Listening to NPR a couple of days ago, I heard journalist Marcus Wohlsen being interviewed about his recent book, Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life. Here is the part of the interview that caught my attention:
RAZ: And of course, the question that is probably on everyone’s mind right now is: If these biohackers can do some of these amazing things, I mean, couldn’t they accidentally or maybe intentionally do something bad, you know, like unleash smallpox?
Mr. WOHLSEN: It’s a tricky question. You know, in theory, the danger is there. Science has the ability to create a polio virus from scratch or to create a smallpox virus from scratch. But, you know, in reality, these are still things that are challenging for professional scientists. This isn’t what the biohackers are doing right now or capable of doing right now or desiring to do.
So you could worry about that. You could worry that somebody would make a big mistake and create a sort of microbial version of Frankenstein’s monster or, you know, a terrorist might start playing with this stuff and create something nefarious.
But, you know, really, if you’re going to start questioning whether it’s safe for people to be doing this at home, you really have to start questioning, you know, the whole field of biotechnology and genetic engineering and where it’s moving.
Well, yes you would, wouldn’t you?