By: Nora Germain
Recently I had the pleasure of viewing a new documentary on Netflix called “Human Nature” (also available on Amazon). I follow a lot of scientists, researchers and politicians on Twitter, so after several weeks of watching the buzz circulate, I finally decided to watch it.
This documentary was immediately relevant, beautiful, and engaging, but what struck me was also the complexity of the concepts discussed and the ease with which this complexity was explained to viewers like me.
This film focuses on the latest progress in gene therapy, genetic manipulation, and the discovery of a technology/ biological tool called CRISPR. The film details how CRISPR works, other related phenomena in the gene therapy space, the history and development of gene therapies, and it also delves into a deep discussion about the morality and ethics of this technology’s use both today and perhaps more importantly, in the future.
Right away I noticed the apparent similarities between the blockchain and gene therapy fields in general. For example, both have rich historical foundations (for blockchain, mathematics, and for gene therapy, biology).
Both blockchain technology and gene therapy involve processing and understanding immense amounts of data, but deeper than that, the intricacies and “fine print” of that data are what all the discoveries truly hinge on. They also have both benefited from decades upon decades of work done by highly specialized people, resulting in highly specialized innovations. Both of these fields also employ and seem to attract incredibly passionate people with an eye toward the future, who work incredibly hard to improve life for human beings, but as a result of these factors, are perhaps a bit prone to being misunderstood.
The emotional impact of the film was extremely effective as well. The opening scenes showed the real-life impact of living with Sickle cell anemia, a genetic disease that CRISPR technology hopes to be able to correct in human beings. It was a brave and intimate way to open the film, and I wish that more films opened with statements like this (emotional rather than technical). They started with “show,” and then continued with the “tell.” Had it been the other way around, I might not have watched the film in its entirety, and I would guess that this was one reason it has been so popular.
I also enjoyed the way that CRISPR was explained in the beginning of the film because it reminded me of being in a recording studio and doing something called a “punch” or “punching in” which refers to replacing (or re-recording) only one certain piece of a take, so as to edit the recording to one’s liking without having to re-do the entire thing. In fact, the whole film is full of metaphors like this, and I found it to be a very effective way of explaining the science.
I was impressed by the style of communication in the film and the animations especially, which helped a non-scientist like myself to visualize the breakthroughs, a storytelling technique that any type of blockchain media could benefit from. I imagine a blockchain is about as difficult to visualize as a strand of DNA, but that should be no barrier to the public learning about it.
Furthermore, the fields of blockchain and gene therapy both share a somewhat uncertain future. Nobody really knows exactly where these two fields will go from here or how reliant upon them we will be years from now, but they have both shown promising and exciting progress which has no doubt excited the world in the past ten years especially.
Since then, both of these industries have cultivated tight-knit international communities and work in highly collaborative ways, as the research done requires teamwork, and a lot of careful reviewing of scientific papers and so forth. Both fields have also suffered from substantial amounts of bogus claims, inaccurate press and the spending of huge sums of money on projects that proved to be useful learning experiences but were not ultimately able to reach their goals or briefs.
This is to be expected in any new scientific field (Space-X has blown up some rockets in its time), especially in a field that oftentimes relies on relatively small teams of very ambitious people. Now who does that remind you of?
Finally, I was also struck by the similarity that both industries are now forced to reckon with numerous but persistent questions about ethics, privacy, regulation and so forth. I quickly noticed that the physical shipment of genetic material (for example) was one area that could benefit from blockchain-powered supply chain management, smart contracts and security, so there could be some extremely relevant cross-over of these industries in the future.
It’s both remarkable and beautiful how complex and intelligent our DNA truly is, and it’s equally as stunning that human beings for the first time ever now possess the ability to know this about ourselves. This sentiment is often touched on in discussions of humans in space, and our knowledge of the cosmos.
In the age of memes, TikTok and reality TV, I think it’s vitally important that films like this are made and watched by as many people as possible, because our increasingly more technologically-dependent society relies on scientifically literate people in order to function. At a minimum, we’d be advantaged by at least living in a more scientifically curious society, one that craves this type of serious, intellectually stimulating media (but — the throwback to “Jurassic Park” was hilarious).
Billionaire Mark Cuban often talks about his study of machine learning, which he has undertaken in order to be better equipped to make sound financial and executive decisions in our rapidly changing world. What skills can we learn today that will better equip us all to be successful in the next decade — or five? Maybe they are inner skills like meditation, or perhaps they are skills that involve technology, or learning new languages, or finding new ways to relax. Maybe they are skills related to emotional health or the environment.
Overall, I learned a lot from “Human Nature” and highly recommend this film to the RChain community and beyond. I was really touched by (SPOILER ALERT) the ending discussion on the deeper beauty of nature’s mistakes. It reminded me of something Stephen Hawking once said, and that is, “The next time someone complains that you have made a mistake, tell him that may be a good thing, because without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”