This Synthetic Bacteria Thing-a-ma-jiggy

This is an interview conducted in my living room in Hayes Valley for a webzine and a podcast I produced back in 2007. (Here are MP3s of the whole interview: Part 1, Part 2)

In it, Dr. Alan Goldstein, a professor of bio-materials at Alfred University, proposes that the creation of synthetic biological life would in fact be our First Contact with alien life.

He also explains that such an endeavor represents the height of hubris if we assume that we can predict what will happen after that point, and whether it will work out well or not for our species.

I wonder how he thinks the newly-announced self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell fits in the context of his A-Prize, a contest meant to emphasize safeguarding humanity against over-ambitious researchers in this field.

Most of the commentary in the media is already being filled with the same old paranoia about “playing god,” and it falls as flat as ever. That’s because we rarely dig down to the existential issue at the core of the fear – our own mortality.