20.020 | Spring 2009 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Biological Engineering Design


PDP7: DIYbio Reflections

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You can find the term “biohacking” and “DIYbio” (for “Do It Yourself Biology) increasingly tossed into conversations and presentations. There are examples ranging from “how to” Web sites to Charles Vest’s 2007 MIT commencement address. Begin your follow-up work from today’s lecture by reading this:

Dyson, Freeman. “Our Biotech Future.” The New York Review of Books 54, no. 12 (July 19, 2007).

He foresees a domestication of biotechnology that will dominate our lives for the next 50 years. He foresees an “era of Open Source biology (in which) the magic of genes will be available to anyone with the skill and imagination to use it.”

Based on your backyard biology experience today, what do you think of the present and future possibilities of biohacking? As a point of comparison you might consider the hacking of the iPhone. Here are some other questions you might consider as you think about this topic:

  • Who can hack computers and who can hack biology?
  • Are there speed, safety, and training considerations?
  • Do you expect to see garage biotechnologists in your lifetime? Do they already exist? Should they?

Decide for yourself if biohacking is confirmed, plausible or busted and write-up your reflections. You might include thoughts on today’s challenge, on Freeman Dyson’s vision, on what you imagine the DIYbio movement will look like in 2 years or in 20.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2009
Learning Resource Types
Tutorial Videos
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples