Interview with Max Brooks, AOMD Podcast Episode 015 – Natasha Bajema

Interview with Max Brooks, AOMD Podcast Episode 015

Welcome to the episode number 15 of the Authors of Mass Destruction podcast. My name is Natasha Bajema, aka WMDgirl on Twitter. I’m a fiction author, national security expert and your host for this podcast.

  • If you’re interested in science &technology, in reading good fiction, or want to write fiction based on technology, you’re in the right place.
  • Before we get started, a few notes:
    • The views expressed on this podcast are my own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
    • The AOMD podcast is proud to be part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Check us out at
  • My headline for this week is “Scientists Created Bacteria With a Synthetic Genome. Is This Artificial Life?” published in the New York Times on May 15.
    • If you’ve been paying attention to developments in synthetic biology over the past decade, then you know that the costs of sequencing and synthesis of DNA have fallen dramatically over the past decade.
    • What do I mean by sequencing? It is the reading of a DNA sequence, often the entire genome of a living organism. As part of this process, DNA information is converted into digital information that can be used, manipulated and stored on computers.
    • Synthesis is the opposite process. It is the writing of a DNA sequence from the digital information stored on computers. Today, it is possible to produce synthetic DNA in the laboratory.
    • Both of these things have been possible for many years.
    • The NYT article reports the first time scientists have created an entirely synthetic organism—a new life form.
      • They rewrote the DNA of the E-coli bacteria and managed to keep the new bacteria alive.
      • They are unusually shaped and reproduce more slowly.
      • The hope is that new organism may someday lead to new medicines or consumer products that improve human life.
  • Let’s get to the interview. I was actually giving a talk about this topic when I met my next guest. Max Brooks is a non-resident fellow at West Point’s Modern Warfare Institute and the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. He is also the author of the New York Times Bestselling World War Z.

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