“Engineering recapitulates evolution.” Through human ingenuity, and by using the knowledge of physics and chemistry gained over the course of six industrial revolutions, we have developed the ability to manipulate and engineer matter, and by doing so we have rediscovered and harnessed the results of six similar revolutions that occurred during billions of years of biological evolution. Using nanobiotechnology, we stand at the door of manipulating genomes in a way that reflects the progress of evolutionary history: starting with the simplest organisms and ending, most portentously, by being able to alter our own genetic makeup. Synthetic genomics has the potential to recapitulate the course of natural genomic evolution, with the difference that the course of synthetic genomics will be under our own conscious deliberation and control instead of being directed by the blind and opportunistic processes of natural selection. We are already remaking ourselves and our world, retracing the steps of the original synthesis—redesigning, recoding, and reinventing nature itself in the process.
Passage from ‘Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves’ by George Church & Ed Regis (Basic Books, New York, 2012). Editing by Emilio Vavarella.