a16z Podcast: Making a (Really) Wild Geo-Engineering Idea Real

Here’s what we know: There’s a pair (father and son) of Russian scientists trying to resurrect (or rather, “rewild”) an Ice Age (aka Pleistocene era) biome (grassland) complete with (gene edited, lab-grown) woolly mammoths (derived from elephants). In Arctic Siberia (though, not at the one station there that Amazon Prime delivers to!).

Here’s what we don’t know: How many genes will it take? (with science doing the “sculpting” and nature doing the “polishing”)? How many doctors will it take to make? (that is, grow these 200-pound babies in an artificial womb)? What happens if these animals break? (given how social elephants are)? And so on…

In this episode of the a16z Podcast — recorded as part of our podcast on the road in Washington, D.C. — we (Sonal Chokshi and Hanne Tidnam) discuss all this and more with Ross Andersen, senior editor at The Atlantic who wrote “Welcome to Pleistocene Park“, a story that seems so improbably wild yet is so improbably true. And while we focus on the particulars of what it takes to make this seemingly Jurassic Park-like story true, this episode is more generally about what motivates seemingly crazy ideas — moving them from the lab to the field (quite literally in this case!) — often with the help of a little marketing, a big vision, and some narrative. And: time. Sometimes, a really, really, really long time…

image: National Park Service