As I’m sure many of you know, Craig Venter and his teamed have succeeded in designing the first example of synthetic life. At this stage, all they did was copy the DNA sequence from one species of bacteria, take this synthetic chromosome, and get a donor cell from another species to accept it. Once the synthetic chromosome was inside the donor cell, it took charge and instantly converted one species into another. Now scientists have a system set up that awaits new software programs.
Yet Venter himself views this scientific advance as having a philosophical implication:
Venter also points to what the cells–powered by genomes made in a lab from four bottles of chemicals, based on instructions stored on a computer–reveal about what life is. “This is as much a philosophical as a technological advance,” he says. “The notion that this is possible means bacterial cells are software-driven biological machines. If you change the software, you build a new machine. I’m still amazed by it.”