Biology + Engineering = Synthetic Biology


Above is Drew Endy of Stanford University speaking about the potential in Synthetic Biology.

Below is your homework due after break: Please read and write a response paper about either text.

As we continue exploring this expanding field I thought that it would be good to understand a bit more deeply CRISPR genome editing.

Harnessing Gene Technology 

When scientists alter the genome of an organism, we typically reduce its ability to reproduce in the wild. This limitation has prevented researchers from rendering wild insects unable to spread disease, programing pests to ignore our crops, using genetics to precisely remove environmentally damaging invasive species, and much more. Gene drive occurs when a vertically transmitted genetic element reliably spreads through a population over generations despite providing no reproductive advantage to each host organism. Until recently, scientific efforts to take advantage of this natural phenomenon achieved only limited success. The advent of CRISPR genome editing has dramatically accelerated efforts to harness gene drive. Small groups of scientists may now be capable of unilaterally altering entire wild populations, and through them, the shared environment. Determining whether, when, and how to develop gene drive interventions responsibly will be a defining challenge of our time. Here we describe capabilities, safeguards, applications, and opportunities relevant to gene drive technologies.


I am also posting Parable of the Sowers the Octavia Butler’s seminal novel. We won’t be discussing it for several weeks but I wanted you to have it so that you can begin reading it. I think that many of you will enjoy it!


Where does Design Begin and End? Synthetic Biology, Gene Drive, and Society

Hope that you all had a lovely snow day!

As we continue to consider emerging technologies in relation to people, community, and society we will be looking at the intersection of biology and engineering.

Critical Art Ensemble is an artist collective that has been doing work about GMO’s, bio-engineering etc. for many years. Here is a link to their book “Molecular Invasion“, published in 2002. We will look the introduction: Contestational Biology today.

Vandana Shiva, a prominent activist who often speaks about GMO’s and what is problematic about them.

And for a slightly more perspective:

Homework due Wednesday, March 30th: read Synthetic biology -What it is and Why it Matters  by Alistair Elfick and Drew Endy

You may write your response papers about either article.


Algorithms and society – Do they mix?

I can’t stop!


Palantir deployed a predictive policing system in New Orleans that even city council members don’t know about


Hello all,

This article Here Come the Fake Videos, Too fits right into what we’v e been discussing.

Aesthetic Interventions in Machine Bias

Panel Discussion

Wednesday, March 7th, Lang Auditorium (HN 4th floor), 6:30 – 8 PM

The dangers of algorithmic bias are becoming an increasing concern with opaque and proprietary computer programs controlling an ever expanding range of human life including judicial processes, newsfeeds, financial loans, dating websites and the policing of neighborhoods.

This panel discussion features Pulitzer Prize nominated journalists that investigate discriminatory bias in algorithmic systems and artists who find strategies to confront and defy these procedures. The panel includes Jeff Larson, Data Reporter at ProPublica, Tega Brain, artist, engineer and former researcher at Data&Society and Surya Mattu, an artist and engineer who has worked at ProPublica and Nokia Bell Labs.



Jeff Larson is a Data Reporter at ProPublica, where he is an investigative journalist who uses data and code to uncover stories. Jeff is a winner of the Livingston Award for the 2011 series Redistricting: How Powerful Interests are Drawing You Out of a Vote. Jeff has worked extensively in the field of data journalism and was part of a team of reporters nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting in 2017. He has received three Malofiej Awards for News Design and worked with the Guardian on a Pulitzer Prize winning piece in 2013 on NSA Leaks.

Tega Brain is an artist and environmental engineer making eccentric engineering. Her work intersects art, ecology and engineering, addressing the scope and politics of emerging technologies. It takes the form of online interventions, site-specific public works, experimental infrastructures and poetic information systems. She has recently exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, the Science Gallery Dublin and Eyebeam in New York City. Her work has been widely discussed in the press including in the New York Times, Art in America, The Atlantic, NPR, Al Jazeera and The Guardian and in art and technology blogs like the Creators Project and Creative Applications. Tega is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Digital Media, New York University. She is an affiliate at Data & Society and works with the Processing Foundation on the Learning to Teach conference series and p5js project.

Surya Mattu is an artist and engineer based in Brooklyn. He is a data reporter at GMG’s Special Project’s Desk. He was a contributing researcher at ProPublica where he was working on Machine Bias, a series that aims to highlight how algorithmic systems can be biased and discriminate against people. Machine Bias was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Explanatory Journalism. He has also been a fellow at Data&Society where he investigated how our wireless devices leak data and the impact that has on us. Surya’s artwork has been shown at The Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the Sundance Film Festival, The Whitney Museum and Bitforms Gallery.