The present 172 year Uranus/Neptune cycle started very recently in 1993 and will not reach its outgoing square (+90 degrees) till 2039 and its opposition (180 degrees) till March 2078. Even the Sextile (+60 degrees) will not be reached till 2025.
What might the cycle mean?
We have given the generic meaning of this cycle as the ‘Idealisation of intellectual and technological change’. Its primary focus is humanity idealising new technology – possible candidates for this focus throughout history include major society changing inventions like the wheel, steam power, electricity, telecommunications – which in differing ways came to be especially idealised because of the benefits they enabled.
Idealisation may be defined as ‘being regarded as most suitable or perfect’ When a new technology, a new philosophical theory, a new theory about the Universe’s origins, a new scientific discovery like DNA, a new form of vehicle propulsion, a new method of communicating data electronically gets created it will always go through a cycle of growing acceptance, universal acceptance and then eventually declining relevance. But every so often a development in knowledge (Uranus) occurs which appears not only to be a major advance in human capability, but an advance that constellates with the type of idealism (Neptune) becoming prevalent in society at that time. With this cycle we are looking NOT at the rise and fall of theories or technologies but their relationship to society’s ideals and imagination.
THE START OF A NEW CYCLE
CONJUNCTION 1988 – 1999 (exact in Feb, Aug and October 1993)
1993 sees the start of a 172 year long Uranus/Neptune cycle. If we look carefully at the years around 1993 we should be able to see a new body of knowledge or a new technology which not only emerges exactly at this time but also becomes idealised by a major part of society at the same time. There appear to be two such emergent bodies of knowledge or technologies – firstly, the Internet and internet related technologies, secondly Biotechnology in particular DNA and related genomic knowledge. The Internet and Biotechnology have in common a methodological paradigm – a key concept – ‘networks’ which it is suggested will dominate over the next seventeen decades. (Theoretical studies are now revealing that biological networks share many features with the Internet)
We shall focus on recorded historical developments which occurred while the planets Uranus and Neptune were within 10 degrees of each other – the period 6 January 1988 to 7 January 1999.
The INTERNET (or whatever we shall come to call it over the next 17 decades)
The first and most strongly persuasive explanation of the meaning of this 1993 conjunction is that specific developments in the technologies and applications involved in Computers (which had been commercially developed from the mid 1960s – see Chapter 3 the Uranus-Pluto cycle) and Telecommunications came together in 1993 with the emerging ideals of ‘communicating in a sort of ‘global village’. The immediate result is all that we associate with the Internet and the World Wide Web and its snowballing future potential.
However this 1993 Uranus/Neptune cycle is due to last around 172 years and it is therefore extremely improbable that our present conceptions of what the Internet will develop into will bear much relation to what actually ensues. We need an overall concept which encompasses a broad area of human activity and experience. An overall meaning to describe this whole 1993 to 2165 cycle might be ‘The Information and Communications Age’ – an era in which humanity’s principal ideal will be to seek to develop information and communication to its limits.
Not till 2025 (the Sextile) will this development truly start becoming a fully integral part of society. If we are right about this correlation the implication is clear – whatever we now see the Internet as being is not quite how it will turn out to be.
To make sure we have got it right we have to look at the recent Conjunction carefully. Arguably the most important ‘proof’ that this cycle is related to the development of the Internet is to demonstrate that it really was precisely around 1993 when the Internet first actually took off.
We shall demonstrate that not only did the Internet as we know it emerge between 1988 and 1999 but that it is precisely at the cycle Conjunction in the years 1993-1994 that the number of internet networks and internet domains really mushroom and that ‘the Internet’ becomes a subject for discussion and exploration by businesses, the media and a significant part of the wider populace.
