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Summary

What if the miracle that created mRNA vaccines is less a once-in-lifetime event and more the harbinger of the emerging age of synthetic biology? This fusion of biology and computers has a singular goal: to gain access to cells in order to write new—and possibly better—biological code. 

Synthetic biology promises to reveal how life is created and how it can be re-created, enabling scientists to rewrite the rules of our reality. It could help us, for example, heal without prescription medications, grow meat without harvesting animals, or confront our looming climate catastrophe. Synthetic biology will determine the ways in which we conceive future generations and how we define family, how we identify disease and treat aging, where we make our homes, and how we nourish ourselves. Soon, we will program living, biological structures as though they were tiny computers. 

But who should decide how to engineer living organisms? Whether engineered organisms should be planted, farmed, and released into the wild? Should there be limits to human enhancements? Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel’s riveting examination of synthetic biology and the bioeconomy provide the background for thinking through the upcoming risks and moral dilemmas posed by redesigning life, as well as the vast opportunities waiting for us on the horizon.

©2022 Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel (P)2022 PublicAffairs

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excellent book

excellent book, loved it.ready to listen again.
great narration, really interesting to see where the world is heading.

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  • J
  • 21-02-22

Great book on the possibilities of the future of Human biology

Preordered this a few months back because I’ve enjoy the previous works of Amy Webb. I’m in the tech industry but haven’t had any exposure to biological sciences since college about 10 years ago. The scenarios laid out may seem outlandish but if you see the real world examples cited throughout the book then they begin to seem plausible and realistic. The narrator did a great job and definitely recommend anyone to take a listen to it if they’re willing to have an open mind.

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  • Andres Tupper
  • 01-08-22

Excellent and very interesting reading!

We need to prepare ourselves for the future of life in this planet. Open our minds. Excellent account on history and the future of synthetic biology.

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  • Andy
  • 02-07-22

Thought provoking but politically biased

Very thought provoking and worth reading. The text lacks some level of detail to support its claims but does offer some broad brush speculations. Readers should be aware of obvious left wing political bias throughout the text, painting a less than balanced picture of events as well as obviously biased views of potential futures.

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  • Holly J Hager
  • 25-06-22

Well Written & Easily Understandable by Non-Scientists

Interesting survey of the state of synthetic biology, Easily understandable assessment of its potential trajectory & the ethical risks that accompany it. A great addition to futurist texts.

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  • Austin
  • 24-05-22

Really good synthesis of the field with an informed perspective; bad solutions

The first 90% of the book was really great! Really informative history including even recent advancements in synthetic biology. The last 10% with their solutions leave a lot to be desired. They softly peddle the “COVID was a made in a Chinese lab” conspiracy to argue against gain-of-function research. That left a really bad taste in my mouth. Their other “solutions” were a bit oversimplistic.

However, the first 90% of the book, especially the scenarios toward the end, make it worth it.

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  • Brian Garrett
  • 17-05-22

The future is going to be crazy

Definitely lots of very interesting vectors the biological future is going to be taking. I'm hoping that some of the items they are working on are going to have a direct benefit to my longevity, but I'm afraid it's going to happen slightly slower than I want it to. Of course the darker side of this is the "dark science" that could be used in a negative way on humanity. Definitely a good read IMHO.

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  • Rupert
  • 17-04-22

Frightening

Evolution continues while some contemplates if it's true. There are the applications of so many methods within our universe yet we continue to think of God as a magician.
Thank you Amy and Andrew. And let's hail the TWIT audience, heard about this there.

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  • John D. Furber
  • 16-04-22

Mostly accurate, worthwhile, informative

A comprehensive exploration of this important field. The authors got most of the facts right. The readers were good, easy to listen to. Only mispronounced a few technical terms. But if you have to choose only one, I recommend "The Code Breaker" by Walter Isaacson, about CRISPR and Jennifer Doudna.

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  • Jim
  • 26-03-22

Very Enlightening

I'm not well versed in the topic of synthetic biology so I found this book to be very informative. A lot of the concepts about DNA as property and potentially as a technology for things I'd never even considered. it's given me a new perspective and a lot of stuff to think about.

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  • Taylor Ono
  • 21-03-22

An optimistic look at a terrifying future

The parts that actually focus on synthetic biology are very interesting but at many points the authors lose focus and wander off on tangents. Will definitely spend some time seeing if there is a better book on the subject