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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

DNA Dreams -- documentary

DNA Dreams -- a Dutch documentary about the BGI Cognitive Genomics Lab -- is now online. This version only has Dutch subtitles, although I've also seen an English version. Most of the dialog is in English, some in Mandarin.


DNA Dreams (Translated from Dutch.) 
What would happen if the gene was found that IQ determines us? And when people and animals could be easily cloned? Wait there a new world full of perfect people? And we want that world be? In China's Pearl River Delta is that world in the making. On the outskirts of Shenzhen is BGI, recently the largest genetic research world. Working day and night here 4000 young scientists at mapping the DNA of plants, animals and humans. Knowledge of this code of life opens up many new possibilities. For instance, the eighteen year old high school dropout Zhao Bowen an international research team that wants to find the genes for intelligence. He works with the young, brilliant psychologist Yang Rui, that IQ tests decreases with gifted children and their blood samples to collect DNA. In a later lab work forty young people led by the 24-year-old Lin Lin a clone project, which includes fluorescent mini-pigs produces and clone factory will grow. Between the cloning of humans and animals exist ethical, but hardly practical differences. Which applications are in the offing as this knowledge will soon become common property? China has few legal obstacles to the life sciences and also to capital is not a defect. The young scientists can fully indulge their fascination. They are optimistic and want to progress. But reality is stubborn and it exists for them not only in bits, bytes and algorithms.
Some reactions to the documentary:

1. As you might expect, it emphasizes sensational aspects of our research -- genetic engineering, drugs for cognitive enhancement, etc. These are all possibilities, obviously topics we discussed at the behest of the film makers, but of course for now our work is basic research with no near term applications. (Basic research tends to be less interesting to viewers than science fiction extrapolations.)

2. I find the video visually interesting, but at times it emphasizes the alien or sinister. Even the musical background seems chosen for this purpose.

3. Several important members of our team have little or no role in the documentary, despite being interviewed extensively during its making. I suppose the director was limited in what she could include, given the 60 minute format. The young woman who leads the cloning team is not actually part of our group.


Below are some photos of the documenters at work. (Scroll down here for more.)

Film crew takes in a technical discussion. Rare mutations, pseudogenes and rs numbers.




Shooting at a hipster pad in Dameisha. Barbeque and a showing of Gattaca :-)

 


Shooting in the BGI cafeteria.

 


Sheraton Dameisha. (The dinner discussion was shot here.)

 

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