DIY-Bio Hacking

I am forced to re-examine my thinking on DIY-Bio Hacking, since a highly respected personal contact is considering participating in this process. My view to date has been to not approve of this process AT THIS TIME. Until now I was not aware of the extent of the movement.

  • DIY-biology  Biohacker    What follows if “from the top of my head”, not from an analysis of the issues discussed in these sites and other linked sites.

I believe it “right” that Humanity-as-a-whole will eventually modify GAIA (over millennia) into a planetary organism prepared to interact with other planetary organisms in the universe. However, contemporary humankind is but an embryonic Humanity, lacking yet many requisite competencies to manipulate GAIA. If one engages in DIY-Bio Hacking, can one insure that their actions will not have negative, unforeseen consequences? Is the risk worth the envisioned gain?

  • There is some research that should be done only on a space station or the Moon. 4+ billion years of emergence/evolution should not be risked to fulfill the interests or causes of any person or organization. Humankind is not yet competent to adequately evaluate risks. Assurances by any person or group is not sufficient security. Can self-monitoring be any more secure by DIY-Bio Hackers or Monsanto?
  • Where do we “draw the line”?  There are probably many bio-hacking experiments that have NO RISK to GAIA, or even to a few individuals. However, “human nature” tells us that persons “deeply into” an action or cause are not rational in their assessments of risk or cost. The emotional “elephant” is always dominant over the rational “rider”. The “rider” has influence only when its actions are “consistent” with that of the “elephant”.
  • This is to say that many DIY-Bio Hacking activities are risk free – but HOW DO WE KNOW?  Informing a person of an interpretation of their DNA analysis won’t endanger the biosphere but it might destabilize medical systems (which maybe need destabilizing). Synthetic biology is IMO OK only if synthetic organisms are not introduced into “natural environments” NOT ISOLATED from GAIA.

I have deep concerns that humankind is not yet competent to risk engagement in critical manipulation of GAIA. Humankind, through its many manipulations, has already brought itself to a survival crisis and threatens a mass extinction event for GAIA. Many “advances” evolved into “disasters”. Exemplar: even for Woody Guthrie, belching smokestacks were evidence of industrial progress – later to cause Climate Change and become the symbol of failure to consider consequences.

  • It is difficult to keep knowledge secret. It is also risky to do so, as survival/thrival depends on transparency. Techniques developed by persons with good intent can later be used by “crazies” who are “exploding out of the woodwork”.
  • Over a decade ago competent futurists warned against a future where highly dysfunctional individuals can have access to WMDs. Massacres of children at schools is minor to what may be coming. I fear consequences of IUDs, 3D printing, drones, pathogens, catastrophic genetic manipulation – more than an individual having “the bomb”.
  • Risk may come from “accidents” as much as from “ill-considered intent”. This is the primary danger from “authorities'” research into pathogens. Economists and administrators often are the deciders, cutting back on security to improve the “bottom line”. Tea Party activists are as committed to their beliefs and actions as Green Peace activists. We cannot evaluate beliefs or actions on subjective commitment (or obsession).
  • Potential “accidents” or “stupid mistakes” are why I wouldn’t trust myself to engage in Risky Business, unless the alternatives had equal risk in not acting. My rule in putting myself in “danger” is to ask, what if I fainted? This is why I insist on trustworthy belays when rock climbing or cave exploring (in my past, I am too old now). Driving a car in rapid traffic is a risk I remain able to take, but probably shouldn’t.

However, the “cat is out of the bag”. Genetic manipulation is being done by profit-making corporations, the most dangerous way possible. If possible, I would favor prohibiting profit-making endeavors from conducting Risky Business. What might be possible advantages to risk DIY-Bio Hacking?

  • Genetic manipulation may be needed to shift species to survive climate change, and this can best be done by DIY-Bio Hacking – IF IT IS TRANSPARENT and monitored by a competent evaluation system with “powers” to shut down dangerous, “wildcat” operations.
  • DIY must not champion the cult of individualism. Persons performing DIY must be components of strong networks, not lone mavericks.
  • However, “regulation” of bio-hacking should not be done by “authorities” who do their own corporate hacking. These “authorities” will attempt to control DIY activity. This interplay may provide a stage to aire all the issues, including “Monsanto’s”  actions to control seeds and water and other aspects of “food”.

Currently nothing can be done to stop either DIY-Bio or “Monsanto-style” Hacking.

I have yet to see a rationale for risky DIY-Bio Hacking that makes it a more relevant endeavor than other endeavors that talented persons may engage, might they be aware of the field of viable alternatives.

Having not explored in depth the community/network of DIY-Bio Hacker activists I cannot evaluate how they see themselves as (1) primary catalysts for global change, (2) one of many imaginal buds in the metamorphosis of humankind into Humanity, (3) forces of resistance to corporatism, or (4) a new network searching for meaning.

Author: nuet

DOB: 01/24/1935. Tucson, AZ since 1971. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum development 1964-68. Woodstock. Faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Trans-disciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife", daughter, 2 grandsons. 3 dogs & 5 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains. On Autism Spectrum. First 16 years: Ridgway, PA. Lived: Schenectady, NY; Chicago; Cleveland, Pomona, CA; Minneapolis, Tucson, AZ; Antarctica. Visited: Mexico, UK, Greece, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Brazil