I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
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Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
What if I told you that the march of human progress could be traced in a direct line from the Epicureans of Ancient Greece… through the 18th Century’s cure for smallpox… to where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates found inspiration as scrappy teenagers… to the flying car of tomorrow?Stay with me and I’ll show you […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
What’s the #1 reason a start-up fails?It runs out of money!And why would it run out of money?Because nobody wants the product it’s selling!For early-stage investors, this presents a bit of a conundrum:If a product doesn’t exist yet, how do you figure out if there’s demand for it?And how do you figure it out before […]
A cushy job in Hawaii that pays six figures. A beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend. Job security and professional experience that gives you plenty of future opportunities. Would you throw that all away to do what you think is right? Last year, one government contractor did just that. And now you see the world the government tried to hide from you.
Every time Bitcoin crashes, it winds up at a price greater than it’s previous high. Yet the experts still call it a currency fad that will fade away. But a little over a year since it really took up, the digital currency is still going strong, and is once again seeing its price rise. But is there another reason why people are buying Bitcoins.
According to some estimates, one man - whose name you're probably not familiar with - has saved over a billion lives. Who is he? And how has he influenced the current crop of innovators? Josh Grasmick explains...
Edward Snowden’s one year visa in Russia expires at the end of next month. With only a few weeks left before he finds himself without a safe country to live in, he sat down to give an exclusive interview. Here are the most important things he wants you to remember from his recent sacrifice.
Biotech breakthroughs and other transformative innovations are a few of the brightly shining spots in the U.S. economy. In fact, Paul Mampilly believes this is the golden age of biotech investing, and that you can earn massive returns while investing in companies with drugs that benefit all of humanity. Read on for his latest example...
Harold Hamm isn’t your typical entrepreneur. His life’s story shows you success in America doesn’t always depend on a fat checkbook
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Does owning a gun mean you’re guilty until proven innocent? Considering what happened to one man from Florida, that might be the case. But there’s more to this story than just a case of police overreach. Police departments across the nation could be implementing a new technology that puts the burden of innocence squarely on your shoulders.
American ingenuity. It’s the stuff of lore and legend, and it’s what drives the global economy. We literally bank on the next disruptive entrepreneur — and innovative new technology — to completely redefine or create new industries. It’s what America does really well, our goose that continues to lay golden eggs.And yet, maybe not.The truth […]
When Michael Lewis’ new book Flash Boys came out, the author caused a stir while making the media rounds to promote it. “The stock market is rigged,” he told 60 Minutes flatly. His comments set off a firestorm of debate as to whether sharp techies and their fast computers are screwing small investors.As titillating as […]
Last November, when the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) proposed moderating years of escalating mandates by reducing the amount of ethanol that must be mixed into gasoline, a top ethanol lobbyist seemed perplexed. “We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a […]
Why Is U.S. Health Care So Much More Expensive?After years of research and many conversations with health policy experts, I see three key culprits of expensive health care in the U.S.In no particular order, they are the third-party payer system (i.e., employer-provided health care), malpractice suits, and administrative support costs/paperwork.The unintended consequence of institutionalized employer-provided […]
At the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian security officials used state of the art facial recognition software to identify potential terrorists. Today, Byron King takes a closer look at this sophisticated new technology and what it means for the future of national security. Read on...
Back in the 1980s, John Nestor became infamous for single-handedly causing massive traffic jams on the Capital Beltway. But in his professional life, he created a completely different kind of traffic jam... one that may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Juan Enriquez has the full story. Read on...
Entrepreneurs innovate. Bureaucrats regulate. It’s the eternal struggle that exists in our modern economy/government. The people in power try to make the playing field as even and fair as possible. While innovators buck the rules and push the world toward a better tomorrow.
New regulations for “orphan drugs” went into effect on Aug. 12 — only the most recent update since such rules first passed in 1983. They’re intended to ease the regulatory process and lower barriers for medicines that address rare medical conditions. Otherwise, the costs of research, winning regulatory approval, and production can exceed anything a pharmaceutical company could hope to recoup in an era when developing a new drug might cost a billion — or billions of — dollars.
Bringing down regulatory costs is a necessary but elusive goal that may well require intervention by the federal policy fairies. But both research and production look poised for a revolution as 3-D printing applies its high-tech charms to the business of creating chemical compounds and turns the production of medicine into a DIY project. Not incidentally, the revolution also promises to kneecap whatever is left of efforts to control chemistry’s results, including recreational drugs.
In a TED talk in February of this year, professor Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow explained the idea he had for taking complex chemistry and turning it into an accessible desktop project:
“As a chemist, one of the things I wanted to ask my research group a couple of years ago is could we make a really cool universal chemistry set? In essence, could we ‘app’ chemistry?
