Most of my professional life is centered on synthetic biology, an industry and movement to make biology easier to engineer. So far, this emerging discipline has yielded everything from living medicines and spider silk jackets to impossible hamburgers. But what will humankind be growing in the next century?
I came across a magical video that I think helps to show this. Vasil Hnatiuk, an Emmy award-winning animator, who has since become a friend, created this beautiful answer. In just two minutes, he invites us to see a universe where manufacturing, transportation, entertainment and more have all been radically transformed through the power of synthetic biology.
The video features flying vehicles inspired by insects, an excavator crossed with a crab, a supercomputer made from actual neurons, and much more. How are all these bits of science fiction connected? By unlocking the DNA code, Hnatiuk explains, our species could usher in the greatest technological advancement ever witnessed.
You could call me a bio-futurist, but what do the founders of the field think?
I asked famed Harvard geneticist George Church for his take on the video: “much of engineering is about reordering matter into other structures in a reliable and affordable way. But life already makes atomically precise objects at large scale, and it does so inexpensively.” To expand the kinds of things that can be built with biology, figures like Church are leading the push to make DNA easier to read, write and edit.
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