Code is the New Language of Creation

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This story originally appeared on the Daily Dot.

“What if, in the future, instead of growing a tree, cutting it down, and then using mechanical engineering to sort of reshape it into a house, we just design a tree to grow into a house or design moss or mushrooms or something else could provide our furniture for us?” -Reshma Shetty, Co-founder Ginkgo Bioworks

That question is no longer a hypothetical. The most stunning and consequential development of our time is this: We have built tools of creation that increasingly have the power to literally code any kind of world we can imagine. Synthetic biology allows us to program organisms to grow objects. Genomics is starting to allow us to program our bodies. AI allows us to build new forms of intelligence.

In the famous quote oft attributed to Marshall McLuhan: “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” Not only are our emerging tools unparalleled in their powers of creation, but also their potential is magnified when coupled with the new production and collaboration platform we have in the Internet, enabling hundreds of millions of creative inventors to flourish.

It is now possible for a teenager in her basement to create a new species from genetic code (glowing bacteria, anyone?) using freely available tools on the Internet. A new startup, Arcturus, for example, lets people anywhere engineer microorganisms with a few clicks on their laptop. And the new gene editing tool CRISPR, with its ability to cut and splice genes, is enabling medical work previously impossible, including work towards treating cancer, other diseases and even aging.

Historically, tools of creation have dramatically changed how we understand and interact with the world around us. Take, for —> Read More

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