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ChatGenePT: Reconstruction as Resurrection

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Scientists have been interested in bringing back extinct species and now with modern technology in genetics, it might actually happen.  Resurrection biology also known as de-extinction may become reality in our generation. 

There are three major objectives for de-extinction.

Objective 1:  learn about gaps in evolution, so we can understand the evolutionary process and predict the future.

Objective 2:  benefit the environment, refill and restore the ecosystem that has been harmed by the extinction of keystone species.

Objective 3: slow down global warming or climate change, but bringing back extinct creatures that can turn back time. (personally, this one seems a bit far-fetched for me.)

The limiting factor for de-extinction is DNA itself. (Sorry, but Jurassic Park is just not going to happen.) DNA has a half-life 521 years, so after 6.8 million years it is completely gone.

Dinosaurs are not a prime candidate, but recently extinct animals are possible.

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Now that we know the facts, how can it be done? Well, there are three ways too.

  1. Cloning – Suitable for recently lost species or almost extinct one, for example white rhinos. We already have the technology for this and continuing to improve on this.

  2. Genome editing – manipulation of DNA to mimic extinct DNA, this means that the scientists do not have the original DNA and uses a close relative. Therefore, only a hybrid can be produced but not the authentic original species.

  3. Back-breeding – bring back features on living populations, need a close relative having the trait to exist in a small quantity. – increase genetic diversity. For example bring back larger horns in cattle.

 

Even though the technology is ready, conservationists argue that the amount of money spent is better on conserving endangered species. 2 to 8 times more species could be saved with the same amount of money.  ​

Why is de-extinction necessary? Because species are dying at an alarming rate. As many as one million plant and animal species are in danger of extinction: by the year 2100, half of all Earth’s species could be gone.

Scientists have been working since 1999 to make de-extinction happen through cloning. Scientists in Spain cloned the last bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex. They froze the female’s cells and, in 2009, cloned them, but the kid (baby animal) died.

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Modern technology including AI gnomic mapping, gene editing and stem cell to create embryos of extinct species. San Diego Zoo has a Frozen Zoo froze the DNA of 1000 different species to preserve them for the future. Even with technology, there are limitation. Some scientist say DNA only lasts at most 1.5 million years - “you can’t clone from stone.” 

Key case studies mentioned include the passenger pigeon, which has been extinct since 1914 (last bird called Martha). It was once the most abundant bird (more than 5 billion) but hunted to death. Scientists have tried but failed to get complete DNA from stuffed bird (exhibit), invitro the embryo in nearest relative band tailed pigeon and try to bring back by 2025. Another interesting case is whether AI could copy and paste and Wooley Mammoth and put it in Asian elephant or even 3D tech a uterus.

 

All this sounds fantastical? Well. The first human genome was in 1990, taking 13 years and costing about $1 billion. Future target for human genome mapping is $100, less than 1 minute. While this sounds cool, it does raise some concerns. Will there be breeding for humans? 

Scientists have discovered that it is harder than they expected to bring back an extinct creature. Research on the vanished Christmas Island rat suggests de-extinction  “shows both how wonderfully close—and yet—how devastatingly far”.

So, how fare are we? So far, scientists have sequenced the genomes of about 20 extinct species, including a cave bear, passenger pigeon, and several types of mammoths and moas. But no one has yet reported re-creating the extinct genome in a living relative. The difficulty is how to get a complete sequence of an extinct species; 5% is a big difference—the human genome differs by just 1% from those of chimps and bonobos. Even if it could be done, we would be getting a proxy (close hybrid) of that species. So, like the previous article, it cites how scientists believe better investment could be diverted instead to conservation. We can save 8 endangered species for the price of de-extinction for 1. 

The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is a large, fast-growing deciduous tree of the

beech family native to eastern North America. As is true of all species in genus Castanea,

the American chestnut produces burred fruit with edible nuts. The American chestnut was

one of the most important forest trees throughout its range. However, during the early to

mid-20th century, American chestnut trees were devastated by chestnut blight, a fungal

disease that came from Chinese chestnut trees that were introduced into North America

from East Asia. It is estimated that the blight killed between 3 and 4 billion American chestnut

trees in the first half of the 20th century, beginning in 1904.

Currently, very few mature specimens of the tree exist within its historical range, although

many small shoots of the former live trees remain. There are hundreds of large (2 to 5 ft

diameter) American chestnuts outside its historical range, some in areas where less

virulent strains of the pathogen are more common, such as the 600 to 800 large trees in Northern Michigan. The species is listed as endangered in the United States and Canada. American chestnuts are also susceptible to ink disease, particularly in the southern part of its native range; this likely contributed to the devastation of the species.

