Open Biohacking Project

February 1, 2008

green-rabbit.jpeg 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.

Available via torrent or direct download. Talk about it on the hplusroadmap mailing list.

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.

I call shenanigans!

November 2, 2007

So it appears that Case Western has created ‘super mice’ by way of a genetweak. Full article here.

The article itself makes for some interesting reading. The mouse is stronger, faster, more durable, lives longer, eats more but is less fat and, as the talking bobbleheads on CNN pointed out, it is sexually active longer into its lifespan. And best of all, the gene that was tweaked is one that is also present in humans.

But not to worry, say the researchers, this would never be done on humans! Bullshit. It’s fucking intellectually dishonest to present this as something that these scientists did “just for funsies and only for mice.” What kind of fucking moron actually buys that? You don’t do biomedical research on mice because you’re interested in making mice live longer, eat better, and have great sex in their old age. You just don’t. You do it because you want to improve humans. Improve them in the way you improved the mice.

By avoiding the question of whether these techniques can be developed for humans, or worse still claiming that they would never do that is utter bullshit. It’s dishonest and tries to preempt a legitimate discussion on this technique. Claiming that something is unethical and shouldn’t be used to enhance people merely ensures that discussions about the technique don’t take place in the public. And this is a discussion that should very much take place in public. Are you honestly telling me that everyone in the world is bound by the same morals as the CWRU scientists? That China, or Russia, or even DARPA isn’t creaming themselves over the idea of soldiers or workers who can work longer, live longer, are more durable? Considering all the crazy shit that DARPA has done in the past (for example check out Sharon Weinberger’s stuff or the Danger Room blog) this is basically a slam dunk homerun touchdown.

Not talking about techniques like this openly and publicly only feeds the conspiracy theory trolls of the bioconservative movement. Pretending we would never-ever seek to do something like this to humans just reinforces the paranoia that scientists are lying to us and are making a seekrit army of clones in underground bunkers somewhere. Sure, a public debate is gonna bring out the crazy, but last I checked crazy still got to participate in public debate (see: Presidential Election). Crazy is gonna sound off anyway, we may as well have a more open and honest discourse.


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