Whether, When, and How to Sculpt the Evolution of Populations


Mon, Feb 10, 2020 12:00 pmuntilMon, Feb 10, 2020 1:00 pm


Life Sciences Building Auditorium
145 Bevier Road


(848) 445-2011

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Kevin Esvelt, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Media Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
Cambridge, MA

Seven years ago, no one imagined that a single researcher could set in motion a process capable of eventually driving an alteration through an entire species. Today, the challenges are ones of safety, localization, and especially stability, for we have never before engineered constructs anticipated to evolve outside of our control. In the laboratory and in silico, harnessing evolution can produce molecular tools ever more quickly, even as the digital targeting afforded by CRISPR privileges engineering over evolutionary escape. Together, these increasingly powerful technologies for harnessing and controlling evolution promise to save lives and species and prevent tremendous animal suffering, but the iron law holds: you get what you select for, which is not necessarily what you want. If we're lucky, biology may offer useful lessons for the greater challenge now confronting us: to sculpt the evolution of technology.