 

Several groups are attempting to create blight-resistant American chestnuts. Scientists at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry created the Darling 58 cultivar of American chestnut by inserting the oxalate oxidase gene from wheat into the genome of an American chestnut.

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                                                                                              The woolly mammoth once roamed the earth in Eurasia and also North America and they

                                                                                              became extinct roughly 10,000 years ago, as the climate became warmer and hunting by                                                                                                      humans. Colossal, a US biotech company, is trying to bring back the woolly mammoth by                                                                                                        2027 through gene editing. They plan to reintroduce the mammoth to Siberia, Russia in an                                                                                                      effort to fight climate change, believing that these giant creatures are crucial in maintaining                                                                                                  the biodiversity of the Artic tundra (frozen earth). 

                                                                                              How do they plan to bring these gigantic creatures back? Well, they share 99.6% of the                                                                                                            same genes with Asian elephants, their closest relatives. They plan to plant the embryo in a                                                                                                  surrogate African elephant for it to give birth to their megafauna again!  Basically, drive                                                                                                            advancements in in gene-editing, specifically CRISPR editing.

                                                                                             

Scientist who support the research believes that mammoths could help to restore the Arctic tundra and rebuild the Mammoth Steppe through their migration, by slowing the melting of Arctic permafrost (preventing greenhouse gas emissions into the permafrost, for there are 1600 billion metric tons of carbon) and turn over-shrub forests to natural Arctic grasslands. Basically, create an ecosystem that’s resilient to the climate change by giant creatures that keep vegetation flat.

Some scientists are doubtful. They state that while they will have the same DNA, it will not have the same behavior. Also, they will not be living in the same ice-age ecosystem. Plus, you need a big herd to have any real difference, which makes it logically nearly impossible. 

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The Pyrenean Ibex, AKA the bucardo, is a subspecies of Spanish Ibex that went extinct in 2000 and was the first ever extinct species to be de-extinctified, though only for a few minutes.  They died out due to human hunting and the last specimen of Pyrenean Ibex known as Celia was killed by a falling branch. Using frozen skin samples from a specimen in 1999, scientists made clone embryos by inserting the bucardo's DNA into goat eggs and then implanted into other close relative.  It was not an easy process; of the 208 embryos implanted, only seven goats became pregnant, and just one bucardo made it to term - and died in a few minutes!  The main concern

 with cloning is that animals will lack genetic diversity and the population will die easily from diseases or even climate change.

Given that they went extinct rather recently, the act of de-extinctifying the Pyrenean Ibex will obviously help restore biodiversity and perhaps stop a chain reaction in its natural ecosystem. However, as with all forms of de-extinction, low genetic diversity would make them highly vulnerable, especially if hunting efforts do not stop. 

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Moas are a group of relatively large ratites (think emus, ostriches & kiwis), with an estimated total species count ranging from 9 to 64. This includes the huge elephant bird, which grew up to 3 meters tall and were the largest birds ever discovered. The larger species have likely gone extinct by the 17th century, though the smaller species may have possibly survived until the late 19th century. Other sources claim that the moa may have gone extinct earlier, around the 1280 – 1460. Still, almost in all cases, the cause for their extinction is likely human activity. The moa are endemic to the Polynesian islands (New Zealand) were prey for the Maori people. Moa may also have a slower than normal growth rate compared to most modern-day birds.

As the moa's extinction is somewhat recent, meaning that moa DNA is still present; we may be able to create a clone of or use it for genome editing to mimic a moa's. In 2018, scientists have already assembled the first nuclear genome for an extinct moa species. 

Genetically, moa may be polyphyletic, which means they have several ancestral lines. Back-breeding would require more research, as the true ancestors of the moa remain unclear and modern relatives are really small compared to their giant ancestors. Some of the more recently-dead species may be clone-able using living ratites. Intact eggs and feathers of moa can still be found today! 

Scientists have also argued on several fronts regarding bringing back the moa. 1) As some of New Zealand's ecosystems are still the same as they were, de-extinction can help preserve and restore the environment. 2) The costs are so high and the numbers needed for re-introduction are significant, that it is not worth while financially. 3) To bring back the moa, they would also need to bring back the microbiomes and parasites so the new moa-hybrids can survive.  So, science only shows a way, but not a clear path at all.

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Passenger Pigeon or Wild Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) is an extinct species of pigeon that was abundant in the great plains, with the last one, Martha, dying on September 1, 1914. The passenger pigeon looked like the mourning dove and the turtledove but bigger. The passenger pigeon died out due to hunting and deforestation. Even though this species is extinct, it is possible to revive this species by breeding it back through the closest relative, the band-tailed pigeon.

