This article is written as a wake-up call to scientists, intelligentsia, politicians, media practitioners, financial gurus and the general public on the impending impact of 3D bio-printing technology on the socioeconomic outlook of human civilization in the coming decades.
The art of 3D printing refers to any of the various processes that are used to make three-dimensional objects with plastics, polymers, alloys, mixtures of chemical substances and cells. This industrial robot is capable of generating objects of almost any shape or geometry by following instructions and commands from electronic data sourced from a tablet, android or computer.
3D bio-printing is the process of generating spatially-controlled cell patterns using state-of-the-art technologies, wherein cells within the printed structure are still viable and well preserved. The first patent related to this technology was patented in the United States in 2006.
The manufacturing process follows a sequential deposit of material in a spatial manner through nozzles of inkjet printer heads.
Organovo, a San Diego-based firm in the USA was the first company to commercialize 3D bio-printing technology as the 3D bio-printer was optimized to be able to print skin tissue, heart tissue, and blood vessels among other basic tissues that could be suitable for surgical therapy and transplantation. Efforts have also been made by scientists to adapt bio-printing technology to produce soft tissues and artificial bones for use in reconstructive surgery.
To say that the 3D bio-printer would be ubiquitous internet linked equipment is an understatement because of its versatile potential application in all fields of human endeavor.
Within the next decade, scientists would be looking at the possibility of re-inventing, incorporating or adapting the famous Miller-Urey experiment into 3D bio-printers to enable the machines synthesize or cross-link substances such as sugars and amino acids with the capability of making, peptides, proteins, lipids, genes, telomeres, prions and invariably, living organisms!
As the 3D bio-printer evolves into the realm of science fiction, its impact on human civilization becomes unfathomable.
Would its usage be well regulated by the governments of the day?
Potential applications of the 3D bio-printer include:
- Printing mini organs such as hearts, livers, and lungs as the potential to test new drugs more accurately and perhaps eliminate the need for testing in animals.
- Developing tissue models for research, drug discovery and toxicology.
- Developing essential bio-active proteins such as insulin.
- Developing vaccines.
- Developing more exotic perfumes.
- Developing exquisite wines that even the best connoisseur cannot produce.
- Developing network computers that allow an array of internet-linked 3D bio-printers to generate models in any remote location from the instruction of a computer in workstations.
The time has come for pro-active scientists and activists to begin drafting the framework of regulatory mechanisms that is required to reign in rouge scientists, unscrupulous businessmen and eccentric end-users from turning the cutting-edge 3D bio-printing technology into the harbinger of fast-tracked Armageddon.
What would be the reaction of financial market responses to such massive catastrophe?
Mass infection of international computer networks with malware that causes internet-linked 3D bio-printers to churn out toxic or contagious substances and biologically active organisms would cause a domino effect, a crisis in one country leads to crises in others because of financial and internet connectivity. Many countries with no contingency plans for such scenario might experience the following:
- Emerging data extraction failures.
- Inability to objectively access information that is desperately needed to ***** changing fiscal fundamentals.
- Changes in global interest rates, exchange rates between major currencies, commodity prices.
- Recessions in major industrial countries.
- Panic among foreign investors, financial institutions and citizenry who become paranoid about the domestic and international implications of the situation.
- Reduction in volumes of bilateral trade.
- Confusion and protectionism among countries that have integrated their financial system with international financial markets and institutions.
- Turmoil in international financial markets.
- Crash in regional financial markets.
- Plummeting of bilateral trade volume among neighboring countries.
- Long term global financial crises
Eventually, people notably politicians and economists would begin to play the ‘blame game’ by attributing any policy or implementation failure to the ‘global economic meltdown’ that occurred as an aftermath of the ‘3D bio-printer contagion’.
Would such chaos lead to a global debt crisis? Sure, it would!
The complexities of 3D bio-printing technology require the integration of technologies from the various fields of science that necessitates plugging the devices into the World Wide Web.
An internet-linked array of the global network grid of innumerable 3D bio-printers present a mind boggling source of viral contagion that could cause a horrible blood cuddling scenario of total destruction of vulnerable organisms within all nooks and cranny of earth’s biodiversity with no safe haven in bunkers and hidden underground cities.
3D bio-printer induced internet mayhem might also ensue as a fall out of the malware that would have caused proliferation of the contagion-causing-commands to unleash severe damage to electronic data of computers linked to the World Wide Web.
This gut wrenching scenario might be worsened by the current reactionary mode of all stakeholders to the possibility of a dual purposed algorithm that is capable of forming biological cum computer virus. Viruses of this nature might spread much more quickly as they would have been embedded within the normal functional programs of the 3D bio-printer.
Hence, within the coming decade, a 3D bio-printer would be able to spew out a biological virus as well as its malware virtual counterpart in cyberspace!
Would all stakeholders heed this early warning by joining the fray to begin strict regulation of 3D bio-printing technology?
There is no doubt that 3D bio-printing is set to impact positively on human civilization in the coming decades but this mind blowing technology like the proverbial sword of Damocles hangs over the heads of mankind. Its immense threat to biodiversity is too strong to ignore.
Therefore, the emerging trend in human civilization require scientists, intelligentsia and politicians to be pro-active rather than being reactionary as mankind gropes through a seeming blind alley into an uncertain future without fully understanding the impact or considering ramifications of new technologies that are being applied with reckless abandon.
About the author: Akintunde M Lawal is the author of a 2015 science fiction novel titled ‘The Ultimate Contagion (Viral Conundrum)’.