20 results for “Synthetic Biology”

There’s a new urgency for speculative design. Here’s why

Freya Hutchings
September 10th 2019

Pink chickens, synthesized tiger penises and salads grown from bodily fluids - how could they shape our future? In a Next Nature collaboration with the Gogbot Festival, the event’s 2019 conference challenged audience members to suspend their disbelief and imagine. In a series of fascinating presentations from designers, artists, scientists and bio-hackers, participants and audience members alike were invited to consider: what would a world in which biotechnology becomes our next nature look, taste and feel like?

Technology as nature…

GOGBOT Conference 2019: Your guide to a future with biotech

NextNature.net
August 12th 2019

Look around you and try to find the most natural thing in the room you are in now. It is you. But for how long?

Welcome to the wonderful world of bio design; a world full of agricultural crops, in vitro meat and designer babies. An increasingly large group of young artists and designers are exploring this relatively new design discours, in which the sciences and art merge. These artists and designers use their imagination to envision future scenarios and …

First human CRISPR trial in the US aims to cure inherited blindness

Vanessa Bates Ramirez
July 30th 2019

Gene editing is advancing at a faster pace than most of us can keep up with. One significant recent announcement was gene editing tool CRISPR’s application to non-genetic diseases thanks to a new ability to edit single letters in RNA.

Even as CRISPR reaches milestones like this, scientists continue to find new uses for it to treat genetic conditions. The next one that will hit clinics is a CRISPR treatment for a form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).…

Future Food, the exhibition

NextNature.net
June 5th 2019

Imagine, it’s 2050 and you are feeling hungry. What will be on your plate? Where will your food come from, and how will it be produced? It may be juicy ants from the nearest supermarket, an cultured meat creation from our In Vitro Meat Cookbook, or powdered food that suits your DNA profile.

It may sound like a science fiction, yet the pressing challenge to feed the fast-growing population is more important than ever. Scientists, food technologists, designers, startups, producers …

How biotechnology could shape the future of product design

Ruben Baart
May 26th 2019

Humans have been manipulating living things for thousands of years. Examples of early biotechnologies include domesticating plants and animals and then selectively breeding them for specific characteristics.

Biotechnologies vary in application and complexity. It involves making useful products from whole organisms or parts of organisms, such as molecules, cells, tissues and organs. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, nanotechnology, and cell …

Genetically engineered plants do it better

NextNature.net
January 11th 2019

Welcome to the conversation! Every week, we’ll open up a new conversation among members of the network about next nature topics we've encountered around the globe. We hope Nextnature.net can serve as a thrilling platform for dialogue among our authors, members, and anyone interested in exploring the next nature with us. On behalf of the editorial team, welcome. – Koert van Mensvoort

What happened Genetic engineers in Illinois have designed super-size tobacco plants that grow as much as 40% larger …

Next Nature Habitat VR Wins Sweden VR Award

NextNature.net
September 13th 2017
Our Next Nature Habitat VR experience has won the Sweden International Virtual Reality Award in the category Best 360 Video!

Interview: Curator Ilari Laamanen on Momentum9, the Nordic Biennial

Ruben Baart
August 4th 2017
We recently spoke to Ilari Laamanen, to peel the outcrops of Momemtum9, and unveil the overlapping themes to the next nature philosophy.

Interview: Nadine Bongaerts, Synthetic Biologist Bridging Science with Society

NextNature.net
June 7th 2015
We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between bio­sciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies.

Harvard Creates Half-Man Cyborg Flesh

Yunus Emre Duyar
April 22nd 2015
Bioengineers at Harvard University have created the first cyborg tissue.
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Pink chickens, synthesized tiger penises and salads grown from bodily fluids - how could they shape our future? In a Next Nature collaboration with the Gogbot Festival, the event’s 2019 conference challenged audience members to suspend their disbelief and imagine. In a series of fascinating presentations from designers, artists, scientists and bio-hackers, participants and audience members alike were invited to consider: what would a world in which biotechnology becomes our next nature look, taste and feel like?

