You're listening to Ted Talks Daily Amelie's Hugh, we are confronting one of the biggest challenges for humankind, which is what we humans have done to the environment, we are out of balance with nature. In her talk from TED at BCG in 2020, DNA synthesizer Emily Leprous proposes ways to get us back in harmony with nature by embracing synthetic technology. You don't think about it, but every day nature is trying to kill you. We as human place constant pressure on our natural world.
And in response, nature fights back to balance the scales. Nature has been adapting and reacting to the presence of human developments, just like we've been adapting and reacting to nature and nature is telling us we are on an unsustainable path. It is time to correct. This does not mean abandoning technology, but it means harnessing the power of biology itself to reconcile the creature comforts of human civilization with our natural world.
Some of you may be thinking, but I recycle or I don't eat meat.
I take the bus, I grow my own food. And in fact, you may be doing your part to live sustainably. And if you do, good for you. In my view, though, it's impossible to exclusively rely on an individual effort to make the changes we need. We have to make the changes at a global scale to truly makes a difference, and that requires rethinking what modern global society looks like and a new kind of environmentalism. To be clear, when I talk about sustainability, it's not just about the environment.
Well, it's an important piece. Sustainability is about much more. Mordern on sustainability is the integration of the environment, people and the economy, each of them are needed to thrive. You cannot have one without the other. Therefore, the practice of sustainability recognizes that everything is created and requires a different approach. So do we both individually and collectively change what we are doing today? I believe that technology and innovation, specifically biological innovation, is the key to answering that question.
Basically, innovation, we enable harmonious coexistence with nature for humans today and in future generations, while still enjoying all of the creature comforts we've come to expect, if we do it at the global scale, we will get back in balance with nature, which would be great for humanity and will also improve the health of the planet. So what do we do that? The answer is synthetic biology. Now, some of you may be thinking the same thing, but that sounds like an oxymoron at best and dangerous at worst.
How can something biological which is based on issue, this would be synthetic, which implies not natural at all.
When synthetic biology is the engineering of nature to benefit society, the core component of synthetic biology is my favorite molecule DNA. DNA is the code of life on Earth. It contains all the instructions for animals, plants, humans, microbes, bacteria, fungi and so much more by embracing the power of DNA.
We will be able to achieve both comfort and sustainability. Over the last millenia, our system of justice in basic ways, for instance, by improving milk production from cows and making a wide grass call turns into edible corn. But I took thousands of years over the last 70 years what our ancestors did in the field without even knowing they were doing genetic engineering. We started doing in laboratories. And as a consequence, we now have the scientific knowledge and technological know how to harness the power of DNA for the better.
A true biological revolution.
So how can DNA unsentimentally help? Well, we can affect change in three critical area health food and materials in health and early health and economic success is recombinant injectable insulin to alleviate diabetes, a disease that affects four hundred sixty three million people worldwide. Today, we can make insulin from either use a bacteria instead of extracting it from the pancreas of pigs and cows. This allows for the massive production of insulin at a fraction of the cost and without killing pigs and cows.
This means that they are no longer any factory farms needed to put insulin on your pharmacy shelves. Today, using the power of genetics, we can reduce or even eliminate mosquito borne diseases such as malaria, Zika and eventually dengue is raging. Right?
We are doing this by harnessing mosquito's own genetics to wipe them out.
Is becoming a reality to correct defective genes in patients with inherited diseases such as severe combined immune deficiency, you may know it as the bookable syndrome and sickle cell anemia. We can diagnose disease faster and more cost effectively by writing and reading DNA. And already we can add pieces of DNA in the cell of the immune system to identify and kill cancer cells in patient.
Thanks to advances like this in the future, even terminal cancer will become chronic diseases. One major change that is enabling these incredible advances is the ability to read and more importantly, to write Disneyesque. Over the last 20 years, the price of writing one base pair of DNA has dropped from ten dollars to nine cents, more than 100 fold decrease, drastically reducing costs and unleashing the imagination of scientists worldwide.
