Artificial life, can we redesign nature?

25 May 2010

As scientists made a leap towards creating ‘artificial life’ last week, an ethical debate is re-ignited. Now you have the chance to continue the discussion at the Natural History Museum’s Man-Made Nature evening event this week.

The Nature Live team bring together the public and a range of people who are involved in synthetic biology, from scientists, artists and speculative designers, in this Thursday’s event in the Museum’s new state-of-the-art Darwin Centre Attenborough Studio.

Recent ‘artificial life’ research

Last Thursday, Craig Venter and his team revealed research showing how they created a living cell controlled by synthetic (man-made) DNA - the whole genome or chromosomes for a bacteria called Mycoplasma mycoides. The synthetic DNA was inserted into a cell ‘shell’ that had its own DNA removed. The synthetic DNA behaved as normal, replicating and giving the cell its functions.

Artificial life in the future

Venter’s team want to design cells that will perform a useful function such as producing new fuels or vaccines. However, synthetic biology, and the cultural changes this technology might drive, creates an uncertainty that concerns many people.

Questions at the event

If current life on Earth took millions of years to evolve, should we skip this process and make life from scratch? Will we need a new Synthetic Kingdom branch added to the tree of life? And what will this new redesigned life look like and how will we control it?

Find out and join the discussion by booking tickets (£6) to Man-Made Nature 27 May at 7pm.

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Nature Live in the Attenborough Studio 

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