Technology as nature

In times where the term ‘biotechnology’ alone may trigger feelings of discomfort and fear, the conference sought to provide an alternative view on biotechnological applications and to visualize constructive collaborations between nature, culture and technology.

Hosted by NNN’s editor-in-chief Ruben Baart, the conference began with a talk from NNN director Koert van Mensvoort. Crucial to his philosophy is the notion that technology has become so complex, autonomous and omnipresent that the line between nature and technology is blurred - that technology can be best understood as nature in itself.

The body as a resource

Following Koert van Mensvoort’s philosophical framing of the permeability of nature and technology, the first part of the conference focused on the idea of the body as a resource and what being human may mean in a world of biotechnological progress.

This began with a presentation by biohacker and DIY-futurist Peter Joosten. His talk focused on the potential of the human body as a site for modification, and proposed how hacking our own bodies may lead to exciting possibilities. Joosten pushed the audience to consider their own attitudes towards biohacking, asking what technologies they would be comfortable with - from glow-in-the-dark eye drops to having a bionic eye.

Following this, design researcher Thieu Custers discussed his project Bodyponics in which he used natural by-products of his own body to grow the ingredients of a salad. His project played with our conceptions of bodily fluids as waste products whilst offering a more sustainable way of producing food. To their surprise, audience members were invited to contribute their own urine for Custers’ DYI salad kit project!

Exploring the potential of biotechnology

The next part of the conference consisted of short presentations by five upcoming designers who shared their visionary proposals for the future applications of biotechnology. 

Shahar Livne presented her project The Meat Factory and in particular, her sneakers made of animal blood. The project is an ongoing exploration of material processes. Livne uses animal blood (an often unused by-product of the meat industry) as a material alternative to the highly polluting leather industry. Her approach challenges with the line we draw between attractiveness and disgust, the usable and unusable, sustainable and unsustainable.

Kuang-Yi-Ku discussed his Tiger Penis Project. A work imagines a future in which - using the designers words - a “culturally stronger penis” could be produced. The designer’s goal involved synthesising the practices of traditional Chinese medicine and mainstream Western medicine. Through the speculative creation of an artificial tiger penis, made using animal cells, the hybridization of medical practices was proposed to prevent the destruction of traditional cultural practices and the animals they involve.

Non Human Nonsense, consisting of Leo Fidjeland and Linnea Vaglund, took the stage with their wish to turn all chickens on Earth pink. Their work aims to unbound certainty and explore how speculation can reveal the complexity behind our relationships with nature. In their imagined application of CRISPR technology, the designers proposed world every chicken would be genetically modified to be pink. Eventually, their fossils will also colour the geological strata pink - forming the ultimate marker of the Anthropocene. Whether utopian or dystopian, this project opened up conversation about the future uses of technology such as CRISPR as well as the lasting impact of humans on the earth itself.

Quang Tran Bich’s project imagined how we may adapt our skin to better sense an increasingly virtual world - the designer asked, “what if we could feel wifi?” His work contemplates how transformations in our technological surroundings may require a change in the way we interact, sense, touch and use our bodies. He powerfully presented a future in which our skin may be the next interface.

The fifth speaker was Valerie Daude, a designer who addresses our relationship with our gut microbiomes. She thinks about the ways in which we can make our bacterial levels visible through the use of wearable masks. Daude considers how sharing our highly unique microbiome levels with others, like data, may transform our relationships with humans and nonhuman bacteria. Could we use the masks as a therapeutic tool, or transfer desired bacteria to each other when needed?

Towards a joint vision

The event culminated in a panel discussion that invited experts and audience members to engage in the debate and to help formulate a joint vision. Ruben Baart, Koert van Mensvoort, biodesigner Emma Van Der Leest and science communication researcher Joyce Nabuurs discussed the role of speculative design and the importance of the projects presented in terms of fostering debate and changing attitudes.

