Karen Ingram & A.W. Betten
Surveying public opinion on GMOs and genetic modification reveals responses like: I don’t know. No clue. Complicated. Health. Improvement. Doubt. Wrong. Food. Scary. A Google image search on the term “synthetic biology” results in textbook charts, dissected bacterium, and gears—society doesn’t seem to be part of the picture. Looking for information on GMOs, we often only find either huge promises or red flags. We recognize this polarized narrative as an opportunity to responsibly guide and enrich the development of perceptions and awareness of engineering with biology. A large part of the possible successful applications of synthetic biology revolves around society, yet we have no visual language to convey this in a nuanced manner. Across disciplines, scientists, artists, ethicists, and policy makers can collaborate to create scientifically literate and socially sensitive images, stories, films, engagements, and concepts. Our goal is to create a context for synthetic biology that is productive and accessible, and that continuously improves through collaborations between practitioners and the public.
Bringing together ARTISANS + ETHICISTS to stimulate a nuanced conversation about the future of biotechnology
The “‘future of biotechnology”’ as well as “‘in the public interest”’ are both complex concepts characterized by scientific uncertainty and value plurality. We (as a creative and an ethicist) want to stimulate a nuanced conversation about biotechnology by highlighting the personal behind the professional, and the strength of connection in communities. By engaging with artisans of different areas of expertise, we will underscore the notion that bioethics is an issue that touches us all. We feel that an appropriate ethics framework— reflective of all ethical families— should be developed. The framework will allow for input to be culled from those involved and affected, and will be sensitive to local context and issues.