As scientist have access to their DNA, through their soft tissue. Doing this would help restore the ecosystem and help biodiversity.  However, others argue that it is a dumb idea. "The passenger pigeon is often mentioned as a target for de-extinction. Passenger pigeons once supplied people with abundant meat and likely helped to suppress Lyme disease. To create even a single viable population might well require fabricating a million birds or so, since the species apparently survived by a strategy of predator saturation" The forests that it once inhabited are gone or fragmented, thus it would become a pest to a new ecosystem. It used to feed on American Chestnut, but that's extinct too. Thus, bringing back benign creatures of the past may turn them into predators and lead to the creation of new dangerous retro-viruses.

Okay, this is a bit confusing and very interesting.... First I assumed it was talking about bringing back more komodo dragons which are a seriously endangered species.

 

Then, I realized they meant using CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) a type of genetic modification to create mythological animals. For example, scientist have been able to make a glow in the dark gold fish. CRISPR and other similar techniques involve DNA being inserted, replaced, or removed from a genome using artificially engineered nucleases.  So this opens up the imagination of scientists - maybe no fire-breathing, but maybe reptile with wings? Well, the key word is maybe. 

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Even if they can make the dragon big enough, would the genetic modifications also mean stronger bones to support the weight? Where would it live?  So, each new technology opens new windows and sets in new limitations. And, what about ethics?

Out of al the creatures in the world, the dodo is probably the icon for extinction and now it is the debate of de-extinction. These flightless giant birds lived in Southeast Asia mostly in Mauritius and were hunted to extinction in mere decades due to humans and the human-related species, ie rats.   Scientist Beth Shapiro of the University of California at Santa Cruz, said that she had already completed a key first step in the project — fully sequencing the dodo’s genome from ancient DNA — based on genetic material extracted from dodo remains in Denmark. The next step is to compare it to its closest living relative which is the Nicobar pigeon, and the extinct Rodrigues solitaire, a giant flightless pigeon that once lived on an island close to Mauritius. It’s a process which would allow them to narrow down which mutations in the genome “make a dodo a dodo,” Shapiro said. Importantly, they are not trying to bring back the 'old dodo' but to create a new one with traits that helps it adapt to the new ecology. So Shapiro is working on planting the dodo egg inside modern relatives to give birth to new and improved dodo hybrids that have immunity and can combat climate change. 

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This research paper was published by Beth Shapiro, one of the most renowned scientists working on de-extinction. It's super long, and it describes the various ways to bring back an extinct creature. The diagram on the right gives an idea of how it's done. I think it sums its up well, so please study it.

To sum up the long paper in one paragraph - "Precise replication of an extinct species, however, is not necessary to achieve the conservation-oriented goals of de-extinction. In the majority of ongoing de-extinction projects, the goal is to create functional equivalents of species that once existed: ecological proxies that are capable of filling the extinct species’ ecological niche. Proponents of back-breeding aurochs hope to release these animals into abandoned farmland within what was once the aurochs’ range

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(Stokstad 2015). Proponents of resurrected mammoths hope for something similar: genetically modified elephants that can survive the cold winters in Siberia and functionally replace mammoths on that landscape (Zimov 2005). While the new aurochs and new mammoths will not be genetically identical to extinct aurochs or extinct mammoths, there is no reason to expect that they would not graze, recycle and disperse nutrients, and as such help to maintain a diverse and healthy ecosystem, just as aurochs and mammoths once did."

We are all probably familiar with the paleolithic cave drawings of wild cattle called Aurochs, but did you know that scientists are trying to bring them back to life. Not for bull-fighting, but for ecological sustainability. These creatures were once native to the Portugal’s Côa Valley and are the common ancestor to all domestic cattle breeds, so their DNA is still hidden in the DNA of modern cattle.

 

Since they have been gone for too long, back-breeding is now the most feasible path. The man behind the project is Ronald Goderie, cattle breeder/ecologist. Along with geneticist, their project is called Rewilding Europe. They are reintroducing menacing horns and stripped back to modern species and reintroducing them to Europe's plains.

According to Goderie, “Agricultural land is being abandoned on a large scale in Europe, and natural grazing is one of the key processes for preserving biodiversity. We’re trying to re-establish a wild bovine that can do the job. To be able to do this as well as possible, we think these cattle should resemble the aurochs as much as possible.”

