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May 26th, 2007

Our Synthetic Futures

The SynBio approach is onto something big—a new version of nanotechnology, which is the craft of manufacturing things at the molecular scale. SynBio's plan is to capitalize on the fact that biology is already doing molecular fabrication all the time. What might happen if we repurpose biology to our own ends?

One big worry is what nanotechnologists call the "gray-goo problem." What's to stop a particularly virulent SynBio organism from eating everything on earth? My guess is that this could never happen. Every existing plant, animal, fungus and protozoan already aspires to world domination. There's nothing more ruthless than viruses and bacteria—and they've been practicing for a very long time.


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