Prominent physicist Freeman Dyson to speak at NJIT: Promises and perils of genetic engineering

11/02/04



Freeman Dyson

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Will the emerging revolution in genetic engineering and biotechnology change the course of Darwinian evolution - drastically altering the nature of life on earth?

Internationally-known physicist and futurist Freeman Dyson, of Princeton University's Institute of Advanced Studies, will explore this possibility during the Nov. 10 technology forum sponsored by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Dyson's talk, "Life After Darwin: the Open Software of Gene Transfer," will begin at 3 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom. The forum is free and open to the public.

Just as computer technology has transformed daily life, Dyson says the proliferation of genetic engineering and biotechnology soon will circumvent the Darwinian principles that have governed evolution for three billion years. The result, he predicts, will be an explosion of biodiversity. Dyson will detail the social and economic consequences - the good and the bad - of this biotechnological upheaval.

Called by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke "one of the true geniuses of our age," Dyson has spent much of his life working as a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. Born in England, he came to America in 1947, and later worked with prominent physicists Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman. Dyson is renowned for his subsequent work in unifying the three versions of quantum electrodynamics. He has written a number of books about science and social issues for the general public, including Weapons and Hope (1984), Infinite in All Directions (1988), and Origins of Life (1986). His 1999 book The Sun, the Genome and the Internet, discusses how modern technology can narrow the gap between rich and poor. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

Dyson's lecture is the third in NJIT's new technology and society forum series. The forums are designed to explore the connections between the technological expertise that students study in the classroom and the real-world geo-political issues that affect the quality of human life. Each talk is designed to open further conversation between the experts and the audience about the social implications of cutting-edge technologies. Previous speakers have included stem cell researcher Ira Black and computer scientist Rebecca Mercuri, a leading e-voting specialist.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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