A bestiary is a book of beasts. During the middle ages these books became quite popular, introducing people to weird and wild creatures – some real, others mythical. In these books it was also common for each creature to be accompanied by a moral lesson. Each creature was seen as God’s creation and each had its own special meaning.
In the modern era we are creating new organisms which have never existed before. These creatures range from strange and wondrous to practical and mundane. A ‘Synthetic Bestiary’ thus refers to a book of synthetic (man-made) beasts. In a way this entire website is a synthetic bestiary, but could we take the metaphor further? One of the long-term projects for this site is to compile an actual synthetic bestiary – an attempt to describe, in depth, each of the many varied new synthetic organisms which now live on our planet. Instead of moral lessons each entry will have moral questions – what are the implications of these creatures?
In addition to being interesting, such a resource could also serve a number of practical purposes. The ‘Encylopedia of Life‘ project seeks to create a single resource with information on every living thing on earth. Their aim is ambitious and probably impossible to do completely – but with synthetic life, if we act early we might actually be able to create a much more comprehensive resource. Such a resource could be used by enthusiasts and engineers alike to see what has been done and what can be done. In a way it combines the functionality of the Biobricks Parts Registry with the lab networking of OpenWetWare and adds its own unique spin on things, making the content more beginner friendly. Ideally it would be a resource which inspires, connects, informs and, catalogues in equal measure.
Currently the Synthetic Bestiary is just an idea, but hopefully I can get started on it soon. If you are interested in helping with this project or have any ideas about it, please contact me.