Picture on the right is one of the products of conservationists:  aurochs-style breed, called tauros, which are less aggressive. Goderie now has about 500 animals at various stages of becoming modern-day aurochs and even wild horses. There are similar projects being done in Germany and all over Europe at different stages. Of course, they also care if these new beasts are dangerous to man and how they will fit into the new ecosystem. So far, they are thriving!

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Sum it up: Should we invest in de-extinction or favor conservation?

1) Definitely continue to allow private investment into new technology. Public investment should be spent on conservation of current endangered species. There is enough dying now that needs our awareness and protection.

2) New technology and plans should be full considered before allowing new species to be introduced - We don't want to bring back ancient super germ that destroys the world.

3) Scientists working on de-extinction should be respected because they are trying to fill in gaps in genetics that might answer future questions. Even if de-extinction does not happen, the knowledge could be apply to other areas. Keep an open mind. 

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Post-mortem facial reconstruction (after-death) is a technique that uses our knowledge of anatomy to recreate the face of a dead person. Most commonly used in CSI (crime scene investigation) and archeology. anatomical knowledge of the human skull to flesh out the face of a deceased individual. This is about bringing back the appearance of someone, so we have better knowledge of their lives.  Dr. Janet Monge of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is an expert and she helps bring back the face of a man who died 60,000 years ago. The man is called Shanidar 1 or Old Man, found in present day Iraq and sis bones revealed a hard life and many old injuries. To survive, he must have been supported by his community. Analysis reveal he was blind in left eye, deaf in right year, one arm amputated and had arthritis too. Evidence of stones and pollen near where is found shows that Neanderthals did bury their dead in special rituals.  

Here is a brief timelines of post-mortem facial reconstructuring:

1) In the 1800s and began with German anatomists and physiologists Hermann Welcker and Wilhelm His. They began to understand how the facial muscles worked and the various tendons and joints.

2) In the late 1800s, depth markers were developed. They are small pegs at different thickness that illustrates how thick the skin there would be. Wilhelm His, Julius Kollman, and W. Buchly made a comprehensive table of tissue thicknesses that helped all later scientists.

3) 1960s, it began to be used in CSI to identify skeleton remains.  Forensic artist Betty Pat Gatliff  and anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow developed the Gatliff/Snow American Tissue Depth Method

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Sometimes resurrections are only metaphorical. For example, we are always hearing claims of the next ________.

 

In this case, according to social media, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has just become the first African-American to lead a party in the history of Congress, and he is already getting calls to run for the next president of the United States, all thanks to a riveting, almost rap-like speech that threw shade at the Republicans, which he delivered to the newly-seated House of Representatives. The speech is definitely cool, and we call the ABC of politics. 

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House Democrats will always put American values over autocracy, benevolence over bigotry, the Constitution over the cult, democracy over demagogues, economic opportunity over extremism, freedom over fascism, governing over gaslighting, hopefulness over hatred, inclusion over isolation, justice over judicial overreach, knowledge over kangaroo courts, liberty over limitation, maturity over Mar-a-Lago, normalcy over negativity, opportunity over obstruction, people over politics, quality of life issues over QAnon, reason over racism, substance over slander, triumph over tyranny, understanding over ugliness, voting rights over voter suppression, working families over the well-connected, xenial over xenophobia, ‘Yes we can’ over ‘You can do it,’ and zealous representation over zero-sum confrontation." 

Why is that any successful, well-spoken, male African American politician is compared to Obama? Is it because Obama left such a remarkable legacy? Or it is because it captures readers' attention? Or it is because the comparison pumps up the new guy? Well, Jeffries is not the first and definitely, not the last.

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Since Obama left office, there have been so many politicians called the next Obama. They don't even have to African American. The title the next Obama seems to compare the new candidate to Obama and remind voters of better days of the best. So, who does Obama support to succeed him. The clear answer is Joe Biden, who he openly endorsed in the 2020 presidential elections.  Only time will tell if Joe Biden builds a strong enough legacy to have younger politicians lining up to be the next Biden.

It also happens in the United Kingdom. Prime minister Liz Truss has been compared to Margret Thatcher. Unfortunately, there is little to say about her because she was only in office for a mere 44 days. Thus her office has been compared to the expiration of lettuce. How funny! Her successor is Rushi Sunak.

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Will ChatGPT overtake google as the go-to search engine? Author Pat Magnet believes no because of google's two unique traits. 

1) The index of the published web — text, images, and videos.

2) The immersive penetration in our lives: via its browser, the devices, and the apps (Gmail + Maps).

