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Open-Sourcing Life Science: Getting Theoretical With Sophia Roosth

Thanks to Mac Cowell for posting this link on the DIYbio blog. Sophia Roosth, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT, gave this talk at the Kennedy School of Government on November 9, 2009. With the provocative title “Crafting the Biological: Open-Sourcing Life Science, from Synthetic Biology to Garage Biotech,” Roosth’s talk offers an anthropological perspective on the “punkier” fringe of bioengineering. She proposes that “we are witnessing synthetic biologists and self-described biohackers recasting the bioengineering project as malleable and explicitly domestic. Think of the personal computing revolution, but for biology.”

Fascinating idea, but I’m not convinced we’re going to see a surge in amateur biohacking anytime soon. Main reason: biology is way harder than computers, and the tools and materials far harder to obtain outside of an established institution. And as much as excited media types (guilty as charged) may pump up the story, the actual numbers of amateur biohackers appears in reality to be tiny. That said, change is happening quickly.

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