Between 1988 and 1998 all the key features of what has made the Internet so popular emerge. The take-off point occurs in 1993-1994 – at the precise cycle conjunction
|Jan 1988||The number of Internet hosts, mostly science or university based, passes the 10,000 mark|
|1989||The number of internet hosts passes the 100,000 mark|
|1989||The first relays between a commercial electronic mail carrier (MCI mail) and the Internet are set up|
|1989||World.std.com becomes the first commercial provider of Internet dial-up access|
|1991||World Wide Web (WWW), developed by Tim Berners-Lee, is released by CERN|
|1992||The number of hosts passes the 1,000,000 mark and the term ‘surfing the Internet’ is coined|
|1993||Government departments even the US White House come online (with email addresses for the President)|
|1993||Internet radio broadcasts start, businesses and the media start taking serious notice of the Internet|
|1993||The WWW proliferates at a 341,634% annual growth rate of service traffic|
|1993||The term ‘information highway’ is first used|
|Sep 1993||The Mosaic browser (later Netscape) integrating graphics with text takes the Internet by storm|
|1994||The first communities (in Massachusetts, USA) begin to be wired up directly to the Internet|
|1994||Shopping malls arrive on the Internet and you are now able to order a pizza online|
|1994||A US law firm is the first organisation to ‘spam’ the Internet with email advertising|
|1994||First Virtual, the first cyber bank, opens up for business|
|1994||Radio stations start rebroadcasting round the clock on the Net and the first banner adverts appear|
|1995||The main US backbone traffic is now routed through interconnected network providers|
|1995||Sun Microsystems launches JAVA while RealAudio lets Internet users hear in near real-time|
|1995||WWW surpasses the business data service ftp-data as the service with the greatest traffic|
|1995||WWW surpasses the business data service ftp-data as the service with the greatest traffic|
|1995||Search engines start to be widely used|
|1996||Some Internet Service Providers suffer extended service outages, can they handle the number of users?|
|1996||A WWW browser war between Netscape and Microsoft starts, Internet phone technology now available|
|1997||The US Supreme Court rules the Communications Decency Act (CDA) unconstitutional|
|1998||The size of the Web is estimated at around 300 million pages|
|1998||Internet portals, e-commerce and e-auctions proliferate|
The development of the Internet as a much advanced way of accessing information and entertainment and of communicating worldwide is generally accepted to be the kick-start of a major new ‘information’ age which will have a similar effect to that of the industrial revolution. However like the Industrial Revolution it is a safe bet that some of its societal effects are going to carry a damaging price tag. Of course comparing the two ages may have set your mind working – could the previous Uranus/Neptune conjunction in 1821 have occurred at the birth of the Industrial Revolution. See below for the answer!
Biotechnology (DNA Applications, Human Genome, GM Foods, Cloning)
It is challenging even now to suggest that the kind of knowledge and technology that lies behind the development of the human genome and genomics is going to be idealised by society. And yet as we shall see the evidence for this starting with a significant part of society is unavoidable. Whatever idealism on these subjects emerges and grows – as with the Internet – Biotechnology is bound to raise ethical concerns central to society’s ideals.
There are a cluster of Biotechnology developments which begin exactly between 1988 and 1999 – DNA Applications, the Human Genome Project, GM Foods and Cloning. These are listed in order of increasing controversy. And if one can imagine DNA and Genomics applications becoming idealised by society, it is far harder to imagine the same becoming true of GM Foods and Cloning, where already society’s fear, suspicion and even hatred of these developments has led to labels like ‘Frankenstein foods’ and ‘Frankenstein laboratories’.
Between 1988 and 1998 all the main strands of what is going to make Biotechnology a conflict area between popular demand and ethical concerns emerge. The overall take-off point occurs in 1993-1994 – at the precise cycle conjunction. We shall examine the 3 main strands – DNA Applications & the Human Genome, GM Foods and Cloning/Stem cells.
