TED Conversations

Philipp Böing

Founder: Darwin Toolbox, SynBioSoc / UCL iGEM organizer, University College London


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What genetically engineered machines (modified bacteria) should we build?

Dear everyone,

I'm part of a student team participating in the "international genetically engineered machine competition" ( http://www.igem.org ). During this year we will build modified bacteria, with the aim of doing something useful. Everything we build and all results will be open-source.

Our aim this year is not just to do science in our laboratory, but instead with an acute awareness of society, including continuous feedback on the ethical, legal and social issues (and if we can manage, public participation in the scientific process itself).

At the moment we are at square one: Idea Generation. During the next week, our team will brainstorm ideas and develop project candidates. But we also want to tap into highly engaged communities such as TED conversations, to collect interesting ideas for a "genetically engineered machine".

So here's my question: "Which genetically engineered machine (modified bacteria) should we build?" (what are the biggest problems that could be tackled / What are the most ingenious uses of modified bacteria )


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    Feb 26 2013: Biomimicry is one of my pet fascinations!

    How about bioluminescence for one? Maybe Luciferin (found in fireflies) could be modified to emit light for longer periods without deterioration, at a bigger scale and with a wider colour spectrum for lighting areas off-grid.

    Just imagine a building constructed to mimic the natural air conditioning found in termite mounds using an array of tunnels and vents, lit by bioluminescent lighting, powered by sugar/ethanol fuel from modified/accelerated photosynthesis, and whose waste is digested in reed beds, or composted (not as yucky as you might think!).

    Here's a talk by Janine Benyus:


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