I see nature as a system of examples from which we were meant to learn from, and I see the ultimate demonstration of our knowledge of nature to be in finally being able to duplicate the processes of nature with our own technology.
With this line of thought one can see how something like Artificial biology is something that we should be hopefully anticipating. Although there will always be ethical issues to contend with, we should definitely be moving to a point where we are able to engineer living cells that do many things we would want them to do.
With reasonable regulation, this paradigm of engineering will bring us most of the goods we have been lacking for some time.
The engineering of single cell organisms that manufacture molecules both found naturally in increased amounts or molecules that cannot be found anywhere in nature but could benefit from being produced by the mechanisms of the cell.
The major topic of excitement for me in Artificial biology is the engineering of plants that never existed in nature, for both food, aesthetics and to help with the problem of pollution.
If I were to enter this field, this would be my main area of specialization. Also the engineering of algae like plants to manufacture specialized nutrients is also another field I am particularly excited about.
Personally I am not really a fan of GMOs not because they are not good as a technology but because the main motivation behind them is to finally enable companies to patent food crops, if we look at things in the long term, this doesn’t real spell good for food security for future generations. Although proponents of GMOs will argue endlessly about its importance to the problem of feeding an increasing global population, I don’t really think need we GMOs to do that. The main problem in the world is not a shortage of food production, but lack of even distribution of produce. I read many stories of farmers allowing food to rot on the fields because harvesting them would drop the price to below appreciable levels and countries actually throwing food into the sea to control prices.
So the main cause of food shortages in many parts of the world is not because the world is not producing enough food but because the world is not evenly distributing this food to where it is needed the most. If you watch the Food Network channel you will see that we are already producing enough food.
My main interest in Artificial Biology for the production of food is that it will produce new varieties with higher nutritional quality that what is found in nature, and also for the fun of it.
Rather than trying to directly hijack nature’s mechanism and patent it at ours I believe we should study those mechanisms and duplicate them, creating our own custom cells or plants, then we can patent those.
So if we have not found ways to fully understand cellular mechanisms so we can completely and accurately duplicate it I think we should go back to the laboratories and leave the natural world of food alone.
Better plant breeding, through more advanced forms of hybridization, indoor farming and using natural predators for pest control will guarantee that our yields stay reasonable.
With Artificial Biology we could balance our ecology, we will create new species to help clean up our industrial mess, and add lots of beauty to the natural world.