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Re: <nettime> Hackers 2.0 IGEM produces 'hacker ethic' for biology
Alessandro Delfanti on Fri, 31 Oct 2014 20:14:43 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Hackers 2.0 IGEM produces 'hacker ethic' for biology

Hi Michael,

that's quite an interesting take on biohacking.

People who have witnessed the emergence of DIYbio (the do-it-yourself 
biology network that was started back in 2008 in the US) say that the 
direct intervention of the FBI was key in shaping the movement. The FBI 
attended DIYbio meetings, organized meetings of its own and flew 
amateurs there from all over the world, etc.

Rather than a biosecurity concern, this was the FBI acknowledging they 
couldn't fuck up again after what they did to Steve Kurtz and the 
Critical Art Ensemble (if you don't remember the story: it happened in 
NY during the antrax attacks, google it). Yet as a result of this, the 
movement has taken the form of a very cautious, a-critical subject that 
is going towards mostly educational or entrepreneurial paths. Sara 
Tocchetti from LSE is writing a great piece on this but I don't think 
it's out there yet.

Of course do-it-yourself biology's current shape is also linked to other 
genealogies, i.e. diybio was mostly born within scientific institutions 
and with their paternal blessing and is currently being co-opted and 
integrated at all institutional levels (museums, start-ups, scientific 
crowdsourcing projects). Althought it might be scientifically poor, 
biohacking is very important to the synbio industry, as it portraits it 
as a friendly, fun, open, creative activity and also reverses the 
spectrum of life privatisation through its copyleft ethos. It also 
creates new hopes after decades of promises (remember the human genome?) 
that have been only partially matched so far, to say the least.

In fact I see synthetic biology as a project for re-moralizing biotech, 
and diybio is an integral part of it - which might help explain why 
high-end biologists care about those kids playing with cell cultures. 
Now the question is: will distributed creativity and 
hyper-individualized markets appear in biology? Well, probably no bio 
commercial breakthrough will come from a garage, but a new soul for the 
biotech industry is created there, and those references to a hacker 
ethos are a big part of it

> ???http://www.etcgroup.org/synthetic_biology_explained
> Certainly seems that the hipster grassroots bottom up ethic of the
> hacker is being brought to new places. Nettime participants have for
> some time been sceptical of the 'hacker ethic'; was it now being
> colonised? I remember a while back on this list discussion of security
> exploits, the remark that now days the State was more interested to
> keep exploits hidden and activists are the one most interested in
> making exploits public. Quite a reversal where the underdog (once
> associated with the hackers hidden exploit) becomes the locksmith
> calling for public discussion of security in the name of protecting
> democracy partisans in the middle-east.

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