The takeaway message of the conference was one of positivity and momentum. The afternoon demonstrated a critical engagement with the huge potential for biotechnology to positively impact our lives and the planet as a whole. The format of the conference, which allowed audience members to engage with speakers, continually highlighted the importance of discussion and the democratisation of scientific ideas. Ultimately, we all have a right to participate in the formation of our futures. Finally, the conference demonstrated how the projects discussed can play a vital role when it comes to the idea of biotechnology becoming our next nature.

These projects can form a guide for progressing with technology in meaningful and collaborative ways - particularly at a time when social hurdles seem to outweigh technological ones.

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Look around you and try to find the most natural thing in the room you are in now. It is you. But for how long?

Welcome to the wonderful world of bio design; a world full of agricultural crops, in vitro meat and designer babies. An increasingly large group of young artists and designers are exploring this relatively new design discours, in which the sciences and art merge. These artists and designers use their imagination to envision future scenarios and wonder out loud what these technologies will bring us.

The GOGBOT Conference 2019, curated by Next Nature Network, delves into this development and examines what it means to be human in the technological age, by looking at a future with biotechnology. We wonder, is it going to be a dream or a nightmare?

Join us on Saturday 7 September, from 3-7pm, at the Muziekcentrum in Enschede with Dr. Koert van Mensvoort (creative director of Next Nature Network), Peter Joosten (biohacker), Emma van der Leest (researcher biobased art & design), Shahar Livne (material designer), Non Human Nonsense (art collective), Kuang-Yi Ku (dentist, bio-artist), Valerie Daude (social designer), Thieu Custers (design researcher), Quang Bich Tran (designer), Joyce Nabuurs (research assistant VU). The day will be moderated by Ruben Baart (editor-in-chief Next Nature Network).

PS: Member of Next Nature Network attend the event for free! Not a member yet? Join us!

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Gene editing is advancing at a faster pace than most of us can keep up with. One significant recent announcement was gene editing tool CRISPR’s application to non-genetic diseases thanks to a new ability to edit single letters in RNA.

Even as CRISPR reaches milestones like this, scientists continue to find new uses for it to treat genetic conditions. The next one that will hit clinics is a CRISPR treatment for a form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).

Having been approved by the FDA in December, the treatment will be the first of its kind to be trialed in the US.

What LCA Is

LCA is a group of inherited disorders that cause severe vision loss at birth. Both parents must have a defective gene for the condition in order for a child to inherit it; 2 to 3 out of every 100,000 babies are born with LCA.

The condition can be caused by mutations in at least 14 different genes that play a role in the development of the retina (the layer of nerve cells at the back of the eye that senses light and sends signals to the brain), affecting both peripheral rod cells—which help with vision in low light—and central cone cells, which are crucial for seeing details and colors.

The pupils of people with LCA don’t react normally to light, failing to expand or contract in response to the amount of light entering the eye. For example, in one version of the disease, a mutation in the gene responsible for metabolizing vitamin A reduces the ability of photoreceptors (specialized nerve cells in the retina) to send visual information to the brain, and causes early death of photoreceptor cells.

How CRISPR Would Fix It

In CRISPR gene editing, scientists attach a synthesized sequence of guide RNA matching the target DNA sequence to the enzyme Cas-9 and introduce it into a cell’s nucleus. When the matching DNA sequence is located, Cas-9 cuts the DNA strand, and the cell then repairs the cut.

The mutations most commonly responsible for LCA occur in the CEP290, CRB1, GUCY2D, and RPE65 genes. In LCA type 10, a mutation in CEP290 causes dysfunction of a protein that helps build photoreceptor cells in the retina.

After having some of the gel-like tissue in their eyes removed, patients will have the treatment injected behind their retinas. The hope is that the patients’ DNA will repair itself in a way that restores normal protein function, ultimately fixing their photoreceptor cells and letting them see.

The treatment will be administered by Cambridge-based Editas Medicine and its Dublin-based pharmaceutical partner Allergan.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Though this is the first study to use CRISPR to edit DNA inside the human body, it’s not the first time CRISPR-based medicine has been tested in humans, nor the first time some form of gene therapy has been used to treat LCA.