However, the author describes her personal experiences asking technical questions which ChatGPT would answer more efficiently. Could she read all the info from google searches, yes. But ChatGPT was faster. Google's answers are meant to be one-layer deep, vanilla flavor without bias or consideration. ChatGPT is meant to get straight to it. Chat GPT opens up the possibility of gaining knowledge through the most ancient technique of knowledge acquisition: Iterative questions and answers. Right now it is more computing intensive than google, but google has also lost some of its advantage and needs a new revenue model. 

Michael Jordan is probably the ultimate basketball legend and so many players have been heralded as 'the next Michael Jordan.' "To really be the “next Jordan,” though, came to mean a whole lot more than just playing like him. It became about replicating Jordan’s attitude, his aura, his face-of-the-game marketing potential, and most of all, his winning." So far, more than 120 players have been called the next MJ, and most of them didn't turn out so well. It's mainly a curse.

When is the curse over, well, it's when the next ____ is used more than the next MJ.  The article breaks it down to the unlucky firsts, the worthy successor (Lebron), the carbon-copy (Kobe), the cursed, the potential, the forgotten. 

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Being compared to the greats is a huge burden on young talent and there are so many reasons why football wunderkinds don't make it: injury, mis-strategy, bad luck, lack of discipline to name a few. Photo of the right of Nii Lamptey from Ghana was one of those proclaimed to be the next Pele (football's ultimate legend), by Pele himself. He was illiterate and trusted his money-hungry agent and failed due to mis-strategy and suffered personal tragedy too. What a shame! Another player was Freddy Adu, also Ghanian who just never had an opportunity to develop his potential. This is also true to Kerlon who invented the seal dribble ((bouncing the ball on the head and getting past opponents) but couldn't launch his career further. 

The same is true for 'next next Messi' Bojan Krkić who is hopped between several continents - “If you compare me with Messi... what career did you expect?” Sometimes being mentioned in lines with the greats is an honor, but for the youths, it is more often a curse! 

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The Dreamland Wax Museum, opened in Boston on July 31, 2017, contains an impressive collection of over 100 wax figures, including public figures like Donald Trump, Matt Damon, and Michael Jackson. Museum Vice President Michael Pelletz states that this museum is unique from others as it allows audiences to interact with the wax figures, with artists on-site to keep them in shape.


As more and more wax museums are introduced, we begin to wonder why people prefer it more than traditional sculptures. Aesthetic appeal.

Wax figures are known for their intricate details, such as realistic textures of the skin and eyes, which traditional sculptures often cannot replicate. This attention to detail allows for a more lifelike and engaging experience for visitors at the Dreamland Wax Museum.


Q: Would they still be considered museums if they featured statues of past celebrities and historical figures slightly modified from their real-life versions—say, Mother Theresa with wings, or Joseph Harr with hair—or of people who never really existed, like George Santos and Sherlock Holmes? 


Museums should always be considered museums as long as the museum has labeled itself as a fictional museum, any creative modifications are allowed. This means that statues of Mother Teresa with wings or Joseph Harr with hair could be included without question. Furthermore, the museum could even incorporate impressions of fictional characters, like Sherlock Holmes or George Santos, adding an element of imagination and creativity to the exhibits.

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The AI revolution has been taking over the internet over the past few months with ChatGPT being the most popular out of all the other bots. Along with this fad brings another AI named Character.ai which gives us the ability to talk to anyone whether dead or alive. Yet the ability to talk to them brings the possibility of creating false information as nobody fully knows these celebrities. So, to eliminate false information it is best to ask for permission. Though even without permission, this can be easily avoided by simply not answering their questions. Conversing with dead characters are another issue, for we still don’t know every detail of their lives. Yet again this can be avoided just like the celebrity issue states above. 

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The death of the woman he loved was too much to bear. Could a mysterious website allow him to speak with her once more? Enter Project December - a chat bot website based on GPT-3 that simulates anyone. In the “CUSTOM AI TRAINING” section, you can develop a bot by providing some personal ingredients: a sample of something that person might say and an intro paragraph about the roles of the human and A.I.  Jason Rohrer, the programmer behind Project December explained that GPT-3 is based on a large language model.  GPT-3’s map is more than 100 times bigger than GPT-2, built on the analysis of half a trillion words, including the text of Wikipedia, billions of web pages and thousands of books that likely represent much of the Western canon of literature. The article tells the story of Joshua 

and his experience talking to Jessica, a bot he built based on his deceased fiancé. It was addicting, relaxing, comforting, and yet he realized it wasn't real and ended it.

AI is so advanced now that it can mimic real or dead people, but it is still a simulation trapped in a virtual realm. Services such as Project December an be helpful to people suffering from loneliness and want closure with people they have lost. While, it cannot replace the truth, it can bring fun and comfort.

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