuff anyway, and so you
would need to dump the waste heat or use it in some other way or store it in
some thermal storage system like a water mass or sand mass or phase changing
salts or other such system, with the stored heat being used as part of the
thermoregulatory planning. Of course, if you insulated your home well, you
might not need a furnace, so there are economic limits to this idea as
people improve their infrastructure in other ways...)
This would totally change how agriculture was done. Instead of having lunar
moonscapes like Iowa is part of the year, people would just produce their
own agricultural liquids in neighborhood facilities or at home, using the
local waste heat for other purposes as well. Most agricultural lands could
be returned to wilderness. The total energy bill for a home might not go up
very much using the above idea for thermostatic regulation.
No doubt there would be many practical difficulties like cultures becoming
contaminated in some way. That is common with, say, people who grow
mushrooms of one type on cow manure and end up with another type of mushroom
contaminating things. So, there remains lot to do, perhaps with periodic
automated cleaning built in to the systems? You might build in storage
systems and transport systems and even cooking systems as peripherals for
home use, for example.
And long term, you could just use DNA synthesis to produce the cultures on
demand after downloading a signed package of data through SKDB or OSCOMAK or
whatever we all converge on. :-) So, you might have a general purpose
culture that was changed on demand using some form on DNA injection or other
programming of the culture. But in the short term, you might just have a
central factory that provides guaranteed certified starter packets. You
might have a freezer full of hundreds of different starter cultures that you
draw from on demand, perhaps with robotic handling equipment, controlled
from an autochef in the kitchen. You might even have, say, 100 different
varieties of just apple cultures to produce an endless variety of apple
juices alone or in combination.
When I was at IBM Research, people were talking about focusing on the B's
and not the M's (billion dollar industries, not million dollar industries,
which is why IBM throws away so many great million dollar industries as too
small to be worth bothering about, which drives the researchers to despair
many times as their great ideas get tossed aside as being too small even if
they might help millions of people.) But this idea of liquid agricultural
products has the potential to become not just a multi-billion dollar
industry, but a multi-trillion dollar industry. This idea could change the
face of the world in a positive way, including by ending factory farming
that mistreats animals and also destroys natural ecosystems even for
vegetable products. So, this idea might be "PETA" and "Friends of the Earth"
approved, and potentially have access to lots of green money like from the
Calvert investment funds or other similar socially conscious funds.
Now, people might recoil from some of this as horribly unnatural. But the
fact is, agriculture as we do it now, with bred plants and vast agricultural
wastelands is pretty artificial too. And there are many vat-based batch
industrial processes like beer making or cheese making that no one complains
about. Plus, this is something that PETA seems to approve of, as a way to
reduce factory farming. Even regular farms can be hard on animals because
they destroy animal habitat. Of course, there are ethical arguements on the
other side that you will have less animal consciousnesses, even if they live
in terrible conditions, so it is not a completely black-and-white argument
that it is entirely better -- it hinges on mysterious metaphysical issues.
But on a practical basis, it would seem less cruel and less damaging to the
There might be other health and safety issue; for example, liquids produced
in plastic containers might pick up plasticizers which might contaminate the
liquids. So, there would be research issues there. And regulation, etc.
Also, economically, such technology might put lots of people out of work,
and also make it impossible to survive for people who currently make a
living in rain forests to sustainably harvesting rare herbs. So, a move to
this kind of production might require a global "basic income", as well as
government protection of rain forests and other wilderness areas that might
no longer be seen as having as much economic value. Likewise, producing
synthetic Rhino's horn or synthetic ivory Elephant tusks might increase the
demand for the natural product and poaching, so there are political and
ethical issues there to ensure those animals are protected.
By the way, after you move beyond liquids, you might produce pearls too, but
you've probably thought of that. :-)
And then you can use the money from the pearls to get to work on synthetic
wood to save the old growth forests. :-)
Hey, maybe I do like DIYBio green eggs and synthetic ham after all,