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Roger

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Feb 5, 2009, 11:55:37 AM2/5/09
to DIYbio
Dear DIY bio people,

Do you think people might be receptive to some measure of absolute
prohibition, along the
lines of "Thou shalt not design, nor build, nor isolate, nor modify,
nor grow, nor release any
self replicating organism, with the intent of causing harm?"

Related

Are their circumstances under which people might agree voluntarily
to a moratorium on projects involving animal viruses, particularly
human ones,
and projects aimed at altering the host range of bacterial pathogens,
or that attempt
to enable bacterial colonization of mammalian organisms, or that
enable invasion
of mammalian cells?

The idea is behind the second question is that the realistic prospect
of such
projects being of interest to and accessible to this community may be
some time
off, and in the interim a community might be able to think through
how or if it wanted to regulate these, whether it should submit such
experiments for review, if so what kinds of review structures if any
might be
appropriate.

Overall thrust. Since so many of us are firmly committed to the idea
that
democratization and dissemination of empowering technologies is
usually A Good
Thing: how, in this particular sphere, with the particular properties
of bio, including
of course that all humans share a similar genome, and an overlapping
set of
microbiological commons, can one try to ensure that this particular
democratization
and dissemination remains a good thing?

Roger

Bryan Bishop

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Feb 5, 2009, 12:16:04 PM2/5/09
to diy...@googlegroups.com, kan...@gmail.com
On Thu, Feb 5, 2009 at 10:55 AM, Roger Brent wrote:
> Dear DIY bio people,

Roger, would you please reply to the efforts that people put into
replying to your last email before you continue? Otherwise I doubt
people are going to be interested in continuing to reply to you. I'm
kind of hesitant, since it seems my efforts are going nowhere with
you. But I'm willing to give the benefit of a doubt for the moment.

> Do you think people might be receptive to some measure of absolute
> prohibition, along the

What is "absolute prohibition"?

> lines of "Thou shalt not design, nor build, nor isolate, nor modify,
> nor grow, nor release any

I think that happened in my gut this morning. Am I going to prison?

> self replicating organism, with the intent of causing harm?"

Wouldn't it be more useful if people who are actively trying to cause
harm to publicly admit it?

> Are their circumstances under which people might agree voluntarily
> to a moratorium on projects involving animal viruses, particularly

Voluntary to a moratorium ("suspension of activity")? But this is a
basic misunderstanding of both human and non-human biology. The mold
growing on your cheese in the refridgerator does *not* read UN
international backjournals.

> human ones,

Disregarding whether or not people have agreed to a moratorium, how
would you identify whether or not a moratorium is actually implemented
and isn't just some lie you tell yourself to feel better?

> The idea is behind the second question is that the realistic prospect
> of such
> projects being of interest to and accessible to this community may be
> some time
> off, and in the interim a community might be able to think through
> how or if it wanted to regulate these, whether it should submit such
> experiments for review, if so what kinds of review structures if any
> might be
> appropriate.

I would appreciate any recommendations for the formal semantic
structure of submissions of reviews, if you have any. For instance,
I've been thinking of some tools that would take SBML files and other
experiment description formats and generate information and analyses
of materials involved (like for the clinical/molecular biology
protocols), spit out relevant Material Safety Datasheets, etc., so
maybe we can collaborate on this front?

> microbiological commons, can one try to ensure that this particular
> democratization
> and dissemination remains a good thing?

That's too vague though. You can't do that.

(1) "Good" according to each of our utility functions and valuing functions?

(2) "Good" according to some vague, amorphous grouping of people?

(3) "Good" according to some non-existent community standard?

etc.

