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Naked GenesReinventing the Human in the Molecular Age$
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Helga Nowotny and Giuseppe Testa

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262014939

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262014939.001.0001

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Synthesizing the Future

Synthesizing the Future

(p.85) 6 Synthesizing the Future
Naked Genes

Helga Nowotny

Giuseppe Testa

The MIT Press

The efficient arrangement of standards based on the measuring and unifying gaze of the molecular life sciences finds its correlate in standards of socially, politically, and ethically responsible behavior. This convergence paves the way for a future in which the standardization of life is explicitly advanced at the biological and societal level. In this context, one of the most rapidly developing areas of research is synthetic biology, which has set for itself the goal of rearranging life by (re)designing its components. In this chapter we present examples of this systematically pursued goal, ranging from the mining of microbial diversity in the ocean to the register of standard biological parts. Yet the most far reaching implications of the synbio style of working are revealed by an astonishing example. While conventionally not listed under the synbio label, this captures its defining feature at its fullest, namely the coupling of biological and moral standards in the design of new forms of life. The syntheticization of the future thus raises design to the leading principle. On the one hand, this is a logical extension of engineering. On the other hand, it makes clear that designing standards is much more than a question of technology.

Keywords:   standardization of life, synthetic biology, Craig Venter, US President’s Council on Bioethics, coupling of biological and social standards, design, Altered Nuclear Transfer

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