S is for Synthetic Biology

It used to be that children imagined unicorns and wished for ponies, but tomorrow children will be able to design and grow their own polka-dotted dinosaur at home. So predicts one of the world’s most fascinating minds, scientist Freeman Dyson, who sees the future of biotech as an art, not a science, and suggests that the domestication of biotechnology will dominate our lives the same way personal computers have today. Despite concerns that genetic engineering is a risky proposition, the reality is that gene trading has been going on in the natural world for millions of years. In fact, every time you mate with someone, that’s genetic engineering. Every time you catch a cold, you’re actually acquiring a foreign genome. As science begins to understand the molecular biology of life more and more, essentially there will be no limitations, and biotechnology will be used for every single purpose imaginable, ranging from new materials to novel foods. Considering that the aim of synthetic biology is to create life from scratch, or modify existing living organisms, the contemporary stance, of course, is to view the era of open source biology as an humanitarian effort as well as an aesthetic pursuit. However, the question remains: What happens when these creatures grow and evolve on their own?

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