I don't think you're making any sense. :-(

- Bryan
http://heybryan.org/
1 512 203 0507

Roger

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Feb 5, 2009, 1:48:16 PM2/5/09
to DIYbio
Brian, you raised questions of how to behave in online
forums and of course a great many intellectual issues.
It could be that I won't be able to participate in open discussions
as much as the thoughtfulness of the community would
merit. Can try, though. For now am grateful for your
thoughts on governance in general. In specific, would
agree that the "semantics" of certain kinds of iffy experimentation
is somewhat limited (see the 7 classes of "experiments of
concern" in the Fink Report) and thus in principle
something that one could approach via a formalized
syntax. It's precisely this kind of thinking that is unlikely
to come from inside the current biomedical establishment
and that can do good for the world. Roger
> - Bryanhttp://heybryan.org/
> 1 512 203 0507

Kay Aull

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Feb 5, 2009, 2:43:37 PM2/5/09
to DIYbio
The people who would agree to "not cause harm" - they aren't the ones
you need to worry about. Pretty words won't stop a criminal. Also,
I'm no lawyer, but I suspect that homebrew bio-weapons are already
illegal.

That said, I think there might be a place for community norms here.
We might reasonably agree that some experiments are off limits; we
can't stop you, but we can refuse to offer technical support and other
resources. Nobody's going to help with an "experiment of concern"
here - my personal line is farther back, around "no pathogens,
period". You can learn a great deal from safe, tractable model
systems, and we should encourage their use.

Bryan Bishop

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Feb 5, 2009, 6:18:43 PM2/5/09
to diy...@googlegroups.com, kan...@gmail.com
On Thu, Feb 5, 2009 at 12:48 PM, Roger Brent wrote:
> thoughts on governance in general. In specific, would
> agree that the "semantics" of certain kinds of iffy experimentation
> is somewhat limited (see the 7 classes of "experiments of
> concern" in the Fink Report) and thus in principle
> something that one could approach via a formalized
> syntax. It's precisely this kind of thinking that is unlikely
> to come from inside the current biomedical establishment
> and that can do good for the world. Roger

I previously did a quick writeup on XML for clinical protocols:
http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/msg/1fc4fbbfd4a6fb23

This sort of system could be extended to the representation of amateur
experimentation, such as the specifying materials, protocols, tools
and items of interest, and then a safety analysis tool for lab
protocols would be kind of neat to have. I can see how it might be
architectured.

- Bryan

Douglas Ridgway

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Feb 5, 2009, 6:42:51 PM2/5/09
to diy...@googlegroups.com
Hi Roger,

On Thu, Feb 5, 2009 at 9:55 AM, Roger <brent...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Do you think people might be receptive to some measure of absolute
> prohibition, along the
> lines of "Thou shalt not design, nor build, nor isolate, nor modify,
> nor grow, nor release any
> self replicating organism, with the intent of causing harm?"

Yes, I think you'd find a consensus behind this statement. In fact,
and feel free to correct or augment my understanding, but I believe
this is essentially already in place in the US, under the Bioterrorism
Act of 2002.

>
> Related
>
> Are their circumstances under which people might agree voluntarily
> to a moratorium on projects involving animal viruses, particularly
> human ones,
> and projects aimed at altering the host range of bacterial pathogens,
> or that attempt
> to enable bacterial colonization of mammalian organisms, or that
> enable invasion
> of mammalian cells?

Speaking for myself, absolutely. To do such a project in a safe and
acceptable manner requires institutional support. My working
assumption is that the rules which govern my kitchen or basement are
no different than the ones elsewhere. If an experiment would require
review elsewhere, I can't do it in my basement, since there is no IRB
for my basement. Lots of interesting demonstrations and experiments
require no review, however. For example, extracting DNA from pumpkin
seeds can be done with food-grade reagents, and I've done this in my
kitchen. I started with food, I added dish detergent and vodka, and I
ended with food. Recombinant DNA work, however, in my understanding,
if we operate under the NIH guidelines, requires a basic (Level 1)
lab, and my kitchen could never qualify. My basement, on the other
hand, could potentially be made into a Level 1 lab. If I then chose
experiments which would be exempt from review (again, under NIH)
anywhere else, I think I could operate in a manner which would be
generally seen as safe and acceptable. For the moment, though, since
my basement isn't (yet?) a lab, if I want to make bacteria glow, I
have to do it elsewhere.

