> The big question here is: how do cells cooperate to build complex, functional bodies? How do they know what to build and what signals do they exchange to enable them to build them? [...] Stem cell biology and genomic editing do not, on their own, address this issue. [...] It is still unknown what cells are capable of making besides their normal default body pattern, and these synthetic living machines are a convenient sandbox platform [...]. The long-term goal here is to figure out how living agents (cells) can be motivated to build specific things, and how to exploit their plasticity and competency to do things that are too hard to micromanage directly (like build an eye, hand, etc.).
Can "artificial life" really shed insights into what may turn out to be a huge contradiction from this assumption? It's certainly worth exhausting the negative case. But that would leave us right back to where we are today. With nary a clue as to how biogenesis came to be ;)
It was, otherwise, seriously confusing.