CRISPR was used to treat patients for the first time in the US earlier this year, when doctors at the University of Pennsylvania combined it with the cancer therapy CAR-T to treat two patients (the results of the treatment haven’t been released yet).

In late 2017 the FDA approved a gene therapy called Luxturna to treat LCA2, a form of the disease caused by a mutation in a different gene than that involved in type 10. It was the first directly-administered gene therapy for an inherited disease to be approved in the US. Only one other company, Sangamo Therapeutics, has tried gene editing inside the body, to treat metabolic diseases using a tool called zinc fingers.

The difference between the LCA2 treatment and the treatment that will be given to LCA10 patients is that Luxturna inserts a healthy copy of the defective gene directly into retinal cells, whereas CRISPR locates the defective gene on the DNA strand, cuts it at just the right point, and allows it to repair itself.

Though there’s no guarantee the CRISPR treatment for LCA will work, it holds a lot of promise; Luxturna successfully improved sight in its recipients with no known side effects, and a similar trial in the Netherlands produced vision improvements in about 60 percent of participants.

Treatment is slated to start this fall in 18 children and adults, and will last up to 3 years.

This article is republished from SingularityHub under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Imagine, it’s 2050 and you are feeling hungry. What will be on your plate? Where will your food come from, and how will it be produced? It may be juicy ants from the nearest supermarket, an cultured meat creation from our In Vitro Meat Cookbook, or powdered food that suits your DNA profile.

It may sound like a science fiction, yet the pressing challenge to feed the fast-growing population is more important than ever. Scientists, food technologists, designers, startups, producers and philosophers are now combining their efforts to design our future food system. Their shared perspective on food will be served during the upcoming exhibition Future Food by Next Nature Network, in collaboration with NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam.

You are cordially invited for a journey alongside the food of the future. Divided in the scenarios of plant-based, animal-based and functional food, visitors will get a glimpse of their future meal. Will it involve insects, in-vitro meat, genetically modified organisms, biotechnology, plant-based alternatives, food as medicine, alternative cultivation methods or entirely new sensory experiences with food?

Curated by Next Nature fellow, food designer Chloé Rutzerveld, it involves a broad range of visions by (inter)nationally renowned artists, designers and scientists. Among others, filmmaker Mathijs Diederiks shows the documentary about his year-long adventure of living on solely functional, liquid food. Ira van Eelen, daughter of in-vitro meat inventor Willem van Eelen, collaborates with the University of Bath to satisfy everyone’s curiosity and gives and insight into how in-vitro meat is made.  

design vegetables
Future Food Formula: Design your own vegetables

Future Food Formula

The interactive installation Future Food Formula by Chloé Rutzerveld invites visitors to step into the shoes of a high-tech farmer and design your personalized future vegetables.

Growing conditions like water, the amount and color of light and pH value influence the taste, color, size and nutritional value of our crops. Scientists are already experimenting with this technology, but mainly for efficiency purposes.

Because what happens if we make smart use of the technology and create entirely new generations of crops with unique characteristics? Without the use of genetic modification, but by using nature and scientific knowledge. Moving forward to an era in which we will be cooking with growth-recipes instead of ingredients!

Starting this summer, NEMO will launch programs for the public in The Studio, the new location on the adjacent Marineterrein.

The Studio

Future Food is the first exhibition in The Studio of NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam. It's their additional venue that invites an adult audience to explore the fun and play in science and technology. “It is important that all citizens are informed about scientific matters and technological developments,” NEMO director Michiel Buchel states. “Not only to be able to define their own opinions, but also to actively contribute in finding solutions for their own living environment.”

Future Food opens at 10 July and will be on show until 6 October, from Wednesday to Sunday at The Studio of NEMO Science Museum.

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Humans have been manipulating living things for thousands of years. Examples of early biotechnologies include domesticating plants and animals and then selectively breeding them for specific characteristics.

Biotechnologies vary in application and complexity. It involves making useful products from whole organisms or parts of organisms, such as molecules, cells, tissues and organs. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, nanotechnology, and cell therapies.

