Flora Police

Paul Raven @ 21-01-2011

Via grinding.be, Policing Genes is a project by one Thomas Thwaites that looks at the potentially dystopian future of genetically modified plant-life.

Pharmaceutical companies are experimenting with pharming – genetically engineering plants to produce useful and valuable drugs. Currently undergoing field trials are tomato plants that produce a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease and potatoes that immunise against hepatitis B. Many more plant-made-pharmaceuticals are being developed in laboratories around the world.

However, the techniques employed to insert genes into plants are within reach of the amateur…and the criminal. Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals.

The genetics of the plants in your garden or allotment could become a police matter…

Homegrown biohacking and pharming is pretty much a given, but I think the concept of police bees is a little more marginal… that said, it’s a brilliant science fictional story hook. 🙂


Could Mexican narco-terrorism produce a massive open-source insurgency?

Paul Raven @ 04-03-2009

The news is full of the escalating war between Mexican drug traffickers and that country’s government, and it’s not a pretty picture – especially not for Mexico’s more northerly states and cities.

But what if the problems could spill over? Apparently they already have – there are claims that Canadian gang violence is connected to the Mexican situation, as is often the way with complex illicit supply chains.

John Robb hypothesises that it wouldn’t take much to spark an open-source insurgency in the region – one that could turn the northern states of Mexico and the southern states of the US into a no-go zone for the military forces of either country.

By itself, it’s doubtful that a narco/smuggling open source insurgency could accomplish this goal, although it would make a very good run at it (particularly given the declining budgets of their opponents).  However, the prospects for successful achievement of the plausible promise would radically improve  if the coming global depression drives

  • the creation of new violent groups — new primary loyalties formed from fear, revenge, and necessity — and
  • the economic deprivation necessary for a vibrant bazaar of violence — this is a marketplace that forms when, due to a need to purchase food and shelter, there is an endless pool of people willing to kill for a couple hundred bucks.

It’s not really that implausible an idea, and an illustration of the way that nation-state borders are being broken down by modern technology, economics and realpolitik.

When a nation can’t control an insurgency at this sort of scale, what will that do for its credibilty among its more stable neighbours?