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Humankind is entering a new age of evolution. Genetic engineering and synthetic biology will soon allow us to program DNA with the same ease we program computers. Already, scientists working in the U.S. can recreate a strain of the flu virus causing infections in China from a digital signal alone–and use that virus to work toward a vaccine. In the future, such technology could end pandemics before they start, bring life on Mars to Earth without transporting it physically, allow diabetics to download insulin off the Internet, and create designer bacteria that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. How will all this change life as we know it–and will it change our very definition of life? Biologist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter, author of Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, visits Zócalo to talk with Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow about the future of synthetic life, how molecular biology can solve our world’s most intractable problems, and what’s next for the scientist who sequenced the human genome.
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