Can DIY biology change the world?
In a sea full of innovation, failures and far-fetched ideas most scientists face an obstacle. That obstacle is the likelihood of rejection. Rest assured, the emergence of the DIY biology movement fosters individuals to participate in a world of life science, no matter what their circumstance, where the possibilities are limitless. The appeal of DIY biology stems from lowered costs, the entertaining factor and its educational advantages. As costs fall, levels of innovations rise. The aim of this work is to discuss why DIY biology has become the new hype, its possibilities and criticisms. With the rapid expansion of biohacking comes enthusiasm, excitement and unease. Whilst its success is dependent upon its contributors, one must question whether DIY biology’s risks outweigh its innovations. To summarize, DIY biology is a powerful movement that has the potential to change the world.
Emerging DIY biology groups aim to break down the barriers that stop people from getting involved in biotechnology. Inspired hobbyists are free to experiment without ideas being lost in academic regulations or corporate strategies. Nowadays, if you want to know something then the answer is simple, the internet. From easy access to research papers and webpages to step-by-step YouTube tutorials. Head to Ebay and you can find yourself second-hand equipment to begin your work. Anyone and everyone can find out how to do something and the most affordable ways to do so. DIY biology is about being able to interpret your own data, process it and then draw conclusions about life using your data. Not everyone wants to make something from scratch, some just wish to make use of equipment, thus many biohackers actively seek to make resources available.
The term ‘biohacking’ is used to describe a systems-thinking biological approach. It can involve microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, equipment building or grinding (placing technology inside your body.) So why is DIY biology on the rise, why not just leave it to the academics? There are various answers to this question. It is wrong to assume that the only ones who wish to engage in biology are those that choose to study it at such an advanced level. Katz, who showed no interest in science whilst at school, later found herself fascinated by genetics, in particular her own. “It was not hard at all. I was getting a kick out of trying to be Ms Science,” says Katz after extracting her own DNA. Just as some like to sing in their spare time, or dance or paint, others enjoy biological experiments. Academia is highly expensive, slow and perhaps the most off-putting aspect is the high certainty of criticism.
This leads to the question, is there a need for biohackers or are people just showing support to bioenthusiasts? A perfect example; the Japanese government ran out of Geiger counters in Fukushima, and rather than spending 6000$ they spent 600$ using biohackers to create their own devices. The results were highly successful. This freedom led to all sorts of creativity, biohacker Jr. Madera wanted to see how radioactive the area he was riding in was. He did so by linking the colour of his wheels to the Geiger counter that he placed on the back of his bike. Not only is there an encouragement for thinking outside the box, but a cost-effective method to meet resource demands. Consumers are the motorists of technological development. But premarket approval can actually be damaging to innovation as it generates a hurdle for time and money to get a product out on the market. Products sold need to exceed start-up costs. This therefore heightens the appeal of DIY biology as it is not designed for profitable purposes.