DIYBio, “an organization that aims to help make biology a worthwhile pursuit for citizen scientists, amateur biologists, and DIY biological engineers” has a lot of wonderful, decentralized ideas for making biology work better. One project is the SmartLab, a benchtop that can
1. identify tools (microscopes, pipettes, gel electrophoresis boxes, etc.) by barcodes or RFID tags, and display contextual information for them; how much you’ve pipetted, what you just put in the tube, and so on.
2. guide you through a protocol.
3. keep a virtual lab notebook of everything you do. Video, audio, measurements. Your electrophoresis box is “smart” and records data in realtime.
It’s a radical idea: human error isn’t inevitable. “Forgetting” a step in your protocol isn’t inevitable. You can work around your own fallibility.
Incidentally, this reminds me of something from my high school days as a Kid Intern in a genetics lab. The lowliest job was racking pipette tips by hand, and it was a running joke that someday someone would invent a machine that could rack tips automatically and make a fortune. Well, I found it. It was invented by a couple of guys in a kibbutz, the year I graduated.