As you may know, Monitor 360 is putting together a report on the
DIYbio and biohacker community. Travis and Nils from Monitor 360 are
interviewing with many of us.
Please post your comments and feedback if you chat with Monitor!
Overall, I enjoyed the interview and am excited about the project. I
hope we get access to the final report - a compilation of these
interviews through someone else's eyes would be valuable to our
I phone-interviewed with Travis, who is in Cambridge, MA. On the topic
of safety, my opinion is that our current projects (i.e. BioWeather
Maps and Gel Box 2.0) exist because we do not YET feel comfortable
doing wet-lab work due to cost, information, and safety concerns.
Meredith and Kay are obviously exceptions to this. As well, I believe
most DIYbio experiments require high school level knowledge - i.e.
transforming bacteria. But rather than transforming dummy genes like a
high school lab, we will be adding in complex, useful, DNA. Travis
also asked about the best way to find out how many DIYbiologists
exist. I said to check out this mailing list and lab equipment
There's talk of Monitor hosting a workshop in San Francisco in early March.
I agree, and encourage others to share their thoughts on the
interviews. I wasn't sure what the interview was mainly going to be
about, since the topic was mainly "biohacking", and then turned into a
discussion on security issues. Anyway, overall, there are different
constraints to security when it comes to biology than is normally
expected or thought of- biology has its own way about it, and just
wishing it all away doesn't fix bad things from happening.
It's kind of hard to frame this in the correct manner because the
interviews start off from the negative perspective of (ultimately
thermodynamically impossible) security; there's a lot of alternative
positives that can be offered, however. I'm thinking in the areas of
collaborative engineering and so on. I mentioned that we're all quite
willing to help out on these topics, though ultimately we're "doing it
ourself" - mostly because previous institutions simply don't work out
- so our ideas might end up being implemented on our own anyway ..
though help is always welcome. :-)
In general I think we need more of this perspective. Everything is
"the same" but "different", and the way that nature works on its own
can be shown to be 'insecure', but what's really at stake, has nature
ever been at 'risk'? In terms of the activity of natural systems
throughout the biosphere, like the birds that we watch in the sky,
"risks" are not encoded into biology, because there is no "directed
progression of evolution" that looks down upon those (perceived)
risks- except people, who might see a bird fall and we
anthrophomorphize, a natural reaction, and assign risks to a framework
we didn't make in the first place. So maybe 'security' was never the
right model to begin with, and indeed maybe a participatory,
proactionary model is the only way to stay healthy - a proactionary
"People's freedom to innovate technologically is highly valuable, even
critical, to humanity. This implies several imperatives when
restrictive measures are proposed: Assess risks and opportunities
according to available science, not popular perception. Account for
both the costs of the restrictions themselves, and those of
opportunities foregone. Favor measures that are proportionate to the
probability and magnitude of impacts, and that have a high expectation
value. Protect people's freedom to experiment, innovate, and
But I would go even further than Max More there: what if "the
proactionary principle" isn't just used as a risk assessment tool, but
rather (or in addition) as a code of ethics? Without proactionary
involvement, keeping active etc., you're no longer watching for birds,
keeping the gardens running, or even doing much of anything, and how
healthy could that really be?
Just describing precautions is fearmongering, and you can't scare your
immune system into becoming healthy. Maybe call it a "participatory
principle" rather than proactionary?
But participation doesn't happen between amateur-to-government,
historically, and in fact that might not even be legal,
constitutionally or from a charter perspective. So I've been trying to
emphasize participatory involvement to those bringing up security
issues, but slow moving organizations aren't really up to the times
with fast acting individuals-- even if those fast-actors are
Anyway, just some thoughts.
(ideally I wouldn't have to talk about these issues, and just get on
with my work)
- Constructive Biology (genetic engineering, synthetic biology)
- Exploratory Biology, aka Molecular & Macroscopic Naturalism
- Personal Genomics & Medicine
- Computational Biology
- DIY Hardware
- Safety, Ethics, Best Practices
On the open manufacturing list, Paul did a good summary of the topics
that were showing up on the list-
Anyway, I feel Bryan is right in wanting to separate out some issues. Here
are six broad areas of exploration I see right now that have been discussed
on this list:
* The world how it was historically (like what has been tried and thought
about, all the "-ologies" and "-isms", and also how they would relate to
open manufacturing and related ideals, as in, how does open manufacturing
affirm or invalidate the principles of, say, "the iron law of wages" or
"hunter/gatherer ideals" or the almost half-century old "Triple Revolution"
* The world as it is right now, and how it might be patched up (with open
manufacturing or the open enterprise or other alternatives like a new
currency to redirect the flow of manufacturing, for example, can Iceland be
saved with open manufacturing under the current dominant economic system? Or
could an Icelandic electric-Krona help it right now?)
