By KIM BELLARD
If you have been following my Twitter – oops, I mean “X” – feed lately, you may have noticed that I’ve been emphasizing The Coming Wave, the new book from Mustafa Suleyman (with Michael Bhaskar). If you have not yet read it, or at least ordered it, I urge you to do so, because, frankly, our lives are not going to be the same, at all. And we’re woefully unprepared.
One thing I especially appreciated is that, although he made his reputation in artificial intelligence, Mr. Suleyman doesn’t only focus on AI. He also discusses synthetic biology, quantum computing, robotics, and new energy technologies as ones that stand to radically change our lives. What they have in common is that they have hugely asymmetric impacts, they display hyper-evolution, they are often omni-use, and they increasingly demonstrate autonomy.
In other words, these technologies can do things we didn’t know they could do, have impacts we didn’t expect (and may not want), and may decide what to do on their own.
To build an AI, for the near future one needs a significant amount of computing power, using specialized chips and a large amount of data, but with synthetic biology, the technology is getting to the point where someone can set up a lab in their garage and experiment away. AI can spread rapidly, but it needs a connected device; engineered organisms can get anywhere there is air or water.
“A pandemic virus synthesized anywhere will spread everywhere,” MIT”s Kevin Esvelt told Axios.
I’ve been fascinated with synthetic biology for some time now, and yet I still think we’re not paying enough attention. “For me, the most exciting thing about synthetic biology is finding or seeing unique ways that living organisms can solve a problem,” David Riglar, Sir Henry Dale research fellow at Imperial College London, told The Scientist. “This offers us opportunities to do things that would otherwise be impossible with non-living alternatives.”
Jim Collins, Termeer professor of medical engineering and science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), added: “By approaching biology as an engineering discipline, we are now beginning to create programmable medicines and diagnostic tools with the ability to sense and dynamically respond to information in our bodies.”
For example, researchers just reported on a smart pill — the size of a blueberry! — that can be used to automatically detect key biological molecules in the gut that suggest problems, and wirelessly transmit the information in real time.Continue reading…