Abstract – Open Source Biotech – Jeremy Nagel

William Donovan will be co-presenting the open source biotech talk with Jeremy Nagel.
Everyone knows you need millions of dollars and a PhD to do biotechnology research. Right? Well someone forgot to tell the high school kids taking part in the iGEM (international genetically engineered machine) contest. Hundreds of teams of young people from all around the world are now taking part in the open source biotechnology revolution. They have designed and built biosensors, which turn red when there are toxic amounts of mercury in soil; ‘hole pluggers’, which sniff out and fill in gaps in concrete structures; and even living computer screens.

How is this possible? Two reasons: technology and freedom of information. Rapid progress in technologies like DNA sequencing and synthesis have dramatically lowered the cost and complexity of creating genetically modified organisms. It’s easier than ever before and keeps getting easier. On the information side, science is opening up. Disciplinary silos are breaking apart as molecular biologists, engineers and coders join forces in a new wave of innovation. Instead of hoarding away knowledge and rushing to the patent office at the mere whiff of a discovery, people are giving away their intellectual property for free to the community. The open source software movement has been translated into open source biotech. Sites like partsregistry.org allow anyone to get their hands on the DNA code to design a new life form.

The implications are big. Some economists predict that 50% of future economic growth will come from biotechnology. The low barriers to entry mean that developing nations can join in too.

However, despite the excitement there are some concerns to address. Should we be allowing people to set up garage laboratories? Are there safety risks? Could bio-terrorists use these tools to create a ‘super-anthrax’? Are there ethical issues? Should humans be designing life?

During this session, you will enter an Open Source Biotech simulation, where you build your own lifeform. You will use a rapid prototyping approach and work in teams to design a microbe that solves one of humanity’s pressing problems (or just does something really cool!). The most creative team will win a special Open Source Biotech prize. We will then use the lifeforms you create to discuss the potential benefits and pitfalls of Open Source Biotech.

Join the discussion at the H+ Summit, where Melbourne’s leading experts will share their experience and their vision for the future.

Humanity Plus Conference in Melbourne – last weekend in June (25th-26th)

Humanity Plus Summit - 25th and 26th of June 2011About: H+ Conf in Melbourne this year, 2011, on the last weekend in June (25th-26th).

Directions: Melbourne Uni Graduate HouseAddress: 220 Leicester Street, Carlton Victoria 3053 – Google Map


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The goal of the H+ Conference is to support discussion and public awareness of emerging technologies, to defend the right of individuals in free and democratic societies to adopt technologies that expand human capacities, to anticipate and propose solutions for the potential consequences of emerging technologies, and to actively encourage and support the development of emerging technologies judged to have sufficiently probable positive benefit.
Humanity Plus Summit @Melbourne June 25-26 2011

Lev Lafayette

Lev Lafayette is a sociologist by profession, a systems administrator by vocation and a old-school gamer for recreation. He is a doctoral candidate at the Ashworth Centre for Social Theory at the the University of Melbourne with a thesis entitled “A Social Theory of the Internet”, as well as being an MBA (Technology) student at the Chifley Business School, and is an honours graduate from Murdoch University in Politics, Philosophy and Sociology.

He works at the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing (VPAC), a registered research agency specialising established by a consortium of universities. He has worked for the Parliament of Victoria as a database administrator and trainer, and for East Timor’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as their ICT Advisor in their first year of independence. He is the public officer Linux Users Victoria, and founding president of the Isocracy Network.

Lev presented at the Singularity Summit AU in 2010.

Social Formations in a Transhumanist World

A theoretical analysis of social formations assigns qualitative differences to social structures in socio-historical structures and in terms of individual development along formal pragmatics and action, differentiating between social systems and cultural lifeworlds. In the former, broad social formations (primitive, traditional and modern), correlated with means of communication (speech, writing, print), means of production (gathering, agriculture, industry), institutional means (kinship, the state, the corporation), systematic differentiation (kinship, political rank, economic class) and a mode of consciousness (mythic, religious, secular). In the latter, biological evolution of the self (infancy, early childhood, late childhood, adolescence and adulthood) correlates with neurological and social development of the person along cognitive, moral, identity and expressive dimensions.
Positing a technological self-transformation of the species through genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, prosthetics and animal uplifting, or a combination thereof, will also witness changes in cultural mores and social systems. Speculation on the social structural content of a transhuman, post-modern social formation poses some difficulty, due to ontological differences. Nevertheless expressions can be made based on elaborations of best current knowledge which suggest qualitative changes of thought-transference, information economics, collegial management of economic rent, and a universalistic mode of consciousness, challenged by the cognitive capability to adapt mature thought with an accelerated growth phase. The probable postmodern social formation of transhuman life has strong collectivist and environmentalist orientations which may be contrary to the desires of many of its advocates.