Markus Schmidt @ paraflows7 (paraflows.at)
Biohacking and its societal ramifications
Synthetic biology is the attempt to apply engineering principles to biology. Moti-
vated by Richard Feynman’s last words „What I cannot build I do not under-
stand“, synthetic biologists want to go beyond description and analysis and
really construct living systems. Given the complexity of living systems, however,
this is no easy task. In order to reduce the complexity and make biology easier
to engineer, the development of a toolbox for the modular design of biological
systems is high on the agenda. If successful, “de-skilling” might finally unleash
the full potential of biotechnology and spark a wave of innovation, as more and
more people would have the necessary skills to engineer biology. A number of
“biohackers”, “Do-it-yourself-biologists” and “amateur biologist” have started to
take biotechnology out of the lab and into kitchens, garages and community
centres. The ramifications of this development involve economic (patents vs.
open access), socio-political (democratisation of biotech), environmental and sa-
fety issues, that will be discussed in this presentation.