Week 7: Artificial Life

This week I will be focusing on Artificial Life. This definition of artificial life in Wilson’s book is that “Artificial Life is a field of study devoted to understanding life by attempting to abstract the fundamental dynamical principles underlying biological phenomena, and recreating these dynamics in other physical media—such as computers—making them accessible to new pf experimental manipulation and testing…. In addition to providing new ways to study the biological phenomena associated with life here on Earth, life -as-we-know-it, Artificial Life allows us to extend our studies to the larger domain of “bio-logic” of possible life, life-as-it-could-be” (Wilson 304). An example of Artificial Life I am interested in is the first artificial life in the world.20100524094753cc450


On May 20, 2010, American private research institution-J Craig Venter Institute announced the first artificial life of the world was born. “Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first living cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA.” This artificial life called “Synthia” by the principal J Craig Venter, and its “biological parents” is the computer. The landmark experiment shows that the new life can be created in the laboratory not must be done via the evolution. It immediately causes the attention of the ethical discussions after this experimental results announced.

Critics argue that human cannot act as the “creator” in any case and does not qualify as the “God” or create life to destroy the balance of nature. More people are worried that this research will be used by the ill-intentioned person to synthesize the biochemical weapons and make terrorist threat. “Dr. Helen Wallace from Genewatch UK said that if you release new organisms into the environment, you can de more harm than good. By releasing them into areas of pollution, (with the aim of cleaning it up), you’re actually releasing a new kind of pollution.” In another hand, many supporters think this technology can bring many benefits to human beings. For example, people can use this technology to manufacture bacteria for producing biofuels, special effective drugs, and bacteria, which can absorb carbon dioxide or other contaminants. 


Although this case raises a lot of controversies, for genetics, solving the problem of genome sequencing is just across a small step, otherwise Venter is across a major step in this field. The biological significance of this breakthrough lies in its broad application prospect because it essentially opens a door to bioengineering, and it can let the scientists do whatever they want in the laboratory. Some researchers have already begun to create a special designed algae to capture carbon dioxide and convert them into biofuels. Other applications may include pharmaceutical manufacturing, environmental cleaning and energy production in the future.

source: http://www.bbc.com/news/10132762

-Mengchun Tao


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