Over at Accelerating Future, a new interview between Michael Anissimov (a.k.a. me), and Dr. Alan Goldstein, a member of our Scientific Advisory Board who is concerned about the dangers of bionanotechnology. Here is an excerpt from the first part of the interview:
Michael Anissimov: How do you define synthetic biology (A-life)?
Dr. Alan Goldstein: It is crucial to this discussion that people recognize that Synthetic Biology is not the same as Artificial Life. I have spent a great deal of time trying to explain the difference in terms that are understandable to non-technical folks.
It is much more useful, I suggest, to think in terms of life forms:
1. Natural Biological Life forms are those created by evolution without any form of molecular manipulation by Homo sapiens.
2. Recombinant DNA-based biological life forms are still natural insofar as they only use nature’s tools to mix and match biological components, albeit at a much faster rate than can be achieved by evolution. This would include cell biology methods like somatic nuclear transfer and stem cell technology.
3. Synthetic Biology involves the same molecules used to create natural and recombinant DNA-based life forms, but the molecules themselves (DNA, RNA, proteins, the bounding membrane of the synthetic cell, etc.) are made in the laboratory de novo (i.e. from their monomeric precursors).
4. Finally, Nonbiological Life involves the introduction of molecules that have not previously been involved as essential components of living systems here on earth. We need to be very specific here because many ‘esoteric’ elements (e.g. manganese and zinc) are essential co-factors in biological enzymes. Therefore Nonbiological Life (Animats) must be clearly defined as having significant functional units (e.g. molecules) fabricated from nonbiological materials.
The purpose of the Animat Test as presented in the article “I, Nanobot” is to provide an operational method for determining when the human race breaks the Carbon Barrier ™ and creates the first nonbiological life form. I have termed such a life form an Animat (short for Anima materials).
Check out the whole thing. Dr. Goldstein really is a pioneer in a world where scientists would rather keep quiet than alert the public about the serious risks inherent in the technology they are developing.