View Video Duration: 90 min
All life and all human civilizations depend on biology. From the oxygen in the air that we breathe, to the plants or animals that we eat, to the fuels that keep us warm and power our houses, industries and vehicles, to our medicines and clothes. 35 years ago, scientists first learned how to intentionally and directly manipulate DNA, the genetic material encoding life, using crude tools to construct relatively simple genetic programs. These early tools led to the birth of the biotechnology industry, resulting in new drugs and therapies, as well as many new controversies and unmet promises. Today, much more powerful tools are rapidly being developed in order to help make biology easier to engineer, via a new field of research known as Synthetic Biology.
Already, scientists and engineers have used early forms of these tools to construct genomes, the entire DNA program for an organism, from raw chemicals. Young students have already developed simple genetic programs of their own designs, producing bacteria that can take a photograph or smell as bananas. As biology becomes easier to engineer, many more individuals and groups, not just researchers, will likely have the opportunity to use biotechnology to solve their own problems, just as many people today can program computers or author a webpage. What role should each person, group, and nation have in our future biotechnology world? How will we all best work together to make sure that we choose to apply future biotechnologies for overwhelming good?