Eva Auer, Sean Greaves, and Joseph Revans, winners of the BDC 2017 Runner-Up Prize from the University of Edinburgh, recently led a“Biodesign for Social Impact” workshop at Dutch Design Week investigating the potential for biotechnologies to alter the social and political landscape of our future. During the workshop participants will construct speculative futures and design novel organisms, inspired by the current news and the capability of biotechnologies.
The field of synthetic biology offers a radical vision for design: people will begin designing, remixing and composing new organisms tailored to their needs and those of others. Complex biology becomes easier to engineer and more computational. New organisms can be assembled from pieces of DNA re-cast as general purpose tools, as synthetic biology moves towards Biodesign.
Human-designed organisms may become tools to tackle global and local design challenges. This may lead to the release of modified mosquitos to eliminate the disease within regions of the world. It may also lead to the continued spread of genetically modified crops, often met with controversy and fierce civil disobedience within Europe. A future in which consumers begin to edit DNA within their own homes is not so distant. What living things will members of the public design and for what purpose?