DNA APPLICATIONS & HUMAN GENOME
|1989||Alec Jeffreys becomes the first to use DNA polymorphisms in paternity, immigration, and murder cases|
|1989||The first use of DNA using only nuclear DNA is in a criminal case|
|1989||The first crime conviction based on DNA fingerprinting takes place n Portland, Oregon|
|1993||Dr. Kary Mullis discovers the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) procedure for identifying DNA|
|1993||The company Indentigene begins DNA testing using this PCR procedure|
|1994||In the first international press coverage DNA identification is made of the remains of the Romanov family|
|1995||The OJ Simpson court case massively publicises the use of DNA testing in forensic cases|
|1996||The FBI Laboratory begins using DNA regularly in criminal cases|
|1996||Genetic Assays Inc. begins performing commercial DNA testing|
|1997||Genetree.com begins selling paternity DNA test kits over the Internet|
|1998||The US Senate’s investigation into the President Clinton/Lewinsky case benefits from DNA testing.|
|1998||International scientists plan to map the human genome – the sequencing of its whole DNA structure|
|1990||The Human Genome Project (HGP) to sequence all human DNA begins|
|1999||The HGP sequences the first human chromosome|
|2001||The draft Human Genome is delivered to the world (out of orb)|
|2003||The finalised Human genome follows (out of orb)|
The potential is for an alternative and far more sophisticated way to prevent and treat disease – including the replacement and repair of all human tissues and organs. Scientific professionals have widely and publicly idealised this prospect.
For instance in 1994 Marvin Minsky writes in a Scientific American article: “In the end we will find ways to replace every part of the body and brain and thus repair all the defects and injuries that make our lives so brief.” This is indeed professional idealism though it still may take many years to filter through and be expressed by part of the general public.
GM FOODS (mainly events in Europe)
|1993||US Food & Drug Administration adopts approvals process for GM foods, declaring them “not inherently dangerous”. UK Government science White Paper: ‘Realising our Potential’.|
|1994||UK Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council established. The first GM food, Zeneca’s Flavr Savr GM tomato, appears on the market in the USA.|
|1995||UK Government ‘Biotechnology Means Business’ initiative launched|
|1996||Britain’s first GM food appears on supermarket shelves – tomato puree containing ‘flavr-savr’ tomatoes – then is withdrawn|
|1996||First commercial plantings of Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant GM soy in USA|
|1996||Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Soya is given import authorization in the EU where they are mixed, unlabelled with non-GM soy used in processed foods.|
|1997||Protests against GM soy imports begin in UK. Novartis’ GM maize is given approval for import and cultivation in the EU. Austria and Luxembourg immediately ban it. New EU ‘Novel Foods Regulation’ comes into force meaning GM foods must be assessed for safety and labelled.|
|1998||The BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) cattle disease erupts in Britain|
|1998||US public interest groups file landmark lawsuit against the FDA demanding GM food testing and labelling|
|1998||EC Directive 98/44/EC allows gene patenting. UK Treasury identifies biotechnology as a key area for investment. Iceland becomes the first UK supermarket to ban GM ingredients from their own brand products. UK Government announces a voluntary agreement with industry not to grow GM crops commercially in the UK until a series of ‘farm-scale trials’ are carried out. Greece and France ban cultivation of some GM crops approved by the EU. UK field trials of GM oilseed rape and maize attract opposition.|
|1999||Dioxin in animal feed scare in Belgium leads to import ban on its poultry, beef and butter by the US|
|1999||Marks & Spencer group, pioneers of refrigerated packaged foods, take all GM foods off their shelves|
|1999||The British Medical Association issues a report ‘recommendation for a moratorium on sowing GM crops|
|1999||The rest of Britain’s supermarkets decide to take meat from animals fed on GM crops off their shelves|
|1999||Sainsbury, UK supermarket giant teams up with food producers to insist on GM-free crops|
|1999||In the space of three years the GM food market in Britain, as in much of Europe, has been wiped out|
|1999||Monsanto, Novartis, Dow, DuPont, AgrEvo and Zeneca label Europe’s reaction “hysteria and hype”|
|1999||Deutsche Bank report urges investors to sell GM stocks as “GMO’s ( GM organisms) are dead”|
|1999||EU environment ministers agree to tighten rules on trading and selling new GM seeds in 15 nation EU|
|1999||French and Italian ministers state the the EU’s decision did not go far enough, consumers still at risk|
|1999||Leaders at the G8 summit agree to a new inquiry into the safety of GM foods.|
|1999||UK research warns GM crops will ‘inevitably’ contaminate organic crops via bees and wind borne pollen|
|1999||UK government advisers warn farmers might “eliminate all wildlife from their fields” on current rules|
|1999||In Brazil a federal court bans the planting and distribution of genetically engineered soybeans|
|1999||The first ‘farm-scale’ site destruction by eco-activists in Britain takes place in Oxfordshire|
|1999||A GM plantation in Norfolk is raided & its maize crops destroyed. 30 Greenpeace protestors are arrested|
|1999||In Lodi, California two separate attacks are made on GM corn crops|
|1999||Newspaper reports start to refer to GM foods as ‘Frankenstein’ foods|
|1999||UK Minister “not prepared to ride… over regulatory & scientific procedures to please Monsanto”|
|1999||UK government commissions a five year experiment to test the effect of GM crops on food ecosystems|
|1999||Monsanto’s GM milk ruled unsafe by a Commission reporting to the UN Food Safety Agency|
|1999||UN sponsored trade talks in Vienna on GM food and crops end with no resolution|
|1999||Five EU Member States – Denmark, France, Greece Italy and Luxembourg – declare a de-facto moratorium
on GM crops until the EU Commission introduces legislation for traceability and labelling of GM crops &foods. UK Farm scale trials of three herbicide-tolerant GM crops (maize, oilseed rape and sugar beet) begin.
