‘Biohackers co-opt DeepMind’ is chapter 36 of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. THIS IS NOT NEWS; IT IS A PROJECTION OF POSSIBLE FUTURE NEWS. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch and get notified when the book publishes.
Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind has been hacked and its protein prediction engine has been used to create a deadly new virus, according to a new report from a shadowy biohacking collective called Biohackers Anonymous.
DeepMind raised eyebrows in mid 2022 when the company said that AlphaFold, its massive artificial intelligence engine for predicting protein structures had accurately predicted “the structure of nearly all proteins known to science in just 18 months.” That’s a tremendous accomplishment that DeepMind said would significantly speed up drug development and revolutionize science. The previous year, the company had claimed to have mapped 98.5% of all the proteins found in the human body.
Now it appears that nefarious actors have put that knowledge and capability to a deadly purpose: creating a dangerous new virus. News organizations around the world have been reporting messages from the collective, all calling for the global cessation of fossil fuel use and extensive governmental investment in longevity and biohacking research.
“We are now in possession of the most deadly virus ever created,” the manifesto from Biohackers Anonymous reads. “We will release it in multiple major population centers if our demands are not met.”
Data accompanying the manifesto suggests that the virus is more deadly than Ebola, killing 50-75% of people infected by it, but with a longer incubation period so that one infected person is likely to pass the virus along to many more. If that’s the case, a massive release would cause literally billions of deaths and global devastation. It’s not clear how the biohackers collected that data, however, causing some doctors to doubt the veracity of their claims.
Law enforcement officials, however, are taking it serious, as are DeepMind researchers … one of whom says she worried about this use of the technology from the start.
“When you build something makes it much easier and much faster to build medicines and vaccines, you also build something that makes it easier and much faster to create viruses,” the researcher said, asking that her name be withheld since she was not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the company.
Officials for DeepMind, however, downplayed the possibility, with the CEO stating publicly that the technology was not yet polished and complete enough to synthesize new proteins or viruses.
While medical researchers are standing by to help as needed, the problem is that without any knowledge of what the biohackers might have created, it’s impossible to synthesize a defense. So DeepMind AI scientist are performing a forensic audit of the company’s systems, the CEO said, to try to determine how much access hackers had and what they did with that access.
“If we can trace what they did and see what they’ve created — if anything — we might be able to engineer a defense,” said Leon Caishen, a medical doctor affiliated with the World Health Organization. “That’s kind of our only hope right now.”
It’s the only hope because governments around the world have rejected the biohackers’ demands to invest more in longevity and accelerate a withdrawal from fossil fuels. They’ve also increased security and tightened border controls.
This is a developing story. Keep posted for details.
Again, this is a chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch and get notified when the book publishes.