Biology as I/O

Solid's long view includes biology as part of the creator's toolkit.

Tim O’Reilly subjected himself to an engaging Ask Me Anything session on Reddit earlier this week. The focus of the exchange was the Internet of Things, in anticipation of our Solid conference taking place next month.

We’re always listening for faint signals from our community about what they’re getting interested in, and one area that’s stood out to us is biology, which is becoming easier to experiment with at home, as a hobbyist, and through hackerspaces like Biocurious and Genspace. You’ll find a few threads on biology at Solid this year, but we’ve tagged it to be a little more central at Solid 2015. Beyond the hobbyist and health-related applications, we see synthetic biology as another way to translate between virtual and physical, like 3D printers and stereoscopic cameras.

Here’s an exchange from Tuesday’s Reddit thread that sums it up nicely.

Question from rhops:

What prompted the start of BioCoder? Are people really doing biotech in their garages in the same way that many computer hardware and software innovations happened?


Answer from Tim:

Yes, there is definitely a biotech revolution. We’ve been watching this for some years. When IGEM (the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition for high schoolers) started some years back, we knew it was only a matter of time. We’ve been looking at this area for at least a dozen years, and it seems to be heating up.

With a nicely-put follow-on from Jim Stogdill:

I’ll add, that biology is becoming a computational science with physical world I/O (genetic sequencing and gene printing). We started BioCoder now because 1) synthetic bio is exploding in importance, 2) the cost do meaningful stuff is low enough now for meaningful levels of democratization, and 3) the computational aspects of bio overlap more and more with the other things O’Reilly is doing in data science, etc.

You can review the entire thread of Tim’s AMA, covering a broad range of IoT topics (as well as a bit of personal storytelling), on Reddit.

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