If you ask a chatbot how to cause a pandemic, it will suggest the 1918 influenza virus, according to researcher Kevin Esvelt. It will even tell you where to find the gene sequences online and where to purchase the genetic components.

Esvelt is a biologist and MIT professor whose work has included altering the genes of mice to prevent the spread of Lyme disease. In a recent First Opinion essay, he wrote about how easy and inexpensive it has become to order genetic components that could be used to create harmful pathogens or toxins and how the biotech industry and government agencies must strengthen safety precautions to prevent this.

Esvelt sat down with host Pat Skerrett to chat about the amazing things genetic technology can accomplish when used correctly, as well as the dangers of such technology in the hands of someone with bad intentions.


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