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Move Over, Jony Ive—Biologists Are the Next Rock Star Designers

Move Over Jony Ive Biologists Are the Next Rock Star Designers WIRED


Esvelt, of Harvard, thinks about that question often. Tools like Crispr are wildly powerful, but with power comes responsibility. “We have never before had the power to pretty much unilaterally alter the shared environment,” he says. Synthetic biology opens the door to more “specific and elegant” solutions to many man-made problems, Esvelt says, but he’s not blind to the fact that this raises urgent questions about how such manipulations might affect other organisms in an ecosystem. “Even if you’re reasonably sure that there aren’t going to be side effects, how on earth can we decide whether or not we should use it and when we should use it?” he asks.

That’s where thinking like a designer comes into play. Despite having trained as scientists, many synthetic biologists are slowly acknowledging that design thinking, in addition to technical understanding, is an essential skill. The evolutionary process is iterative, but it is mindless. The person who designs genetic architecture, on the other hand, does so with aesthetic, utilitarian, and social considerations in mind. 

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