"This is not genesis, this is building on three and a half billion years of evolution,...I've argued that we are about to...create a new version of the Cambrian explosion where there's massive speciation based upon this digital design....Genes [are the] the design components of the future"
- Craig Venter
You may have heard about the remarkable work of Craig Venter and his private company Synthetic Genomics, where he is getting very close to making the first synthetic life form on Earth. It hasn't happened yet, however the progress so far seems to indicate that this development is simply inevitable. This development is a distinctive marker that crosses a new and very significant line. Craig Venter describes in the video below how people will design species on computer software programs. Literally new species that are part of the evolutionary tree, but not created through millions of years of natural selection - actually created in a software program and built by assembly robots!
At this point there is not a living organism on Earth that isn't directly affected by the repercussions human choices, human culture. As the genetic modification of some species has done, the potential creation of synthetic life forms highlights this actuality. There is new demand for us to come to grips with an entirely new relationship to biological life. I'm really not sure what to say about this right now...it's staggering. We need a new ethic, but we need a bigger context in which to place this ethic. In becoming responsible for all ecosystems on Earth, the ethic has to be in a bigger context than anthropocentric concerns. The obvious response is to argue the intrinsic value of all life, but when we are actually creating it ourselves, like we are just fiddling with some computer code, it just doesn't seem to be that straight forward.
Below is Craig Venter's talk at TED 2008. Be sure to watch the question and answer section afterwards with TED Curator Chris Anderson.
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