As our knowledge and capability in biotechnology increases, so do the potential benefits. However, while the intention behind new biotechnologies is to benefit society, determining what impact a particular biotechnology may have is still complex, and with that, the practice of design is changing along.

Today, we see large tech companies (such as Alphabet / Google, Amazon, Tesla) making huge investments in biotech; what if these companies will develop commercial products using biotechnology?

We caught up with NNN member Nicole Spit for a thrilling vision of a future with biotechnology. As designer and founder of Studio Dáárheen, Nicole is researching trends and technological advancements that will shape the future of product design.

Next week, on 4 June, she will present her ideas during an Expert Talk at Cube Design Museum, and you are invited.

Biotechnology is a relatively new phenomenon within the design discourse. Where does your fascination with biotech come from?

During my trend research work as a product designer at a design agency around 2003, I came across a website where you could order pieces of DNA code as modules that could be combined. This fascinated me endlessly. It was a mix of personal interests. Biology had always been one of my favorite courses at school and my dad was a chemist, so the subject was already close to my heart. At the design agency, however, technology was mainly associated with mechanics and traditional ways of production. Very pragmatic, which did not trigger my imagination as much as biotechnology does.

Designing from and with living material has been instigating interesting philosophical questions. Biomimicry, which means we are inspired by nature’s intelligence in design, is incredible. And even better; (re)designing living material. But do we have enough knowledge as humans to do good? Are we considering the impact of our actions? I was occupied by it.  

The media attention for biotechnology increased over the years, and developments sped up. I noticed my excited reaction to each new invention within biotechnology and started to predict the next steps. During trend research in 2015, I chose biotechnology as the most important and promising technological development of the future. Aside from new technological possibilities, trend research is exploring the drives and values of people and how they change over time. Even though healthcare technology offered incredible possibilities for biotech, I was more interested in the opportunities for (product) designers. What could they do with it?

BioTronical: a living camera by Nicole Spit

I wanted to visualize these ideas in objects, because in my opinion theory is less appealing than 3D objects. Those speculative 3D objects are meant to be conversation starters. That is why they are somewhat over the top and caricatural, yet still they are based on scientific articles about the current possibilities of biotechnology. I am a visual thinker, and using an object is a way to communicate ideas very quickly. It creates a vibration in your brain.

Why is it important to create awareness of biotechnology right now?

In the case of awareness, it’s mostly about synthetic biology; the editing of DNA of living organisms. Regular biotechnology is important because we are increasingly aware of pollution and damage that we do to our earth. We have to think about how to wisely deal with nature and living materials, and how we can apply biotechnology.

With synthetic biotech and especially the relatively new development of CRISPR cas9, which enables us to modify DNA, the developments are continuing with such a speed that we can barely grasp the consequences of it. Political decision-making is behind on track. Science is rumbling forward, and that is good, but we need to have the moral discussion about potential ethical objections and ecological dangers. People need to be aware of potential consequences, because eventually politics will determine its progression. People are able to establish their own opinion and, to a certain point, influence politics.

We need to have the moral discussion about potential ethical objections and ecological dangers.

Additionally, scientists in the field of biotechnology seem to be unaware of the influence of synthetic biotechnology. That’s why it seems good to me that other disciplines are interfering and starting the discussion. As designer, I want to show to those scientists the potential applications of biotechnology for artists and designers. Yet I also believe that everyone should add their voice and perspectives to this debate, including sociologists, philosophers, policymakers and medics, including the hairdresser around the corner. Essentially everyone, because it will have global effect on our environment.

What is your take on ethical objections against biotechnology?

I understand the ethical objects and there are many. Still, I think we should carefully proceed to advance biotechnology. As our knowledge increases, we will encounter potential dangers and issues, which is also where solutions can be found. We have to engage in a discussion about what we find desirable and what not. That is why we all have the responsibility to think about it and form our own opinion.

Then, we can step by step allow a little more by carefully opening up the policy. New advancements have to be extensively tested and measured in labs. Scenarios have to be developed and models have to be tested. What if this goes wrong? What if this element reacts to another element? How are people going to use it? And which people?

