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Biology Is Technology

Biology Is Technology

The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life

Robert H. Carlson

ISBN 9780674053625

Publication date: 06/15/2010

Technology is a process and a body of knowledge as much as a collection of artifacts. Biology is no different—and we are just beginning to comprehend the challenges inherent in the next stage of biology as a human technology. It is this critical moment, with its wide-ranging implications, that Robert Carlson considers in Biology Is Technology. He offers a uniquely informed perspective on the endeavors that contribute to current progress in this area—the science of biological systems and the technology used to manipulate them.

In a number of case studies, Carlson demonstrates that the development of new mathematical, computational, and laboratory tools will facilitate the engineering of biological artifacts—up to and including organisms and ecosystems. Exploring how this will happen, with reference to past technological advances, he explains how objects are constructed virtually, tested using sophisticated mathematical models, and finally constructed in the real world.

Such rapid increases in the power, availability, and application of biotechnology raise obvious questions about who gets to use it, and to what end. Carlson’s thoughtful analysis offers rare insight into our choices about how to develop biological technologies and how these choices will determine the pace and effectiveness of innovation as a public good.


  • Biology Is Technology is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the current state of biotechnology and the opportunities and dangers it may create.

    —Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, American Scientist


  • 2010, Winner of the PROSE Awards


  • Robert H. Carlson is a Principal at Biodesic LLC.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press