Is DIY-BIO the Personal Computing of the 21st Century?

Bento Lab Starter KitLast last year I ran across the following article in IEEE Spectrum: Tools for Would-Be Biohackers.  Since I have a daughter with interests in Biology, I considered getting her one of these “mini-labs” as a Christmas gift.  The high cost had me wondering if this was an outrageous idea.  It works out that adjusting for inflation, these mini-labs aren’t any more expensive than 8-bit home computers of my youth.  My wife asked what seemed like a totally reasonable question, “What are they even good for?”  It’s a good question, and it was probably the same question my parents asked about those early personal computers.  It got me thinking about whether this kind of Do-It-Yourself home biology (actually genetics) is going to become the same kind of technological revolution that the personal computer became?

I don’t have a ready answer.  I do know that I’m not willing to dismiss the idea out-of-hand, and I want to learn more.  While I think the kits above are really cool from a technological perspective, I’m planning on doing some small scale (i.e. cheaper) things first.  It will be interesting to see if I can find an answer to my wife’s original question, and if there is a whole new world of innovation to come.

Here are links to the various mini-labs: