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SECOND ANNUAL WORKSHOP ON
GEOETHICAL NANOTECHNOLOGY
July 20, 2006
Terasem Green Mountain Center Retreat
Lincoln, Vermont
CONSCIOUSNESS IN HUMANS
AND ELSEWHERE
Baruch S. Blumberg
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Philadelphia, PA , USA
The issue that relates to this conference is that the easiest
way to explain to others the complex mechanisms of
environmental interactions of HBV is to infer or say that
the virus or swarm of viruses has or have a plan, a
strategy, tactics, and an intentional drive. The question is;
what is the difference between, on the one hand,
explaining the actions of an organism as exhibiting a plan,
and the organism actually having a plan.
My understanding is that having a plan is a
characteristic of consciousness. If an organism is aware
that it exists, than there is a “motivation” to plan for a
somewhat predictable, but yet mysterious, future. It is a
characteristic of sentient life itself. Does that mean that
HBV has a consciousness?
The Wikipedia encyclopedia defines
teleology (derived from the Greek telos: end,
purpose) as the the philosophical study of design,
purpose, directive principle, or finality in nature or
human creations. It is obvious that the search for
purpose and design in nature hinges on the
current and ancient debates on the nature of the
designer, intelligent design and other aspects of
the interaction of science and religion.
HEPATITIS B VIRUS MORPHOLOGY
Characteristics
22 nm
42 nm
HBsAg
C
HBV DNA
HBcAg
Nucleic acid: DNA
Classification:
hepadnavirus type 1
Serotypes: multiple
In vivo replication:
reverse transcription in
liver and other tissues
In vitro propagation:
primary hepatocyte
culture and transfection
by cloned HBV DNA
Possible Outcomes after Infection with
Hepatitis B Virus
a)
b)
Anti-Hbs. Development of antibody against the surface antigen.
Usually protects against further disease.
Acute hepatitis. Usually a self-limited disease with complete recovery
i) Some may result in fulminant hepatitis that has a high
mortality rate.
ii) Some cases proceed to chronic HBV infection with
increased risk of chronic liver disease and primary
cancer of the liver
c)
d)
e)
f)
The carrier state. Chronic infection with HBV that is asymptomatic for
decades. At increased risk for chronic liver disease and primary cancer
of the liver
Chronic liver disease
Primary cancer of the liver
Other serological reactions, i.e., anti-HBc, anti-HBx, anti-Hbe, HBeAg,
HBV DNA, etc. that denote different stages of disease and infection
“Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver. More than
two thousand million (2 billion) people alive today have
been infected with the hepatitis B virus. Approximately
350 million are chronically infected and are at high risk
of serious illness and death from cirrhosis of the liver
and primary liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is preventable with a safe and effective
vaccine — the first vaccine against cancer.”
WHO website, 2004
The overall stratergy of HBV can be explained as a
drive to maintain relatively high titers of virus in the hosts
blood stream for as long as possible to increase the
probability that the virus will be transmitted from an
infected host to another person. It is advantageous to the
virus that the infected host survive for a long time to
increase the liklihood of replication and transmission of
HBV. People infected at birth or early childhood may
remain asymptomatic for decades. It is only after
transmission have had ample time to happen that the
infected person becomes ill with what is often a very
deadly disease. The infected person is spared from
death for a very long time to increase the probability of
transmission.
BIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS FOR
TRANSMISSION OF HBV
1. Transmission from an infected mother to
her unborn or just born child
2. Infection of sibs by their sibs during
childhood.
3. Venereal transmission
3. Other means of transfer of blood from one
individual to another
SOCIAL MECAHNISMS FOR THE
TRANSMISSION OF HBV
1. Tatooing, a ritual common in many non-Western
as well as contemporary western populations
2. Ritual circumcision
3. Exchange of blood between “blood sisters” or
“blood brothers”
4. The use of “dirty needles” for drug injections,
including illegal drugs
5. Blood transfusion
6. Renal dialysis and other medical devices
exposed to human blood.
7. The sport “Orienteering”
8. Others
HEPATITIS B LIKE VIRUSES
Hepadnaviruses
Human
Gorilla
Chimpanzee
Gibbon
Orangutan
Woolly monkey
Tree shrew
(Kangaroo
Woodchuck or Groundhog
Beechey ground squirrel
Arctic squirrel
Richardson ground squirrel
(Tree squirrel
Pekin duck
Great blue heron
Grey heron
Snow goose
Ross’ goose
White Stork
Demoiselle crane
Grey crowned crane
(Stink snake
Homo sapiens
Gorilla sp.
Pan troglodytes
Family Hylobatidae
Pongo pygmaeus
Lagothrix lagotricha
Tupaia belangeri
Family Macropodidae
Marmota monax
Spermophilus beecheyi
S. parryi kennicotti
S. richardsonii
Sciurus carolinensis
Anas domesticus
Ardea herodias
A. cinerea
Anser caerulescens
A. rossii
Ciconia ciconia
Anthropoides virgo
Balearica regulorum
Elaphe carinata
HBV
HBV
ChHBV
HBV
HBV
WMHBV
HBV
KHV)
WHV
GSHV
ASHBV
RGSHV
THBV)
DHBV
HHBV
HHBV
SGHBV
RGHBV
STHBV
CHBV
CHBV
SSHV)
(Items in parentheses have not been validated. Tree shrews were experimentally infected.)
Understanding the biology of the
virus resulted in the invention and
development of a vaccine.
The use of the vaccine that we
invented in 1969 and that has been
widely used since the 1980s has
thwarted most of the means of
transmission.
HEPATITIS B VIRUS MORPHOLOGY
Characteristics
22 nm
42 nm
HBsAg
C
HBV DNA
HBcAg
Nucleic acid: DNA
Classification:
hepadnavirus type 1
Serotypes: multiple
In vivo replication:
reverse transcription in
liver and other tissues
In vitro propagation:
primary hepatocyte
culture and transfection
by cloned HBV DNA
Vinge, Vernor, The creativity machine, Nature, (2006), 440, 411
“In 15 years we are likely to have processing power that is
1,000 times greater than today, and in even larger increase in the
number of network-connected devices (such as tiny sensors and
effectors). Among other things, these improvements will add a
layer of networking beneath what we have today, to create a world
come alive with trillions of tiny devices that know what they are,
where they are and how to communicate with their near neighbors,
and thus, with anything in the world. Much of the planetary sensing
that is part of the scientific enterprise will be implicit in this new
digital Gaia. The Internet will have leaked out, to become
coincident with Earth.
… The ensemble eventually grows beyond human creativity. To
become what? We can’t know until we get there.”
Verner Vinge, is at San Diego State University. He is the author
of the novel Rainbows End that considers the internet
of 2025.
Consciousness implies self awareness.
Knowing that you exist requires considering the
past, present, and the future. Considering the
future means that plans must be made based on
past and present experiences and unfolding
events. In desribing the natural history of HBV and
its interactions with humans and other elements in
its environment I spoke as if it had a plan, that is a
characteristic of conscousness. The question is,
again, what is the difference between telling a
story as if the creature has a plan and it actually
having a plan. I hope that as the workshop
proceeds we will have insights into this question.
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