Bioethics Blogs

Web Roundup: Biohacking, BioArt, and other Playful Abominations by Sara M Bergstresser

These days, it is fun to “hack” almost everything. You can hack your life, you can hack your home, and you can even hack your period. So, as the web continues to grow more material on synthetic biology, let us turn once again to the world of biohacking.

A particularly interesting piece considers the possibility of Open Source Insulin. Insulin, like any bio-commercial product, can be simultaneously life-saving and expensive. For those people who can’t make their own (with an embedded pancreas), why not homebrew? You could also inject your eyeballs with a kind of chlorophyll analog called Chlorin e6 in order to improve your night vision, hack your ears to hear Wi-Fi, or extract DNA from some strawberries. (Just don’t forget to kill your adorable little abominations before you pour them down the drain.)

The application of the Open Source movement to biology is another way in which technologies and bodies can intertwine, touching on the tensions between private property (both patents and selves) and science as an aspirational public good. For the moment, we can find an open source language for programming cells, the BioBricks Foundation, Open Wetware, and physical spaces for workshops and experiments, like Genspace.

But, you may ask, is biohacking really a thing? It’s not like you can get a home CRISPR machine – at least, not quite yet. (For a fun if slightly noisy overview of CRISPR, listen to science reporter Carl Zimmer on Radiolab: “Of CRISPR and dragons”). But even without a kitchen-counter gene-editing appliance to slide in next to your bread machine, CRISPR technology leaves us with plenty to discuss.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.