Higher Animals

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In Higher Animals: Vaccines, Synthetic Biology, and the Future of Life, New Yorker science writer Michael Specter explores how MRNA vaccines have transformed the scientific landscape and helped spark a biotechnology revolution.

Biology is information, and increasingly, that means digital information. We need to think of biology the way we think about computer code, only instead of bits and bytes, we use the genetic letters: ACGT. The widely-used mRNA COVID vaccines offer the most immediate example of this groundbreaking moment in medical and scientific history. 

In many ways, the urgency of the pandemic has made the vast potential of mRNA technology obvious. The recent successes of synthetic biology—a field in which scientists seek to combine elements of engineering, chemistry, computer science, and molecular biology—could create highly personalized cancer treatments, energy sources that we can grow rather than dig out of the ground, and ways to save species that are vanishing at an alarming rate.

As is often the case with new technologies, many people remain reluctant to accept these advances. And the stakes could not be higher. We are in the early years of a new evolutionary paradigm. What we do now will decide how we usher in a remarkable—and potentially dangerous—new era.

Run Time: 4 hours
Category: Science/Biotechnology

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