A new science is reengineering the fabric of life. Synthetic biology offers bold new ways of manufacturing medicines, clothing, foods, fragrances, and fuels, often using microbe fermentation, much like brewing beer. The technology can help confront climate change, break down industrial pollutants, and fight novel viruses. Today, researchers are manipulating life forms and automating evolution to create vegetarian "meat," renewable construction materials, and cancer treatments. In the process, they are changing our concept of what life science can achieve. Is this a new industrial and information revolution-or dangerous tinkering that could unleash unintended consequences?
Programmable Planet is a grand tour through the world of synthetic biology, telling the stories of the colorful visionaries whose ideas are shaping discoveries. Ted Anton explores the field from its beginning in fighting malaria in Africa to the COVID vaccines and beyond. Covering medical and agricultural triumphs and blunders, he examines successes in energy production, plant gene editing, and chemical manufacturing, as well as the most controversial attempts at human gene enhancement. This book reports from the front lines of research, showing policy makers' struggle to stay abreast of the technologies they aim to regulate. Even-handed, lively, and informative, Programmable Planet gives a glimpse of the promise and problems of a new biology-based industry.