A comparison between the early days of home computers and the current state of the art with genetics makes for some interesting thought experiments:
In the 1970s, before the PC era, there were computer hobbyists. A group of them formed the Homebrew Computer Club in a Menlo Park garage in 1975 to trade integrated circuits and swap tips on assembling rudimentary computers, like the Altair 8800, a rig with no inputs or outputs and half a megabyte of memory.
Among the Club’s members were Apple founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.
As the tools of biotechnology become accessible (and affordable) to a wider public for the first time, hobbyists are recapturing that collaborative ethos and applying it to tinkering with the building blocks of life.
Eugene Thacker is a professor of literature, culture and communications at Georgia Tech and a member of the Biotech Hobbyist collective. Just as the computer hobbyists sought unconventional applications for computer circuitry, the new collective is looking for “non-prescribed uses” of biotechnology, Thacker said.
Computer hobbyists brought us the spreadsheet, BBS’s (forerunners of web forums), personal word processors, and incredibly cheap porn. On the downside they also brought us computer viruses, Internet worms, and gave voice to barking moonbats. Now imagine what might come of genetic hobbyists. A cure for baldness, a pill that really does increase the size of your penis, food plants that don’t need fertilizer or pesticides, and killer viruses that only affect people with hazel eyes.
I wonder if there will be anti-virus services like McAfee and Norton that you will have to subscribe to prevent getting wasted by the latest “script kiddie” that sets something free that turns your skin green or causes your fingernails to fall off.