21 thoughts on “Synthetic biology, ethics and the hacker culture”

  1. I’m interested in the ethics of ‘biohacking’ If you are doing anything bigger then bactiria, it could be a potential ethical problem. However, that’s the kind of tricky stuff that would be interesting to do. I really liked this artical, it gave a lot of great links, and some good info.

  2. Thanks Daisy Hacker. The science and technology might still be beyond the reach of aspiring “biohackers,” but the possibilities here are intriguing – and raise a lot of questions.

  3. Very good article, indeed raising many questions.
    I believe that science and technology could well be in the reach of aspiring “biohackers”, as you call them, and if not, there’s enough info out there and plenty of individuals that will somehow “innovate” and experiment with what is available to them.
    I don’t know if we’ll see a “war” between “biohackers” with no ethics and the “bio-police” (or something equivalent) similar to the “war” between hackers (see virus, worms etc developers) and the “net-police”, but I think we should accept the possibility that it might happen.
    Again, very good read!

    1. Thanks Timos. It’s interesting that, since writing this, the “biohacker” movement has continued to grow rather rapidly. Think we could be in for some interesting times.

      1. I agree with you Timos, but if “biohacking” does infact grow and become something there will be war on it. It would start “biohacking wars” for there will be dispute and conflic within the “biohacking” community, like there is with digital hacking.

  4. In reference to Daisy’s comment, even tinkering with bacteria may raise ethical concerns associated with a wide range of dangers. Even the tools associated with biohacking could be potentially harmful if allowed to intermingle with wild genetic pools. Antibiotic resistance is a great example where releasing strains of non-harmful bacteria (whether by accident, or on purpose) with resistance to important antibiotics can lead to resistance in pathogenic species through horizontal gene transfer.

    I think there should be some serious caution in all aspects of biology when mixing genes. I’m not against it at all, but the level of stringency by which the academic (and even industrial) standards are formed may not apply in a garage lab. As a lab assistant, I spend probably about 20% of my time autoclaving, sterilizing, disinfecting, and otherwise, simply to reduce the possibility of releasing recombinant organisms.

    This doesn’t just apply to rats or plants or people; all it takes is one slip of a biohacker and one might change the biological landscape irreversibly.

  5. This is a very interesting and important issue. I will delve into it further and provide comments in the future. I need to think about this very carefully before commenting further.


    Dan Pope

  6. I am very interested in the singularity issue. The discussions between parties is very interesting and somewhat disturbing (in that actually reaching the singularity creates many moral, ethical and practical issues). Meanwhile it was nice to see that Matt Kuchar won the golf tournament today.

    dan Pope

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