Genetically modified (GM) foods ha ve been the one biotechnology issue that has in a very short space of time united many consumers and retailers and deterred even governments in both the developed and underdeveloped world against this kind of technological ‘progress’. GM manufacturers may point to the BSE and Dioxin scares as the cause of what they called “hysteria and hype” But there appear to be two more fundamental reasons for the opposition to GM foods – the first objection could be simply summed up by the statement – ‘it is against nature’ – ‘for many thousands of years man has eaten naturally sown and reared foods, what good reason is there to change this and do we really have any idea of the risks of meddling with nature’, say the critics.
The second reason is more a question of the public’s past experience of new technologies and the criticism might read like this ‘Despite assurances from experts and governments over the last 50 years, again and again it has been shown that the introduction and use of new artificial rather than natural products and processes has involved at least initial damage to both humans and the environment – pesticides, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nuclear power are obvious examples’.
|1993||The issue of Cloning makes the cover of the prestigious international Time magazine|
|1994||R.J. Stillman, (George Washington Medical Center) takes 17 flawed human embryos and successfully splits them to produce clones|
|1994||Neal First carries out the first cloning of advanced embryo cells - cloning calves from 120 cell embryos|
|1994||Drs Wilmut & Campbell use differentiated embryo cells to clone two sheep named Megan and Morag|
|1996||Drs Wilmut & Campbell transplant the genetic material of an adult sheep into an egg from which the nucleus had been removed.The result – Dolly - contained the genetic material of only one parent|
|1997 Feb||the announcement of Dolly’s birth hits the world making a cloned human being a scientific possibility – creating huge controversy on how this future should be handled|
|1997 March||President Clinton proposes a 5 year moratorium on federal and privately funded human cloning research|
|1997 June||the National Bioethics Advisory Commission’s report seeking to balance the force of moral concerns with individual and scientific freedoms states that with the present level of knowledge the use of this technique to create a child would be simply not safe - exposing the foetus and the developing child to unacceptable risks. The Commission concludes that at this time it is morally unacceptable for anyone to attempt to create a child using somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning|
|1997 June||Drs Wilmut & Campbell reject two requests by families to produce exact genetic copies of their relatives|
|1997 July||Drs Wilmut & Campbell create Polly, a lamb cloned not from adult cells but from fibroblast cells obtained from a sheep foetus grown in a lab and this time genetically altered to contain a human gene! Polly's birth, it is claimed, signifies the first step in the useful application of cloning technology|
|1997 Oct||the University of Hawaii creates a cloned mouse called Cumulina. cloned from cumulus cells – the Honolulu Technique's success rate of 50:1 is almost six times better than that of Drs Wilmut & Campbell’s success rate of 277:1.|
|1997 Sept||thousands of US biologists and physicians sign a voluntary five-year moratorium on human cloning|
|1997 Nov||the Council of Europe too adopts a protocol banning human cloning|
|1997 Dec||Richard Seed, a Chicago physicist announces plans to clone a human being before any federal laws get enacted - many believe he has the track record to succeed. His stated goal is to allow childless couples to raise children.|
The idea that human beings might someday be successfully cloned — created from a single somatic (non-reproductive) cell without sexual reproduction – is seeded on July 5, 1996 with the cloning of Dolly the sheep by Doctors Wilmut and Campbell at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Dolly is the only lamb to survive from 277 eggs that have been fused with adult Stem cells. This event is announced to the public in February 1997 and takes place 3 years and 3 months after the last precise date of the Uranus/Neptune conjunction and well within a 10 degree orb.
