From The Intercept:
While skeptics doubt the prospects for de-extinction, the CIA’s venture capital firm deems powerful genetic manipulation tools worth the money.
September 28 2022, 8:03 a.m.
AS A RAPIDLY ADVANCING climate emergency turns the planet ever hotter, the Dallas-based biotechnology company Colossal Biosciences has a vision: “To see the Woolly Mammoth thunder upon the tundra once again.” Founders George Church and Ben Lamm have already racked up an impressive list of high-profile funders and investors, including Peter Thiel, Tony Robbins, Paris Hilton, Winklevoss Capital — and, according to the public portfolio its venture capital arm released this month, the CIA.
Colossal says it hopes to use advanced genetic sequencing to resurrect two extinct mammals — not just the giant, ice age mammoth, but also a mid-sized marsupial known as the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, that died out less than a century ago. On its website, the company vows: “Combining the science of genetics with the business of discovery, we endeavor to jumpstart nature’s ancestral heartbeat.”
In-Q-Tel, its new investor, is registered as a nonprofit venture capital firm funded by the CIA. On its surface, the group funds technology startups with the potential to safeguard national security. In addition to its long-standing pursuit of intelligence and weapons technologies, the CIA outfit has lately displayed an increased interest in biotechnology and particularly DNA sequencing.
“Why the interest in a company like Colossal, which was founded with a mission to “de-extinct” the wooly mammoth and other species?” reads an In-Q-Tel blog post published on September 22. “Strategically, it’s less about the mammoths and more about the capability.”
The embrace of this technology, according to In-Q-Tel’s blog post, will help allow U.S. government agencies to read, write, and edit genetic material, and, importantly, to steer global biological phenomena that impact “nation-to-nation competition” while enabling the United States “to help set the ethical, as well as the technological, standards” for its use.
It’s fun to speculate about what nefarious masterplan is behind the CIA’s investments. Mammoths, for example, could be useful in warfare if the other side invests heavily in war elephants.
But another possibility is that CIA officers just like throwing taxpayer money around at things that strike them as fun, like resurrecting woolly mammoths or subsidizing George Plimpton’s Paris Review. What Would George Plimpton Do? I mean, Plimpton would have liked to resurrect a wooly mammoth and then hunt it with an atlatl.
By the way, as resurrecting Ice Age fauna comes closer to reality, let me resurface my suggestion that if you are looking for a contained place where the beasts couldn’t get away, would feel more or less at home with the cold climate, would be isolated from modern diseases, and would have a lot of room without conflicting with an indigenous human population, the uninhabited island of Grand Terre in the Kerguelen Islands in the remote Southern Indian Ocean would be an ideal spot for an Ice Age Park.
Nobody lives on the Kerguelen Islands except for a few dozen French researchers. Grand Terre is big, about 3/4th the size of Corsica although some of it is covered with a glacier. It’s only 49 degrees south, which compares to the American-Canadian border at 49 degrees north, but the Roaring Forties wind howls all the time, so there are no trees and it’s unattractive to humans.