His ability to ride the ESKIL also impacts food and metal. So speaking of food DNA, the biology techniques today can engineer bacteria to deliver nitrogen at the root of plants, eliminating the need for fertilisers, which you may or may not know are produced from either coal or natural gas that is extracted from the ground.
That is a triple win, more food, lower food cost and no need to extract fossil fuel from the ground to grow food.
While this may seem futuristic, companies are working on it now with field testing already underway.
We can control crop destroying pests, using different methods, essentially using the bugs on scent to prevent them from mating and laying eggs while also protecting birds, bees and other animals. These missiles are expensive today, but costs will come down. We can protect bananas and papayas today to crops that are threatened by deadly pathogens. By encouraging them to be resistant to this pathogen, we can ensure that commercial scale production continues. It is true for bananas and papaya, but it's also true for many other plants that are coming under similar attack from nature.
So let's look ahead to. Everything we touch today comes from oil, natural gas extracted from the ground, and that is just unsustainable. And we can do better using competition, we all know, but competition, if reaching out to years and you get better or in front of where I come from, we call it champagne today by using the stem cells like yeast, algae and bacteria, you can inject them to ferment sugar or other biomass to produce chemicals.
These tiny cells are the equivalent of exceptionally efficient fracturing facilities. And it's amazing you can make the same chemicals that are made from home and you could tell the difference.
That includes directly producing plastic flavor, fragrances, sweetener.
And Sumitra, for instance, the production process to make blue dye use in the fabrication of bludging is a massive barometer of the environment.
Through foundation, you can make the same dye much cheaper and without the environmental impact that is gilfry genes. Another method we use to produce chemicals to enable our comfortable life is to try them from nature, and that is also unsustainable. For instance, Squiggling is a key ingredient of moisturizer, and I get it. Where one bright, beautiful skin. But did you know that Shocklee is a major source of squalene? Sharks are apex predators and a critical component of our ocean ecology.
So using shards to make face cream just doesn't make sense. Instead, we can now make squinting by foundation of skin sugar, and it's even available on Amazon. I am not just talking about replacing current materials with more stable ones. We are talking about making better chemicals that you could never make from oil, and that will change your life in the future.
For instance, Spain, I think, is an amazing metro, is way stronger than steel and super late. The problem is that you cannot make spider silk from oil and you cannot from spider. You put a million spider in a room. You come back a week later, you get one spider the of the.
By using synthetic biology, we will be able to produce silk at commercial scale and avoid spider violence. In the future plan and maybe even flying cars will be made by synthetic spider silk instead of carbon composite material. They'll be stronger, lighter and use less you. So this all sounds fantastic, but it gets better, it also makes economic sense, yes, synthetic Bergey will give us health, sustainable food and sustainable material because it's earthier, cheaper. Let's be honest, a lot of people do not care about the environment, but everybody loves a deal.
So we human. Get health food and materials at the lower cost and then you get sustainability for free. And an additional bonus is all the millions of jobs that will be created through this modern vision of sustainability. These are not menial jobs. These new jobs will be dignified and meaningful and they'll be spread globally to ensure that human lived more vigorously in nature.
So synthetic biology is the key to making civilization sustainable, edible earth of nature, from killing it to. In conclusion, we don't have to choose between either human benefits on issue. We can move towards balance and have both in harmony. It's not that we could do it, it is that we should do it. We have a moral imperative to do so. Thank you. Hey, Ted talks daily listeners, I'm Adam Grant. I host another podcast from the TED audio collective called Work Life, where we explore the science of making work, not suck.
We're doing a special series right now called Taken for Granted, where I interview my favorite thinkers about the opinions and assumptions we should all be rethinking. My next guest is Danny Kahneman.
A brilliant joy changing my mind because I feel I'm learning some pretty fine work life on Apple podcast Spotify or wherever you listen.
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