Read a summary of the discussion below.
Biologists right now are reverse engineering biological systems, trying to figure out how they work. Synthetic biologists want to forward engineer biological systems, so they work as expected. The way to do that is to understand the components and build abstraction layers so you don’t have to understand the things you’re using – I don’t know how a resister is made, but I do know the functionally important inputs and outputs. They’re trying to do that with genetic components. The synthesis of DNA is affordable enough that you can print an entire genome in one go, which gives you the ability to reengineer any part of it. It’s a code, so we should think about it in terms of hacking the code. We’re not going to see biotech startups create diesel-producing microbes tomorrow. But there’s a robust community of people interested in amateur and DIY biology, and reverse engineering all the expensive equipment to make it cheap.