"book review" entries

George Church and the potential of synthetic biology

A review of George Church's book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves

A few weeks ago, I explained why I thought biohacking was one of the most important new trends in technology. If I didn’t convince you, Derek Jacoby’s review (below) of George Church’s new book, Regenesis, will. Church is no stranger to big ideas: big ideas on the scale of sending humans to Mars. (The moon? That’s so done.) And unlike most people with big ideas, Church has an uncanny track record at making his ideas reality. Biohacking has been not so quietly gaining momentum for several years now. If there’s one book that can turn this movement into a full-blown revolution, this is it. — Mike Loukides


George Church and Ed Regis pull off an exciting and speculative romp through the field of synthetic biology and where it could take us in the not too distant future. If anyone with less eminence than Church were to have written this book then half this review would need to be spent defending the realism of the possibilities, but with his track record if he suggests it’s a possibility then it’s worth thinking about.

The possibilities are mind-blowing — breeding organisms immune to all viruses, recreating extinct species, creating humans immune to cancer. We’re entering an age where the limits to our capabilities to re-make the world around us are limited only by our imaginations and our good judgement. Regenesis addresses this as well, for instance proposing mechanisms to create synthetic organisms that are incapable of interacting with natural ones.

Although the book is aimed at a non-technical general audience, the science is explained in excellent detail and is well-referenced for further study.

As the book documents, we’re in the middle of an exponential increase in genomics capabilities that dwarfs even the pace of change in the computer industry. In such a rapidly changing field if you can imagine a plausible technical approach to a problem, no matter how difficult or cumbersome it may be, then soon it’s likely to become easy. Read more…

Comments: 7
Understanding randomness is a double-edged sword

Understanding randomness is a double-edged sword

A review of "The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives."

While Leonard Mlodinow's book offers a good introduction to probabilistic thinking, it carries two problems: First, it doesn't uniformly account for skill. Second, when we're talking probability and statistics, we're talking about interchangeable events.

Comments: 4

Intellectual Property Strategy: a book, a panel, and a movement

The speakers, who included household names of the free culture movement such as Lawrence Lessig and Eric von Hippel, emphasized the culture shift that is breaking the seemingly iron grip of current policies that favor wealthy companies with portfolios of patents and copyrights. But I think even these speakers failed to convey how huge a sea change in underway.

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Innovation Lessons in "Start-Up Nation"

Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle
investigates the social, historical, and psychological traits that
produce extraordinarily creative people–and significantly, creative
people who can translate their cranial light-bulbs into technologies
with the potential to change the world.

Comments: 15