Friday 21 May 2010

‘Artificial life’ already has eight GCSEs, say scientists


Scientists in the US who succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell have reported that it already appears to have attained eight GCSE’s at grade C or above.

Despite constructing the bacterium’s “genetic software” and transplanting it into a host cell, it has still been able to get an above average set of results when assessed by this year’s curriculum.

The team was led by Dr Craig Venter, who told us, “This is a sign of the intelligence we can create in a lab today.”

“The cell showed a particular aptitude for Drama, which is definitely a bona fide GCSE qualification by the way.  It was capable of conveying the true nature of the human condition better than any day old cell we’ve ever seen.”

“Unfortunately, the cell only managed to get a C in French, mainly due to the fact is unable to read, write, or speak.”

Development

The artificial living cell is only the first step towards creating artificial living organisms, with Dr Venter’s team confident of significant progress in the weeks ahead.

“By next week we will be creating organisms capable of manning an energy company’s call-centre, and by the summer we expect to create one capable of running for parliament.”

The development has raised a number of ethical and philosophical questions, with Philosophy lecturer Professor Shaw asking, “When does this organism become sentient?”

“Obviously passing a number of GCSEs does not indicate any measurable level of intelligence or sentience.”

“So when does it go from being a lab experiment to a living, feeling entity?  By passing some A Levels perhaps? I just don’t think we yet have the answers.”

Teachers unions have issued a retort to those who have suggested that the exam success is proof that the system is making it easier to get qualifications.

“People will obviously criticise an exam system in which a day old artificial cell can get eight GCSEs, but I would prefer to see it as a vindication of the excellent teaching the cell has received since it was created a couple of days ago.”

“This is a victory for education as much as it is science.”

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