[ExI] Fwd: [tt] [Open Manufacturing] Slashdot | DIY Biologists To Open Source Research

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Sat Jun 20 20:35:06 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org>
Date: Sat, Jun 20, 2009 at 3:29 PM
Subject: [tt] [Open Manufacturing] Slashdot | DIY Biologists To Open
Source Research
To: tt at postbiota.org, info at postbiota.org

----- Forwarded message from "Paul D. Fernhout"
<pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> -----

From: "Paul D. Fernhout" <pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com>
Date: Sat, 20 Jun 2009 16:03:08 -0400
To: openmanufacturing at googlegroups.com
Subject: [Open Manufacturing] Slashdot | DIY Biologists To Open Source
User-Agent: Thunderbird (Macintosh/20090302)
Reply-To: openmanufacturing at googlegroups.com

""Falling costs and garage tinkering are creating a grass roots movement of
amateur biologists whose research is more transparent than that of academia.
They are building lab equipment using common household items and even
synthesizing new organisms, and their transparency also allows the social
pressure which creates more ethical research. DIY Bio.org fosters lab co-ops
for large equipment and provokes important discussions. (Would it be ethical
to release a homegrown symbiote that cures scurvy in hundreds of thousands
of people?) This movement could someday lead to bottom-up remedies for
disease, fuel-generating microbes, or even a social-networked
disease-tracking epidemiology. 'In much the same way that homebrew computer
science built the world we live in today, garage biology can affect the
future we make for ourselves,' argues h+ magazine, which featured the
article in their summer issue.""

Surprised Bryan has not posted this yet. :-)

 From one comment someone posted there: "High school chemistry labs: the lab
equipment is kept, you know, in the high school, not in the students' homes.
And in fact high school chemistry has been getting steadily watered down for
years. If you're anywhere around my age (40) or older, you may remember in
high school working with some fairly dangerous chemicals, staying in the lab
after class to finish up an experiment, etc. That doesn't happen any more,
as my kid can tell you. High-schoolers are treated like third-graders in
chemistry class. Granted, most of this is due to the Think Of The Chiiildren
crowd rather than the drug warriors, but the mentality is really much the
same. Science fair projects: again, you may be remembering chemistry sets
you could get as a kid that made it possible to do some pretty cool stuff.
Try getting comparable sets these days. You can't. Oh, they still sell
things called "chemistry sets," but both the chemicals and the equipment are
carefully designed to be as useless as possible. And yes, damn it, if you
buy more than a minimal amount of utterly trivial lab equipment for personal
use, there is a very good chance that the DEA (or its equivalent in your
home country, if you're outside the US) will break down your door and use
the presence of the equipment by itself (without having to find any actual
drugs or drug precursors) as an excuse to arrest you, seize your property,
and make your life hell for years to come."

And from another:
h+: There has been a lot of discussion about the dangers of people doing
this sort of research at home. Do you think this is over-exaggerated?
MP: I really do. The chances of someone accidentally creating a dangerous
organism and the chances of it surviving in the environment outside a
laboratory are vanishingly low. Rudy Rucker has a great quote on that, "I
have a mental image of germ-size MIT nerds putting on gangsta clothes and
venturing into alleys to try some rough stuff. And then they meet up with
the homies who've been keeping it real for a billion years or so." The bare
facts of it are that there's nothing random about synthetic biology
research. When we design a transgenic organism, we're deliberately adding
one specific piece of new functionality, maybe a small pathway that leads to
a new piece of functionality -- and the organism has to expend energy on
producing the new proteins that those new genes code for. Because of this,
the synthetic organism is necessarily less competitive than its wild-type
relatives who are much better suited for the niche they already occupy in
the environment. So any accidental release is fated to die out within a few
generations, because it's just not competitive enough.

Though there were some counter arguments on it.

I'm beginning to feel both DIYBio and Personal Fabrication should best be
taking place in community centers like TechShops (or much, much, better).

We have the resources in the USA to build amazing research centers in ever
US town, if we were to either redirect part of the defense budget to create
decentralized "civil defense" workshops, or if we were to re-imagine public
schools as like public libraries where you could go to learn and practice
skills. Really, US$50 billion I mention here is a pathetically small amount
of money, in the US budget deficit scheme of things, compared to the value
delivered in reskilling the US population for facing the future:
  "Re: [Open Manufacturing] Re: Comments on manufacturing as the next big
"Basically, I explain below why the US government should fund the
construction of 21000 huge flexible fabrication facilities across the USA at
a cost of US$50 billion, because is imperative for national (and global)
security reasons, to accommodate various social and economic trends. :-)"

That way, Big Brother gets to see what we are up to, and we get cool toys to
play with and learn with at no extra cost, same as Google may just as well
be a division of the NSA giving us these great discussion groups. Might as
well get something for our tax dollars. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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- Bryan
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