“Now, what would this mean, and how would we do it? Well, to start to do this, we took a 3-D printer and we started to print our beakers and our test tubes on one side and then print the molecule at the same time on the other side and combine them together in what we call reactionware. And so by printing the vessel and doing the chemistry at the same time, we may start to access this universal tool kit of chemistry.
“Now, what could this mean? Well, if we can embed biological and chemical networks like a search engine — so if you have a cell that’s ill that you need to cure or bacteria that you want to kill, if you have this embedded in your device at the same time, and you do the chemistry, you may be able to make drugs in a new way.
“So how are we doing this in the lab? Well, it requires software, it requires hardware, and it requires chemical inks. And so the really cool bit — the idea is that we want to have a universal set of inks that we put out with the printer, and you download the blueprint, the organic chemistry for that molecule, and you make it in the device. And so you can make your molecule in the printer using this software.
“So what could this mean? Well, ultimately, it could mean that you could print your own medicine. And this is what we’re doing in the lab at the moment.”
The ultimate goal of Cronin (who didn’t respond to Reason.com’s requests for an interview) and company, he makes clear, is to ease research and development of drugs — and to ultimately print them “at point of need.” Pharmaceutical companies will essentially become research outfits that develop new molecules and then sell the software file that people will download to make their medicine at home. The whole process is intended to be relatively inexpensive, too, since his Cronin Group website says, “This approach constitutes a cheap, automated, and reconfigurable chemical discovery platform that makes techniques from chemical engineering accessible to typical synthetic laboratories.”
And why stop there? A team headed by professor Hagan Bayley at Oxford University is working on 3-D-printed synthetic tissue that could supplement failing organs or manufacture and release drugs in the body.
If that doesn’t sound sufficiently futuristic, Cronin closes his TED talk by saying the ultimate goal is “your own personal matter fabricator. Beam me up, Scotty.” And that has honestly been the underlying dream of the whole 3-D printing revolution: boxes on your desk that can make anything you can imagine — including more boxes on your desk. It’s like asking a genie for extra wishes.
But 3-D printers have already raised interesting policy implications about the ability to control the production and possession of physical objects. Specifically, the successful efforts of Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed and other independent tinkerers to make firearms on 3-D printers have raised the likelihood that gun control is a dead issue. What impact will the ability to print chemical compounds on printers have on the political class of easily flustered control freaks?
The question has already come up. The Week‘s Chris Gayomali frets that “today’s primitive psychedelics and artificial mood-boosters may be just the beginning” once 3-D printing transforms chemical engineering. The customs minister from the land o’ hobbits, Maurice Williamson, worries on Radio New Zealand, “If people could print off… sheets of ecstasy tablets at the party they’re at that time, that just completely takes away our border protection role in its known sense.”
Cronin, among others, suggests that controlling the “chemical ink” is the key to preventing DIY recreational chemistry with 3-D printers. But that seems like a bit of a wishful thinking from a man who wants to ease the way for what is truly a technological transformation — one that will be used in myriad ways to be determined by end-users. Much current research uses bathroom sealant as the ink, and that’s not the easiest material to restrict.
Cody Wilson and a horde of lesser-known innovators arose to explore and expand 3-D printing’s subversive powers when it comes to guns. It’s difficult to believe that the world that brought us the Silk Road online marketplace for illegal drugs won’t also produce chemically oriented tinkerers in abundance to exploit the recreational (and commercial) potential of producing intoxicants via 3-D chemical printing.
Will regulators grow so frightened of a world beyond their laws (not that such a world doesn’t already surround us) that they’ll willingly try to toss out the technologically transformative baby with the organic chemistry-infused bathwater? Honestly, we know that politicians and appointed government officials alike are capable of burn-the-village-to-save-it behavior. But even the most reactionary and obstructionist FDA of the future won’t be able to prevent rare disease sufferers from downloading files developed in Germany or Singapore or on some seasteading platform and printing officially unapproved medicines. Recreational chemists will, no doubt, upload and download their files through mechanisms like Pirate Bay and Silk Road.
If the research path taken by boundary-pushing scientists lives up to its initial promise, the orphan drug problem may well become a bad memory. And so, too, will enforceable restrictions on chemicals, including recreational pharmaceuticals.
– J.D. Tuccille
This article originally appeared here, on Reason.com.
J.D. Tuccille is managing editor of Reason 24/7 at Reason.com. Having started his online career in the days of proprietary online services, and seen them swept away by the Internet, he’s a believer in the liberating and transformative power of new media.