"If you look at people who sequence DNA—the original DNA sequences, which is a wonderful piece of work of course—in Watson's own DNA sequence—it's a very platonic view of what life is all about. You take a human being, an exemple, an exemplar, J.D. Watson. You've got his DNA. That's the end of the story.??"But of course it isn't like that. If there wasn't difference, then we wouldn't have genetics. We wouldn't have evolution. We'd all be stuck in the primeval slime. Genetics has moved on to think about difference. Why are people, why are snails, so different from each other?"
"You are a leaf-cutting ant from South America. You will compete against the humans across the aisle in a foraging activity. You're task is to collect as much forage as possible. There's a reason ants are so successful. They're disciplined. They follow a series of rules. The first rule is no talking. Ants can't talk so you can't talk. The second rule is no gestures, facial or otherwise. And to make sure you can't use facial expressions we're going to put a paper bag on your head. The third rule is 'Ant walking'. ...
"Songs can survive hundreds of years of geographical and cultural separation."
"The essential idea is that you separate metabolism from replication. We know modern life has both metabolism and replication, but they're carried out by separate groups of molecules. Metabolism is carried out by proteins and all kinds of other molecules, and replication is carried out by DNA and RNA. That maybe is a clue to the fact that they started out separate rather than together. So my version of the origin of life is that it started with metabolism only."
"One question is, can we extrapolate back from this data set to describe the most recent common ancestor. I don't necessarily buy that there is a single ancestor. It’s counterintuitive to me. I think we may have thousands of recent common ancestors and they are not necessarily so common."
"Many of the people here worry about what life is, but maybe in a slightly more general way, not just ribosomes, but inorganic life. Would we know it if we saw it? It's important as we go and discover other worlds, as we start creating more complicated robots, and so forth, to know, where do we draw the line?"
"If you program a computer at random, it will start producing other computers, other ways of computing, other more complicated, composite ways of computing. And here is where life shows up. Because the universe is already computing from the very beginning when it starts, starting from the Big Bang, as soon as elementary particles show up. Then it starts exploring — I'm sorry to have to use anthropomorphic language about this, I'm not imputing any kind of actual intent to the universe as a whole, but I have to use it for this to describe it — it starts to explore other ways of computing."
"Is Earth the ideal planet for life? What is the future of life in our universe? We often imagine our place in the universe in the same way we experience our lives and the places we inhabit. We imagine a practically static eternal universe where we, and life in general, are born, grow up, and mature; we are merely one of numerous generations."
"I'm always running out of metaphors to try and explain what the difficulty is. But suppose you took Scrabble sets, or any word game sets, blocks with letters, containing every language on Earth, and you heap them together and you then took a scoop and you scooped into that heap, and you flung it out on the lawn there, and the letters fell into a line which contained the words “To be or not to be, that is the question,” that is roughly the odds of an RNA molecule, given no feedback — and there would be no feedback, because it wouldn't be functional until it attained a certain length and could copy itself — appearing on the Earth."
"...we're starting to look at the world in terms of gene space instead of genomes and species, and this gets us down to component analysis." -J. Craig Venter
"We just heard some very exciting applications which are in the early stage, moving on from the general project where we essentially collected the machine language of biology and we're now trying to disassemble and reverse engineer it. "- Ray Kurzweil
"What's happening now, though — and Craig mentioned some of this with synthetic biology — is we're starting to move from just analysis of systems into engineering systems. I want to say a few words about engineering in general, and then about what's happening in biological engineering and how it's going to change completely from what people are thinking about right now."-Rodney Brooks