We will not be able to predict everything, because it is an unpaved path. It is fascinating to me that, when we turn off certain genes and have found solutions to undesired pieces of code, other pieces that were unaccounted for will turn on again. It’s a case of trial and error, but we have to do it in a way that is as safe as possible, and within the walls of the lab.

Simultaneously, the societal debate has to be set in motion. What do we think about designer babies? Are we allowed to erase certain diseases through modification? Who will have access to the knowledge and tools? Is open source desired or dangerous?

I believe that there are incredible possibilities with biotechnology and that lots of doors will open towards new knowledge, which will affect other fields of knowledge too. I mainly see new possibilities.

How can we make sure biotechnology is a humane technology, and not forget about the human factor?

This can be done by including people from all kinds of fields, and establish multidisciplinary teams of microbiologists, designers, sociologists, ethicists and medici. By making sure that money is not be the prime interest; a risk that could be reduced by open source knowledge. By valuing the opinions and objections of uninitiated people. By really discussing, which means to prepare arguments, attentively listen to the perspectives of others and adjust your own arguments accordingly. This is something that we seem to have unlearned in our society. By philosophizing. By establishing a global ethical code, which for example includes that for each biotechnological assignment, the producers are obliged to explain how it helps people and to whom it may be harmful. By keeping profits within a specific margin. By obliging the application of a biomarker, by which the creator of a product will always be known. By the establishment of an independent institute of supervisors.

The difficulty that remains is that policy and protocols are defined by culture and region, which makes it hard to establish global consensus.

What is currently the most important effect of biotech on the planet?

With synthetic biology, you can create changes at DNA level that may affect the cell or the organism. It can be hereditary. A modified cell or organism could multiply, and the modification could recur after generations. If you see DNA as a long string of function codes, you may remove the undesirable pieces of code and replace them by desired pieces. The undesired or desired pieces could return for generations and merge with other DNA.

And even more, we have to deal with the expression of code. It may be present invisibly, or it may be clearly present in phenotypical characteristics. We may be able to decide which characteristics we would like to see, at all organisms. But what are the immeasurable side effects? What is the global influence? It may change or destroy whole ecosystems. The big question is, what is desired or undesired? And for whom?

So what would be the desired effect of biotech on the planet?

It is hard to define what should be the influence of biotech on the planet. Restore the damaged ecosystems? Make animals and humans resistant to the negative influences that we ourselves, even though unconsciously, created? Make ourselves resistant to radiation? Banish cancer? Extent the lifespan of people? Everything in nature is connected and mutually influential. It is an incredible, but hugely complex system. Organisms already have a great power of accommodation. Will humans taste defeat if we do not interfere?

I believe biotech helps us to gain knowledge around our composition on cell level. If we are, for example, able to understand why certain genes are activated when we switch off others, we will be able to get to the bottom of this mechanism that will teach us a lot about ourselves. With biotechnology, we will be able to move out of Plato’s cave.

With biotechnology, we will be able to move out of Plato’s cave.

In your talk, you will dive into our current society in which new (bio)technological developments require a change in attitude of both consumers and producers. How are we going to make this transition successful?

We live in an era of transition and rising awareness. Because of, for example, the greenhouse effect and the plastic soup in the ocean, we are increasingly aware of the damaging effect of humankind on our own ecosystem. We deliberately question ourselves whether the uncontrollable growth of our consumption society should shrink and be converted into a society of quality. There is a huge desire for meaningfulness and authenticity.

Products that are produced with biotechnology, will have to be demonstrable safe and ethically justifiable; produced with respect for our environment, sustainable and actually contribute to the use and comfort of the consumer. Additionally, products have to be carefully designed. The consumers will need to have a closer bond with the product, because the short-term consumer society is obsolete. Unless the product can be recycled. In that case, it might help that a product needs regular maintenance, care or repair. Think about living products, that require care and simultaneously fulfil our desire for new rituals. This is a new variation of Rietveld’s statement “consuming is a verb”. There needs to be a debate on purchasing and usage. The role of the producer is not simply to deliver the physical product anymore, but also to inform and to repair. This can lead to new business models.

