As I was writing a recent story on using the citrus tristeza virus to deliver a knock-out blow to the psyllid, I had one of those Gee Whiz moments. The idea of inserting a jellyfish gene into a citrus plant and glowing phloem sounds like science fiction, but it is reality. Just read the story.
The story informs us the ultimate goal of this particular research is to use RNAi technology to kill the psyllid. Scientists are not there yet, but they are making progress. And all the while, they are gaining an even deeper understanding of genetics. Every step is a building block to a highly advanced future.
You will hear more and more about CRISPR/Cas9 technology. The breakthrough gene editing technology was only discovered in 2012 and already is being talked about as potential cancer and HIV cures. The technology is remarkably simple, versatile, and repeatable. The CRISPR technique has worked in just about every cell type tried — plant and animal.
Scientists are studying CRISPR for applications to fight HLB and the psyllid. USDA and UF/IFAS have several projects well underway using the technology.
Whether it is human genetics or genetics applied to plants, knowledge is growing at a dizzying pace. That all adds up to us being on the cusp of some remarkable breakthroughs in human medicine and in agriculture, like — dare I say it — a cure for HLB.
Ray Kurzweil is a well-known futurist who will blow your mind when it comes to future predictions. He predicted the rapid rise of the Internet and the fall of the Soviet Union. He has been given an 86% accuracy rate for his predictions. He currently serves as Google’s Director of Engineering.
Kurzweil predicts by 2045, technology will become smarter than humans. And much sooner, by 2029, technology will be just as smart as humans. What does that mean? It means that technological advancements in computing, genetics, precision agriculture, and just about everything you can think of will be happening so rapidly it will be hard to get your head around it.
Kurzweil also predicts that by 2019, Wi-Fi access will be ubiquitous, meaning everywhere you go, Wi-Fi will be there. That is well on the way toward reality. When it comes to diseases, he says by 2020 most of them will go away via advances with genetics and nanobots that are placed inside our bodies to carry out curative and health maintenance functions. That’s right. Robots inside our bodies by 2020.
I’d encourage you to look into Kurzweil’s predictions further because they are pretty amazing. And, I think it is important to be aware of what lies right before us as this technology boom unfolds. It will be exhilarating and scary at the same time.
While we will have the ability to fix many of the maladies of mankind, we also must manage this boom as ethically as possible. That won’t be easy because access and speed of advancement is increasing exponentially.
But, there is no wishing the future away. It is already upon us. And, the benefits will be great. Just look at transgenic/GMO technology, which soon will seem like ancient science, and the benefits it has already brought us allowing us to grow crops more efficiently and sustainably. Unleashing the technology boom will bring us to a better fed, healthier, and cleaner planet. Exciting times are ahead of us. Buckle up. It is going to be a wild ride.