Open Biohacking Project
February 1, 2008
Open source biological engineering takes another step forward with a newly released Open Biohacking Project kit — everything you need to start your own DIY biology lab.
From Bryan Bishop:
The open biohacking kit project contains information on important protocols in genetic engineering, stem cell research, microbiology and other fields of related interest. Additionally, the archive file — ready for immediate distribution and diffusion — contains numerous articles and designs for cheap DIY hardware such as incubators, centrifuges, oligonucleotide machines, microarray chip schematics, and so on. An integral part of the entire package is a cached copy of the BioBrick Foundation and synbio websites, such as OpenWetWare and the Parts Registry — some may know about these groups from the International Genetically Engineered Machine competitions. Short introductory files are also being included regarding methods of artificial gene synthesis, using online bioinformatics databases, transfections, running ecoli farms, synthetic biology (synbio), ES cell harvesting procedures, quick “where to buy” guides, and one-page documents introducing newbies into the arts.
The good thing about projects like this is that they help counter corporate control of biotechnology, in particular attempts to patent life. The drawback, of course, is that they could lead to anti-social use of biotech, such as biowarfare weapons, misuses of the technology, or simply contagious mistakes — but these are possibilities that exist anyway. In fact, attempts to control such technologies (and take note that most transhumanists and technoprogressives advocate government oversight here) are certain to fail, given the exponential growth of this field and the lowering threshold for access, and are also more likely to lead to situations where black market — and potentially dangerous — biotech thrives. This is, however, a situation where a decentralized and anarchist approach to technology — one where technology is universally accessible and the tools to deal with problems are widespread — could prove most beneficial. To quote Eudoxa:
The threat from biohacking is manifold and distributed. The real risks are not likely escaped modified E coli making cocaine in the gut, bioweapons or glow-in-the-dark aquarium fishes but something completely unexpected not in anybody’s contingency plan. The best way of dealing with such threats is also a distributed and manifold approach – a diversity of researchers sharing information, alerting each other about threats and discoveries, trying different approaches and competing at being the first to find solutions.