Will trees someday be genetically engineered to grow around spaces and form our homes? Will they grow the required plumbing, wiring, ventilation ducts, etc. into their structures? Or should we just be asking … when?
As a child, reading my father’s collection of 1930’s though 1960’s science fiction, I remember reading a book about a planet where the trees grew into houses and the locals lived in them. I have long wondered if (or when) we humans would be able to do that. It also makes me think about parallel developments in the life sciences that could help us move towards a sustainable existence in other ways.
Can corals be trained or genetically engineered to create things we need, to grow bricks at first, for instance, and later whole underwater dwellings? Can we engineer trees to grow their roots into sidewalks and roads? We’ve already begun the long march down this road, with specialized microorganisms generating pharmaceuticals and other needed products, and aren’t carefully chosen bacteria already breaking down oil spills? Is this a foreshadowing of the merging of nanotechnology with biotechnology to produce more sustainable systems for living in the future?
Although many have cited the risks implied in genetic engineering and nanotechnology, for example, there have always been risks in every new technology, and our scientists have worked hard to manage the risks and make the new technologies viable and relatively safe. I am confident that trend will continue. I am concerned, however, that we need much better public education systems, world-wide, to produce the scientists we need.
I can foresee a future in which biotechnology has replaced mechanical technology in many respects, or blended with it in more efficient and ecologically responsible ways, probably not in my lifetime, though I’d like to see it happen. Certainly, having houses grown from carbon-consuming trees, with all the attendant benefits to the environment, seems like a win-win situation we should make a primary goal.
I welcome your comments.