Monthly Archives August 2010

A Week in Tomorrow

Nigel M. de S. Cameron
Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET), Washington, DC

Quite the eventful time for me; August found me immersing myself in tomorrow.

First up was our C-PET Roundtable on Synthetic Biology. Biology isn’t what it used to be. As the engi-neering approach to living systems moves beyond theory to practice (as J. Craig Venter has recently reminded us), side by side with extraordinary possibilities for good lie options for the weird – and the scary. Scary, not least, in the Asymmetric Century. In tandem with concerns lest we “play God” lie anxieties at least as great that someone will play the Devil. Smallpox, anyone? Not your grandmother’s WMDs.

Then a quick shuttle over to San Francisco that afternoon...

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C-PET’s Synthetic Biology Roundtable, first round

I’ve had a couple of encounters with synthetic biology before. The National Science Foundation invited me to join a site visit to the main federally funded synbio research project, with a mandate to review all the non-technical aspects (ethics, security, law, and so on); and Nature Biotechnology asked me along with the University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Caplan, doyen of contemporary bioethicists, to write commentaries for a special number back in 2009. So I’ve thought about what’s going on, and was very pleased to host and moderate round 1 of C-PET’s synbio process.

As those who were there (from think tanks, universities, a slew of embassies, federal agencies, the House science committee, and elsewhere) will recall, the discussion took off in some fascinating directions...

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