The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology (Paperback)
A breakthrough investigation of synthetic biology: the promising and controversial technology platform that combines biology and artificial intelligence and has the potential to program biological systems like we program computers. Synthetic biology is the technique that enables us not just to read and edit but also write DNA to program living biological structures as though they were tiny computers. Unlike cloning Dolly the sheep-which cut and copied existing genetic material-the future of synthetic biology might be something like an app store, where you could download and add new capabilities into any cell, microbe, plant, or animal. This breakthrough science has the potential to mitigate, perhaps solve, humanity's immediate and longer-term existential challenges: climate change; the feeding, clothing, housing, and caring for billions of humans; fighting the next viral outbreak before it becomes a global pandemic; old age as a treatable pathology; bringing back extinct animals. It could also be anarchic and socially destructive. With our governing structures created in an era before startling advances in technology, we are not prepared for a future in which life could be manipulated or programmed. As futurist Amy Webb and synthetic biologist Andrew Hessel show in this book, within the next decade, we will need to make important decisions: whether to program novel viruses to fight diseases, what genetic privacy will look like, who will "own" living organisms, how companies should earn revenue from engineered cells, and how to contain a synthetic organism in a lab. The Genesis Machine provides the background for us to understand and grapple with these issues, and think through the religious, philosophical, and ethical implications for the future.
Amy Webb advises CEOs of the world’s most-admired companies, three-star admirals and generals, and the senior leadership of central banks and intergovernmental organizations on the future of technology and science. A quantitative futurist, Amy is the CEO of the Future Today Institute, a leading foresight and management consulting firm. She is a professor of strategic foresight at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University’s Säid School of Business. She was elected a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee and serves as a Steward and Steering Committee member of the World Economic Forum. She was also a Delegate on the former U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, where she worked on the future of technology and international diplomacy. Amy was named by Forbes as “one of the five women changing the world,” honored as one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2020 and is ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the most influential business minds in the world. Amy is award-winning author of The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity and The Signals are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe is Tomorrow’s Mainstream.