The issue of cloning very quickly becomes the source of overwhelming public concern. While the creation of embryos for research purposes alone had raised serious ethical questions, the use of somatic cell nuclear (relating to a nucleus) transfer to create children arouses far more grave issues concerning safety concerns, a person’s individuality, the nature of family integrity, and the whole question of treating children as objects.
Yet many scientists believe that the greatest benefit of cloning will come from the exact reproduction of animals genetically altered to produce human proteins or organs more easily accepted in transplants. Wilmut and Campbell’s creation of Polly surprises the scientific community at how fast cloning technology is progressing. The cloning of genetically altered farm animals had not been expected for another five years. This unexpected speed of development is a classic sign of a technology that will have a long lasting and profound impact on society, and consistent with the essential meaning and dynamic of the Uranus/Neptune cycle.
The next stages in the Cycle – the 2025 SEXTILE and 2039 OUT SQUARE
While we can only speculate as to what the development of Internet-like technology and Biotechnology will have led to 172 years or even 85 years after the 1993 conjunction – there are a few Internet and Biotechnology futurologists out there but none are looking that far ahead – the thrust of new developments is on the one hand the integration of information and communication networks into every part of our lives and on the other hand the use of genetics and cloning to extend and maintain human life and to cure disease along with the attempt to produce acceptable GM crops. These developments will take place in ways we have yet to envisage. However we can hazard a general guess as to what the Sextile (60 degrees) in 2025 and the Square (90 degrees) in 2039 might bring in each field.
August 2025 SEXTILE (+60 degrees) February 2025 – May 2029
By 2025 the power and reach of computers will be significantly larger by our present standards but more important will be the range of applications. Society is likely to have accepted these new developments which they will see largely as meeting its ideals.
The mushrooming growth of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter had really surged at the 30 degree (semi-sextile) phase of the cycle in 2009 – a germination phase. By 2025 their reach will have further expanded and consolidated but related legal and ethical issues are likely to become far more evident.
By 2025 in advanced countries the majority of connected individuals will access the Internet by high speed broadband. Only with a super high speed connection it is claimed can the more exciting possibilities inherent in the Internet be realised – in particular two way full motion video and full interactivity. However it is possible that social networking sites offering full motion video and full interactivity may become so intrusive that they start to adversely impact societal relationships like partnerships, the family and school. The level of personal contact afforded by new internet technology is going to appear to be very vivid and immediate – offering corresponding risks and dangers as well as benefits.
By 2025 it is likely that for the wealthy an outline of your body’s DNA structure could be on an electronic card you carry. By 2025 the medical breakthroughs announced either in the diagnosis or treatment of a major illness may constitute the first major steps to stem cell therapy being medically implemented on a major scale – focusing on illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Down’s syndrome or Parkinson’s disease. Such a step would significantly advance the idealistic status of Biotechnology. But the uncomfortable questions as to where this technology might be leading begin to start to grow.
Increased knowledge about DNA and the further unravelling of links in the Human Genome will mean that a rapidly increasing number of medical assessments or activities are now starting to take place by consulting and using this knowledge. However it is unlikely that Biotechnology will have made much impact on illnesses that are not life threatening in the short term – illnesses that are chronic and which appear to be lifestyle or environmentally induced. In a nutshell, medical practice in the hospital is starting to be revolutionised – but not yet in the Doctor’s surgery or office.
It seems safe to forecast that by 2025 ethical constraints on therapeutic cloning will have been largely deflected by a system of institutional, professional and legal safeguards, but that human cloning will remain starkly outlawed. In particular it is extremely unlikely, if not quite impossible, that by 2025 we could see the first cloned human being!