Still, I think there's a role for some kind of advice and review
process for DIYers. In particular, if an institutional investigator is
uncertain as to whether or not a particular study is in fact exempt,
they have someone to ask. This provides both a check, and a way of
spreading blame. DIYers have no such formal backup... but maybe we
should.

doug.

Josh Perfetto

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Feb 5, 2009, 11:10:41 PM2/5/09
to DIYBio Mailing List, Roger
On 2/5/09 8:55 AM, "Roger" <brent...@gmail.com> wrote:

>
> Dear DIY bio people,
>
> Do you think people might be receptive to some measure of absolute
> prohibition, along the
> lines of "Thou shalt not design, nor build, nor isolate, nor modify,
> nor grow, nor release any
> self replicating organism, with the intent of causing harm?"

Comeon, the answer to this question is really basic and has nothing to do
with biology :) A great majority of people would agree to this, and a small
minority won't.

>
> Related
>
> Are their circumstances under which people might agree voluntarily
> to a moratorium on projects involving animal viruses, particularly
> human ones,
> and projects aimed at altering the host range of bacterial pathogens,
> or that attempt
> to enable bacterial colonization of mammalian organisms, or that
> enable invasion
> of mammalian cells?
>
> The idea is behind the second question is that the realistic prospect
> of such
> projects being of interest to and accessible to this community may be
> some time
> off, and in the interim a community might be able to think through
> how or if it wanted to regulate these, whether it should submit such
> experiments for review, if so what kinds of review structures if any
> might be
> appropriate.

If as you say it is true that such projects would not be a realistic
prospect for the DIY community for some time, then what is the purpose of
trying to create a moratorium on it? Just go ahead and start the thinking
on the second part.

>
> Overall thrust. Since so many of us are firmly committed to the idea
> that
> democratization and dissemination of empowering technologies is
> usually A Good
> Thing: how, in this particular sphere, with the particular properties
> of bio, including
> of course that all humans share a similar genome, and an overlapping
> set of
> microbiological commons, can one try to ensure that this particular
> democratization
> and dissemination remains a good thing?

That is a good and important question; however I'd just point out that the
reason this is an important question is because the
democratization/dissemination you mention is a reality, not just an idea we
are committed to.

-Josh

>
> Roger
> >


rhdu...@yahoo.com

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Feb 5, 2009, 11:23:06 PM2/5/09
to DIYbio
Doug,

FWIW, at least some rDNA experiments are officially exempt from NIH
guidelines. See http://oba.od.nih.gov/oba/rac/guidelines_02/NIH_Guidelines_Apr_02.htm#_Toc7261577
and http://oba.od.nih.gov/oba/rac/guidelines_02/APPENDIX_C.htm#_Toc7238628.
Moreover, NIH guidelines technically only apply to institutions that
receive NIH funds (http://oba.od.nih.gov/oba/rac/guidelines_02/
NIH_Guidelines_Apr_02.htm#_Toc7261550).

Of coures, you can and should voluntarily choose to follow NIH
guidelines anyway, as a way to ensure safety. But I don't think you're
under a legal requirement to do so.

Ross

On Feb 5, 5:42 pm, Douglas Ridgway <ridg...@dridgway.com> wrote:
> Hi Roger,
>

JonathanCline

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Feb 6, 2009, 11:34:55 AM2/6/09
to DIYbio
On Feb 5, 10:55 am, Roger <brent.ro...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear DIY bio people,
>
> Do you think people might be receptive to some measure of absolute
> prohibition, along the
> lines of  "Thou shalt not design, nor build, nor isolate, nor modify,
> nor grow, nor release any
> self replicating organism, with the intent of causing harm?"

