Empty philosophy won’t do much. Lab work can achieve something.
Empty philosophy rarely does.
“Jesus,” Molly said, her own plate empty, “gimme that. You know what this costs?” She took his plate. 'They gotta raise a whole animal for years and then they kill it. This isn’t vat stuff." She forked a mouthful up and chewed.
-Neuromancer, William Gibson.
Just to get the ball rolling, if it is to be rolled at all.
Ach! I was all over the place, drunk out my mind when I wrote that, apologies.
I jumped around way too much, I meant to imply that the stimulus of the tissue is a workable, ethical solution.
The engineering of a genome (with the potential for proliferation of genes into the environment) that constitutes a vegetated animal seems… ethically tricky to me.
Also, no need to denigrate philosophy! It’s quite good enough at that on it’s own, thank you very much.
Of course, science should be bound by ethical considerations, but I’d like to explore your idea of using the vehicle of an engineered animal to act as the vat.
Surely these would be clones, or would we leave breeding instincts in the genome? Would they seek light and warmth, basic homoeostatic functions intact?
They could be stripped, I suppose, of anything approaching any kind of emotional sentience and left with basic motor functions… left in barns, to exercise the meat; or on the other end of the spectrum, totally vegetated, looking nothing like actual animals.
1000lb chicken lumps, growing like obscene cancerous tumours, twitching to the beat of the elctro-stimulus package. Internally engineered or applied surgically? Perhaps a separate technological system the meat is engineered to form a symbiotic relationship with as it grows?
It is within these boundaries I wish to explore the implied ethics. What constitutes sentience? Homoeostasis? Surely not. But why stop at engineering vegetated animals, when you can add just a little more neural complexity. A little self direction to do some of the work of the farmer. Internal functionality.
Boundaries are pushed, where are they in this case?
Absolu-te-ly no problem.
(Can I accept an apology when there was nothing to start apologizing for?)
Horizontal gene transfer is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Helping it a bit in the lab is what I don’t consider a big deal. As of spread of genes, the man-introduced ones are usually carrying some maladaptive traits that will be eliminated in few generations in the wild. Or are harmless enough and then they can stay.
We need labs in different countries built on different philosophical foundations. (We don’t have countries with blank slates so diversity has to be leveraged. What is a big issue for Christians may be a no-problem for Asian religions, and vice versa.) And we need garage labs (see DIY Biology) that can operate without “oversight” (read: a bunch of constipated old guys who don’t want “problems” and nip interesting projects in the bud out of fear for their cozy warm chair) and that are not bound by commercial interest (and therefore won’t prematurely deploy the tech on too large scale).
Clones. Easier to handle.
I am more in favor of the totally-vegetated approach. May keep the outside form factor of the animal but can be attached to feeding tubes. The more stripped down the neural functions are, to a certain level, the easier the logistics is - no walking spaces, no issues with animal-to-animal contact (see how pigs tend to attack each other in confined conditions), possibility to stack the feeding crates in multiple levels for better space efficiency.
Frederik Pohl - The Space Merchants?
I’m in favor of internally engineered, at least in the later iteration. Muscle-tissue cultures grown in flat slabs on electrode arrays may be the predecessors. But I’d prefer the wiring to be self-assembled in the material, both the nerves and the veins. Both are done in living organisms with success so it is technically possible.
Initially I was thinking of pain sensing neurology to report back to the farmer about the state of the meat, basic immune systems to keep it healthy. Perhaps skin engineered to bruise or change colour over ‘bad’ meat. Thinking about immune responses, how about rejection responses to excise unwanted muscle tissue without scrapping the whole vat?
I really did think that you were talking about the engineering of animal like beings so was sort of leaning on that ideation a little more than I should have, given your elaborated position.
This is kind of interesting speculation, back later.
(I have not read any Frederik Pohl but I think Stephen Baxter makes reference to his work, so I may be familiar with his cadence through emulation.)