And what of GM Foods by 2025 ? Once again it is reasonable to suggest that a far greater selectivity has developed in the objectives and the whole purpose of growing GM foods. The aim is no longer simply to speed up the agricultural process, and lower production costs – the lessons of the 1990s and 2000s will have been learned – take too sharp a short-cut with Nature and Nature will take its own revenge – BSE and other agricultural traumas may well have been testimony to that.
It is possible that the industry will focus on certain crops where the evidence is that the naturally developed strains are suffering from external variables such as recurrent disease or climate change. With a change in manufacturers’ philosophy may come a change in public opinion It may be that GM crops are now developed to be specifically targeted at areas of famine and malnutrition. Evidence may now emerge of how GM Foods might meet the objectives of preventing these tragic disasters affecting millions of people.
2039 OUT SQUARE (from 2037 to 2045)
Forecasting over 25 years into the future can only be purely speculative but if we see the Outgoing square as the first fundamental obstacle to the key developments that happened at this cycle’s conjunction then we have to ask in what way and to what degree could the Internet and Biotechnology, which have aroused such great hopes and ideals, now face a real crisis – the first major challenge in their history and one that impacts the fundamental ideals of each, one that questions all the earlier idealism.
The crisis that confronts the idealisation of the Internet will surely not simply be to do with the erosion of personal privacy or the dominance of business and commercial interests. It has to be more fundamental than that. A reasonable guess is that powerful interests – governmental as well as commercial – will have effectively gained control of the internet and that its essential openness will have in some way been curtailed or compromised. It was its essential openness that was always seen as its key ideal characteristic. Pressures to divide the Internet into separate networks were fiercely resisted in 2010 and arguably that resistance may well be capable of fighting off such a threat in 2025 but by 2039 some form of subdivision or some restriction of access to the web may become standard. The response to this division or restriction is likely to be attempts to either bypass the network systems or a more Luddite cyber attack on their hub centres.
But much more importantly it (or something similar) will produce a profound disillusion with how the then state of the internet compares to its original ideals. It will seem to many as if the ideals of the internet are dead, that it has been taken over by the powers that be.
It is reasonable to suggest that the most fundamental crisis to confront Biotechnology in 2039 will be the actual cloning of a human being. Around that date it could be that one or more human beings will be cloned – possibly in a country where prevailing ethical standards are ignored or in advanced countries by a group of determined scientists who believe once a human clone is produced, people will say what was the fuss all about. At present no scientist can be at all certain how a cloned human being might develop – in particular what might go horribly wrong. Claims have also been made but justifiably treated with scepticism by the scientific community.
But by 2039 therapeutic cloning experience may have built up a wealth of knowledge that could enable risk taking scientists to test out many possible unintended consequences of such a primal action as the production of a cloned human being and satisfy themselves they have investigated all possible errors that could result. It is possible that the 2039 period will see the announcement of a cloned human being – who had actually been born some years earlier ! It could be the announcement and not the birth that happens in 2039.
At the cycle conjunction newly launched GM Foods had met fierce and highly effective opposition, which had all but stopped the industry in its tracks. At the 2039 Square that opposition has to crumble. This could be the year when production, marketing and consumption of GM foods surges. It may be the production of a totally synthetic but highly nutritious food range that is not only palatable but delicious that could pose a crisis for traditional food production and preparation. This is especially true given that traditionally produced food is predicted to have drastically multiplied in price by this period. If GM Foods were to be invested with boosted health giving properties this could also deflect the ecological arguments against it.
More likely is that the global pressures on food production in a rapidly expanding world population means that traditional agriculture simply cannot cope in certain parts of the world. If it came to a stark choice between populations starving and ecological principles which would win out? By 2039 it is less likely that food scientists will be seen as challenging society’s essential values. It is therefore quite possible to imagine the equivalent of McDonalds selling hugely popular perhaps hyper- nutritious but largely synthetically modified meals based on GM crops. However in keeping with the meaning of a cycle square – these developments may prove false and the ecological arguments may by the end of the cycle win out.