Microryza: A Kickstarter for science?

By Razib Khan | April 13, 2012 9:08 pm

A few days ago I was contacted by Microzyra, a Seattle based start-up. Their aim is do for science what Kickstarter has done for creative projects. Obviously I can’t vouch for them, but I am intrigued enough to eventually consider seeing if I can raise funds through this avenue once I have some time for the Afrikaner genotyping project that I have in mind.

Update: Also see Petridish.org.

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  • http://emilkirkegaard.com Emil

    This is a great idea if it is legit. :D

  • http://www.twitter.com/thonoir Thon
  • Chris

    There already is http://www.petridish.org/ which is basically the same thing.

  • Curious

    All this research into the human genome will definitely lead to racist definitions of “purebred” genotypes from the usual suspects: Japanese, Brahmins, Northwest Europeans, even GERMANS gasp!) Racial purity will be just one more element in the mix of general social unrest generated by fully automating production of food and gadgets.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #4, i don’t know what you’re trying to say (and yes, i score 10 out of 10 on WORDSUM :-)

  • Curious

    I’m saying that a general social tendency towards elitism will cause certain groups to invent genotype classification schemes to define “purebread” strains of humans ala fancy cat breeders, the Nazis, and old fashioned matriarchs who were always on the lookout for evidence of good breeding (and of course money) in their children’s potential mates.

    There has always been a human obsession with genealogy. Certain folks will demand genetic proof of noble lineage as well as old baptismal records and birth certificates. Add into this mix direct medical manipulation of germ cells, cyborg organisms, and intelligent machines which render obsolete traditional human activities such as having to work to produce and obtain food and shelter and you have a recipe for global social turmoil on an hitherto unseen scale.

    And it won’t result in just a division of society into the Eloi and Morlocks but rather wars among the genetically and mechanically altered cyborg classes. I take a dim view of the beneficial results that modern technology will deliver to humanity. Indeed if the hypothesis that the machine(s) become self aware is true I fear for the continued existence of the human race. Exactly who or what will require even a few human engineers once the machine(s) can self improve and replicate?

    And it will be a bumpy and bloody road to extinction to boot. The best we can hope for might be a short interregnum of enforced technological stasis along the lines of Brave New World or the Japanese Shogunate but I think we are past the tipping point permitting that scenario. Perhaps if we are lucky we will just painlessly disappear into cyberspace like the Krell.

    There is no God. There is no hope.

  • Violet

    #6 If I understand what you are saying, it means a person’s genome becomes a part of social status indicator. Depending on what catches public imagination, certain classifications become markers for certain behaviours or behavioural groups (irrespective of the science behind it).

    So, in addition to the things one’s matriarchs usually look for- straight nose, religion, graduate degrees, distribution of male height within a family, whatever- there will also be looking into one’s genetic markers.

    Fun, fun times ahead.

  • Curious

    Violet, yes widespread genomic testing will certainly become a major part of social status. Among those of European descent complete lack of Ashkenazi Jew, Middle Eastern, and sub-Saharan admixture will be highly prized. I daresay the Chinese will value the ability to transfer SNPs for high intelligence to the next generation much more highly. They currently have a fairly large capital investment in investigating just which SNPs these are are even as we speak.

    There is already pressure to disinter all manner of bones for scientific purposes (whether for “legitimate” purposes or not.) Who really is not curious whether Kennewick Man is a random circumpolar wanderer or a descendant of Solutrean emigrants.

    I for one am all for full genome sequencing of every corpse interred in Westminster Abbey and any other equivalent world wide grave site. Indeed, all genetically recoverable corpses should be sequenced.

    As much “fun times” as this will engender nothing short of self aware machines will engender as much future “fun” as our direct medical modification of the nuclei of our own haploid germ cells. This will mark the beginning of the end for Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Perhaps the early invention and intervention of self aware machines will preclude the horrors and widespread death and destruction of cyborg chimeras battling it out during some sort of period of “clone wars.”

    Short to intermediate term I surely recommend investment in first editions of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and H.G Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau. As the horror descends these prescient works will only rise in value. Why not enjoy your profits and at least the hedonistic pleasures of humanness that these will buy while you still can before being relegated by the machines to a worth equivalent to a particular instance of some random species of Archaea.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    . Among those of European descent complete lack of Ashkenazi Jew, Middle Eastern, and sub-Saharan admixture will be highly prized.

    aside from finns and lithuanians and a few related groups it looks like all european populations have some ‘middle eastern’ admixture (west asian).* your assertions are hard to understand because i don’t think they are grounded in a real understanding of the science you’re talking about. that’s why i had a hard time parsing your origin comments. for example, iyer brahmins from tamil nadu do seem quite homogeneous; but they also clear exhibit some non-trivial (though probably not more than 25 percent) admixture with other south indians. ashkenazi jews have the same issues.

    though you are probably good reflection of the people who have a garbled/dim understanding of genomics, so perhaps it is highly predictive anyhow.

    * the finns seem to have some siberian, depending on how you slice it, so basically you left with lithuanians, who may themselves have masked admixture from neolithic farmers not currently showing up for various technical reasons

  • Bobby

    Can’t really comment on your genotyping project Razib, but we would love to host it on Microryza!

    As far as #2 and #3 go, we’re a lot different than Petridish.

    * Pretty much everyone on the team is researchers. That means we know firsthand why the current funding model is tired and outdated.
    * We’re trying to fundamentally change the way research is done. The way we fund it, the way we spread information and results.
    * We think research is more about the process of learning, not rewards.
    * That’s why we created an real-time update platform, so donors can connect with researches and learn something new.

    Always interested to hear feedback though, especially as we just launched. Feedback@microryza.com, thanks!

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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