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R2D2 at Boskone

January 27, 2014

It’s time to make your plans for Boskone, my favorite science fiction convention.
This year I’m back on all my favorite science themes–climate disaster, space-beamed solar, plagues and parasites, and of course 3D printing. To top it off, I get to play R2D2 — the Shakespeare version, directed by Laurie Mann.

Joan’s Schedule at Boskone
Rising Tides Fri 18:00 – 18:50, Carlton
Stay Near the Fire: The New Solar System Science Fiction Sat 10:00 – 10:50, Harbor III
Killer Plagues Sat 11:00 – 11:50, Harbor III
The Potential of 3D Printing Sat 15:00 – 15:50, Harbor III
The Pleasures of Parasites Sat 16:00 – 16:50, Harbor III
Kaffeeklatsche with Joan Slonczewski Sat 17:00 – 17:50, Galleria-Kaffeeklatsch 2
R2D2 in Shakespeare Star Wars Reading Sat 21:15 – 22:45, Harbor II+III

  1. SFreader permalink
    January 28, 2014 11:43 am

    “The Pleasures of Parasites” – which/whose POV is this?

    • January 28, 2014 2:00 pm

      You wouldn’t *believe* how popular parasites are with SF fans. Some of the panelists plan to “act out” parasite behaviors. Others plan to argue that a baby/fetus is a parasite.

      • SFreader permalink
        January 28, 2014 5:58 pm

        I was thinking along Gary Larson lines with respect to POV: A couple of connoisseur parasites evaluating potential hosts, e.g., good legs, full-bodied, no bitter after-taste, etc.

  2. SFreader permalink
    January 28, 2014 1:58 pm

    Hi Joan:

    You may have already discussed this somewhere else, but re: 3D printers: what would be involved in the 3D printing of a gene, a virus, or a stem cell? Since the raw materials for genes on this planet are relatively easy to obtain, how do you control this type of use/technology?

    If I go by what I’m familiar with, i.e., ordinary office paper printers where the finer the resolution, the more expensive the printer and ‘inks’ … would the same rationale apply to the above, i.e., the smaller-scale the biologic material printed, the more expensive the 3D printer needed? Imagine hospitals (or battlefield medics, or MSF/medical NGOs) being able to print blood or stem cells on demand. Doubt that 3D can be legally used to print medicines at first as its usually the pharma companies that ‘own/patent’ molecules. However, if you could identify the bits of the molecules that are ‘active’, that could be a legal/technical work-around. Which brings me to … Who designs, tests/QAs – and ultimately ‘owns’ the 3D printer ‘recipes’/apps/programs? How does the apps designer get paid? How do you limit the types of ‘inks’ that a 3D printer can use – do you build in some sort of mass spectrometer to read the ‘ink’ and reject any ink that the legal system says you’re not supposed to use in 3D printing … similar to the way that most countries’ legal tender ‘paper’ is restricted? (Would all 3D printers be forced to be connected to the web to keep all of the apps in cloud storage, therefore trace-able? This could address the legal pharma ‘new molecule’ problem. PFactories would shut down, What)

    Fascinating topics … hope someone records and uploads the panel discussions to youtube.

    • January 28, 2014 2:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing great ideas for the panel!
      And the ultimate question is–What happens someday when we print out people? Who’s the real “person”?

      • SFreader permalink
        January 29, 2014 11:20 am

        The method of reproduction is irrelevant, you now have two (2) distinct persons, each able to pursue a distinct life/future. We don’t have this argument about mono-zygotic twins, triplets, etc. This argument has also been examined and accepted by most law-makers/societies with respect to in vitro vs. in utero fertilization.

      • SFreader permalink
        January 29, 2014 11:40 am

        Ditto for multiverse and time-travel scenarios which could be viewed as examples of different ‘reproduction’ methods.

  3. January 29, 2014 12:27 pm

    Sorry, there is a big difference–if you “replicate” an adult person, you end up with two adults who share lifelong memories. This is very different from twinning an early embryo.

    • SFreader permalink
      January 30, 2014 1:18 pm

      Agree that they share a past — but they do not share a present or a future.

      Consider a species where reproduction is via budding or straight-down-the-middle cell/person division – an oversized amoeba. You’d end up with two distinct individuals – identical at first but discrete and different thereafter. Jack Chalker in his Well Worlds series had at least one such species. How we reproduce is a fluke of evolution and should not limit who we are or what we might become as a species.

      This logic would also apply to artificial intelligence. The first AI could reproduce itself and in doing so would create/give birth to new AIs. Charlie Stross addresses this in his Saturn’s Children series.

      • January 30, 2014 3:30 pm

        But they each feel they’re the ONE child of their parents–and the ONE owner of their home, car, the ONE beloved of their lover? Just saying, it’s a problem, right?

  4. SFreader permalink
    January 31, 2014 2:47 pm

    Agree … in this situation the feeling of having one’s uniqueness violated would probably be stronger than among “natural’ firstborns however social awareness/education could change that attitude. Consider how identical twins manage to develop unique personalities and live complete separate lives despite quite a lot of pressure (expectation): because they’re so closely related, they must therefore be interchangeable.

    BTW — found this today … definitely worth discussing at Boscone

    “One of the most surprising findings is that the STAP cells can also form placental tissue, something that neither iPS cells nor embryonic stem cells can do. That could make cloning dramatically easier, says Wakayama. Currently, cloning requires extraction of unfertilized eggs, transfer of a donor nucleus into the egg, in vitro cultivation of an embryo and then transfer of the embryo to a surrogate. If STAP cells can create their own placenta, they could be transferred directly to the surrogate. Wakayama is cautious, however, saying that the idea is currently at “dream stage”.”

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