Over the last two decades the possibilities to engineer living systems have increased dramatically. Synthetic biology and CRISPR- Cas9 based gene editing technologies will have powerful consequences for what it means to be human.
The majority of attempts to address questions about whether or not to synthesize human genomes and non-human animals or microbes are using 18th century distinctions of “human,” “machines” and “nature.” However, from a biological perspective this distinction is untenable because humans are not outside of nature; the products of synthetic biology are non-natural; and CRISPR is an entirely natural tool. In other words, contemporary bio/tech undermines some of the most taken for granted philosophical assumptions about what it means to be human, and about what we mean when we say technology or nature, forcing us to rethink our definitions.
The Transformations of the Human program believes that addressing these questions is necessary in order to come to better terms with the potentials and perils of bio/technical possibilities that define our time. We aim to become the major site for new intellectual and artistic productions around bio/tech –– productions that influence how bio/tech is practiced. To achieve this goal, we have assembled a specialized advisory board and working group and will pair research fellows and artists in some of the world’s most important research centers in the fields of synthetic biology, microbiome research, and CRISPR-Cas9.