Such a prohibition is worthless. Because, very, very few people in
the world do anything with intent to harm; and, if these rare people
(who are psychologically deranged, usually, and also not well
educated) do want to harm people, they will pick an easier way than
spending months on a biology project (like buying a gun). Even your
previous post's argument can be deflated using this reasoning. You
are discussing premeditated acts and very few people act with
premeditation to harm others.

It is far more likely that some unintended harm will occur due to
accident or negligence-- usually stemming from lack of proper
education. Though, you aren't discussing these as possibilities. (Why
not?)

> Related
>
> Are their circumstances under which people might agree voluntarily
> to a moratorium on projects involving animal viruses, particularly
> human ones,
> and projects aimed at altering the host range of bacterial pathogens,

Yes, however only after proper education (see 1,2,3 below).

> or that attempt
> to enable bacterial colonization of mammalian organisms,

No. Several iGEM projects propose to do this, and probiotic yogurt
already does this.

Do you personally eat genetically modified foods? Why or why not?

> or that
> enable invasion
> of mammalian cells?

No. Although I don't really know what "invasion" means, I assume it's
the same rationale as above. Is that a medical term?

> The idea is behind the second question is that the realistic prospect
> of such
> projects being of interest to and accessible to this community may be
> some time
> off,

Define "some time". I guess 9 months (1Q 2010). Anything iGEM can
do, people here can do better.

> and in the interim a community might be able to think through
> how or if it wanted to regulate these, whether it should submit such
> experiments for review, if so what kinds of review structures if any
> might be
> appropriate.

Does a ghetto typically regulate anything? No. A ghetto behaves
according to mob rules. So why would you ask a ghetto? (Maybe you
should discuss things reasonably, rather than trying to "provoke"
reactions.)

If a community were to regulate projects, then why would "outlaws"
join the community? Individuals who want to do such projects don't
need a DIYBio mailing list. They just need to take 3 semester classes
at a community college in the biotech curriculum. And then the world
is worse off, because those "outlaws" might not be educated on proper
methods to achieve whatever goal they want to achieve (like using
something pathogenic because their prior education didn't cover this
aspect of the technology).

> Overall thrust.  Since so many of us are firmly committed to the idea
> that
> democratization and dissemination of empowering technologies is
> usually A Good
> Thing: how, in this particular sphere, with the particular properties
> of bio, including
> of course that all humans share a similar genome, and an overlapping
> set of
> microbiological commons, can one try to ensure that this particular
> democratization
> and dissemination remains a good thing?

Three step process:

1. Educate

2. Motivate to work on positive projects. Suggest something.

3. Stop disseminating "fear, uncertainty, and doubt", so that members
can easily separate paranoid-fantasy from fact. (If someone tells
you that your stories are like Chicken Little, then you should pay
close attention to what they are saying, and modify your behavior.)

The above recipe has been experimentally proven to work in other
communities. Graffiti art comes randomly to mind. Rather than
prohibiting cans of spray paint (so that only the outlaws could own
spray paint), community-based organizations realized the reality of
the democratization of spray paint and instead turned towards
funneling motivation into beneficial forms, like public displays of
graffiti art, and community art classes. Prohibition has been tried
many different ways. Guess what; IT FAILS. Outlaws don't care, and
the outlaw element grows bigger under prohibition. So don't suggest
prohibition, and instead follow 1, 2, 3 above. How many other
examples of prohibition do you want? If you want a gateway to bad
behavior, try regulation and prohibition; that's a proven fact.

Among teenagers who want to write computer software viruses ("because
it's cool, man"), these kids can be convinced to work on beneficial
open source software projects (like operating systems) if they are
encouraged with 1,2,3 above. It's relatively easy. You should try
developing this skill.

> Roger


## Jonathan Cline
## jcl...@ieee.org
## Mobile: +1-805-617-0223
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