Norman Packard

Pop!Tech 2005: It's Alive!

Synthetic Biology
22 minutes, 10.5mb, recorded 2005-10-20
Norman Packard
What makes something alive and where is the boundary between a machine and a life form? Can a system such as the internet be considered alive, since it is self-maintaining, self-reproducing and evolving? Can a cell that was created from whole cloth in the lab still be considered life?

These questions are aroused in this talk by Norman Packard of ProtoLife, who is creating "synthetic biology" - artificial living cells made of non-living material. ProtoLife is exploring the possibilities to create "designer" life, for example, cells that are programmed to create hydrogen. The goal is make tiny living machines that can be used for medical and other applications.

This talk was from the It's Alive! session at Pop!Tech. The other speaker in this session was Theo Jansen. The question and answer period can be heard at the end of Theo Jansen's talk.

Norman Packard has worked in the areas of chaos, learning algorithms, predictive modeling of complex time series, statistical analysis of evolution, artificial life, and complex adaptive systems. Norman holds a B.A. from Reed College (1976) and Ph.D. in Physics from University of California at Santa Cruz (1983). After post-docs at IHES (Bures-sur-Yvette) and IAS (Princeton), he joined the physics department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1987, where he became an associate professor before leaving to become a co-founder of Prediction Company in 1991.

Norman is currently working in a new scientific and business direction based on development of evolutionary chemistry in programmable microfluidic technology, and is co-founder of a newcompany, ProtoLife, which aims to develop these ideas in the private sector.


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