Internet threats a bleak picture of human future

Biological and genetic weapons should take cue from online viruses and worms, British doctors say.

The current chaos of an Internet plagued by viruses, worms, spam and phishing could be a vision into the future of the human race and genetic warfare, especially given that a stem-cell research measure passed in California on Tuesday.

As researchers dig farther into the human genome and perfect the technology of targeting specific human genes, doctors have begun to argue that programmable biology could give rise to viruses that target ethnic groups or needed resources, such as food stocks. A report by the British Medical Association paints a future world where biological threats could be created by the irresponsible and malicious in the same way that digital threats are coded today.

Yet, the United States will likely embark on developing such technology over the next decade. California legalized stem-cell research in Tuesday's election, largely on the promise of programmable nature of the materials to fight a variety of ailments. The passage could indicate that people--more enamored of the potential benefits than the threats--will be likely to rush to develop technology that opens the field to such threats.

If the state of the Internet gives a view of what such technology could mean for people, it's vision of the solutions isn't very inspiring. Firewalled networks and antivirus software on every desktop translates to closed enclaves of people and artificially amped immune systems.

The open question is whether, in this case, forewarned will be forearmed.

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