* The world in transition to a post-scarcity future (and how open
manufacturing relates to that, as well as other proposals like, how can a
slowly expanding open source movement bring abundance to more and more
people? Or, can a different sort of currency bring about a better future
with manufacturing happening in a more open and sustainable way, like an
electric-based dollar, or a basic income guarantee, and so on). There is
some overlap here with the previous topic of patching up the world -- I'm
not combining them though because there may be people who do believe in open
manufacturing but don't believe in the possibility or desirability of a
post-scarcity future moving beyond conventional economics.
* The world as a fully post-scarcity society in the future and how it would
work (once we got there, like, how what are the implications of every home
having a 3D printer or similar system at the neighborhood level, such as
what it means to be able to print toys, or print agricultural robots to grow
our food, or print solar panels to collect power, or print diamandoid
materials to build our spacecraft, or print machines to make more 3D printer
toner from air, water, rock, and print shredders that can recycle no longer
needed printed objects back into 3D printer toner). A lot of this entails
speculation, and relates to a lot of sci-fi, from authors like Vinge, Banks,
Hogan, Brain, and so on.
* The world approaching "The Singularity" or a series of singularity-like
transitions, and a how open manufacturing values and approaches may interact
with a singularity. Again, there is overlap here with the post-scarcity
world idea, but there are people who may believe in one but not the other,
and some who believe in both, and some who believe in neither.
* Interwoven with all those societal discussions are the specific technical
artifacts we might be talking about and the process of actually designing
them in detail. But this interconnection would be more obvious if we had
some critical mass of manufacturing designs and metadata encoded in common
open formats and usable for analysis and simulation to explore all these
areas (historic, current, transitional, post-scarcity, singularity).
If there is an argument for a "openmanufacturing-dev" list like Bryan made,
that might be a clearer boundary -- the focus on making such a system (or
systems, SKDB, OSCOMAK, fenn's Gingery-related work, open biotech, and so
on, maybe in partnership with others, or using existing platforms and
standards) so it may be used to inform general discussion here, like support
detailed simulations of alternative economics and sustainability. Though
even then, should discussions of simulations be on which list? Or building
simulations is discussed on that one, and running simulations is discussed
on this one? But one could possibly work that out down the road.
All of these are overlapping, yet distinct, areas of discussion. But
discussions can quickly go from one area to another. So, amplifying on
Bryan's theme, we can wonder how open manufacturing relates to each of these
areas, and also ask how this list itself or "open manufacturing" is
presented to the public in this context. Are we emphasizing one of these six
areas? Or all? I feel all six areas have been fair game, and that's why I
feel Bryan is right to focus on the more general statement for the list;
also, it is not clear what solutions will emerge from discussions, so I feel
it is premature for the group as a whole to endorse one approach (beyond the
virtue of open manufacturing using open source methods, which ties all these
So if anybody wants to not be lazy, copying that sort of style or
understanding isn't a bad idea. Obviously the topics have some
overlap, while they also have some areas where there is a lot of
difference, although it was originally my intention to forcefully
*not* make a definitive statement, as Jason points out - just
describing what it is that we do is kind of hard, since there's so
many of us doing so many neat things :-).
Trying to conflate DIYbio with birdwatching is (in my most humble of opinions) spin... which is something that I've got a bit of a problem with. It's not the same as deep-framing - where we acknowledge the safety issues, but frame the entire thing (for example) as a fledgling industry that needs protecting.
I think the name DIYbio was "vagueified" on purpose to include all of
biology. If this was a community of people only working on E. coli
genetics the group would instead be called
>> >> I agree. Bioinnovations or biolab or bioexperiments,micobiodiy or
>> >> diychembio
>> >> etc may suit.It is not hacking .Actually it is a wrong term.Nature is
>> >> nerver
>> >> hacked .only artificizlity is hacked.
>> >> pl discuss
> > Sounds a bit like hippies saying "everything that comes form plants is
> > natural man".
> > If you're not too squeamish, try googling 'mouse ear'. Looks pretty hacked
> > to me.
> The ear is made of mouse cells grown on small ear structure. No genetic hack.
Be sure to tell the mouse.
In the meantime, consider that this was in response to "Nature is nerver hacked" - we weren't talking about genetic hacks per-se, though from your choice of words I gather that we probably could.
> Maybe birds are too large. What about microbe watching?
I recall studying the biology of birds in my high school bio courses. I
don't see what size has to do with anything.
Personally, I consider myself student of Natural Philosophy. Be it virons,
or homeostatic planet systems, I'm interested. If someone were to develop
new tools to aid birdwatchers, I think that would be incredibly useful.
(The "development of new tools and methods" aspect of this "movement" is
what strikes me as key. Pulling science back out of locked labs, setting
it free from the ivory tower and the commercial research corporations, and
allowing and enabling the amateur to perform experiments, develop
protocols, and contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, is the
important component to what we're doing here, whether it's hacking yogurt
bacteria or monitoring bee populations or birdwatching or theorizing about
ecology, the important aspect is that all one needs to get involved is a
minimum level of intelligence, curiosity, access to literature, and a
willingness to adhere to scientific and experimental rigor.)
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Subject: Re: Monitor 360 Interviews