View Video Duration: 90 min
Synthetic biology aims to effect a paradigm shift in biology, changing it from a relatively high-cost, centralized endeavor to one that operates through cheap DNA synthesis and standardized parts. The most passionate synthetic biology proponents envision a future in which decentralized networks of small firms and individual inventors can cheaply "hack" (i.e. improve) standardized DNA parts in the same way that they currently hack computer code. The accelerated innovation potentially produced through decentralization and standardization could be extremely important for social welfare—end results could include, for example, low-cost, environmentally friendly fuels. On the other hand, decentralization may increase the potential for entry by actors with nefarious motives. The challenge for law and policy is two-fold: first, to determine whether more decentralized innovation will, in fact, increase security threats; and second, if so, to determine how tensions between accelerating innovation and maintaining security should be mediated.