Here's a video interview with Dr. J. Craig Venter where he talks about creating the first synthetic cell, from scratch.
I admire hackers and pioneers. This guy is at the extreme ends of both of those terms; he is literally hacking life by inserting code into man-made cells to create new species and change existing one. Pioneers are those that do things first, and if you're the first person to do something amazing, that makes you the ultimate pioneer.
It is our final triumph. This is the first synthetic cell. It's the first time we have started with information in a computer, used four bottles of chemicals to write up a million letters of DNA software, and actually got it to boot up in a living organism. Though this is a baby step, it enables a change in philosophy, a change in thinking, a change in the tools we have.
Its cool how he talks about all this as if he was writing a computer program; he talks about the operating system, writing code, and booting up and changing the instructions to do what they want. I guess after all is said and done, our DNA is just "code" and code is meant to be hacked.
There are many issues that we'll see come up to discussion in the upcoming year related to this, especially as it relates to ethics, patents and philosophy.
This is important, this development and whatever stems from this work will (for better or for worse) change the course of humanity forever. We will see many problems solved with this technology. Imagine the possibilities; Cure for incurable diseases; organisms that break down oil spills; species that restore damaged tissue and other organisms like plants; the possibilities are endless. I just hope that I get to see some of these in my lifetime.