BioWatch, a piece of Nicole's project NeoBio

In your talk, you will also elaborate on 'the big 5' (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon) that are making giant investments in biotech. Are commercial biotech products a dream or nightmare?

At first sight, this is a nightmare. I assume that during the production process, there will be no attention to ethical values, because profit and power are the incentives. And because the technology is continuously developing, there will be ways to make huge profits from it. Additionally, they will neglect the importance of safety, because it costs money and time. They will lobby for it by supporting political campaigns or play into ego and power. We can already see it in a lot of areas; the big 5 don’t know how to handle their responsibility. Think about data leaks (Cambridge Analytica), interference with elections, the distribution of fake news, absurd patents and the cover up of safety risks.

Their biotechnological products that arrive on the market, may be unexpectedly unsafe. For example in the case of BioTronicols, which is a term that I made up to designate products in which electronics and living cells are integrated and communicating. If two BioTronicols are combined, will they be able to exchange DNA, contaminate each other or pass on genetic material? Will they be able to contain hidden, inactive pieces of DNA? It is similar to the original analogy of a virus, which turned into a computer virus and now transitions back into a hybrid virus. What happens if your BioTronicol will deteriorate? Or when it forms a consciousness? What if it arrives at the market without a biomarker, and no one will know who created it? Or, what if the biomarker in itself has a different function?

It is possible that genetically manipulated butterflies with logos on their wings will be applied as instrument for marketing. Do we want to be confronted with a company logo on a living organism, flying around in our garden like a subtle marketing tool?

Do we want to be confronted with a company logo on a butterfly, flying around in our garden like a marketing tool?

After the application of biotech has become more mainstream, eventually people will use it mindfully and more altruistically. It will be a process of trial and error. Eventually, I expect great products that can help us on a lot of levels.

What is the lesson that you want people to take along?

That we have to continue scientific biotechnological research, because I believe there is a huge source of knowledge waiting for us to discover. It is important that a variety of disciplines bring their knowledge to the table. All of us have to engage in the ethical discussion on the usage of biotechnology. We have to guard our safety and be aware of the potential huge influence on our environment. Finally, product designers may think differently about it than biotechnologists do and will thus use it differently. Let’s inspire each other.

The Expert Talk ‘NeoBio, a perspective on the influence of biotech on product design’ is part of the IMPACT!-Programme and the Nature exhibition at Cube.

[post_title] => How biotechnology could shape the future of product design [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-nicole-spit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-29 10:25:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-29 09:25:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=111996 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 107366 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2019-01-11 11:44:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-11 10:44:16 [post_content] =>

Welcome to the conversation! Every week, we’ll open up a new conversation among members of the network about next nature topics we've encountered around the globe. We hope Nextnature.net can serve as a thrilling platform for dialogue among our authors, members, and anyone interested in exploring the next nature with us. On behalf of the editorial team, welcome. – Koert van Mensvoort

What happened Genetic engineers in Illinois have designed super-size tobacco plants that grow as much as 40% larger than usual by tweaking the process that plants use to turn sunlight into food.
Why tobacco? Researchers work with tobacco because it grows quickly and is easy to genetically modify. The team is now making similar gene changes to potatoes, soybeans, and cowpeas.
Greener than you think In the US alone, average crop yields are only 20% of those produced during bumper crop seasons when conditions are ‘ideal’. In other words, during a typical growing season 80% of our food production is lost to pathogens and environmental stress. Genetically engineered plants have already solved some of these problems in an environmentally friendly way.
The bad news While the research is being conducted in the US, the EU has established a rather protectionist legal framework that puts the development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, on hold.
Societal debate A recent survey shows that fear of GMOs is increasing. Researchers believe it could take 20 years to get the new crops approved by regulators. However, reclaiming even a percentage of crop loss across the world would go a long way to meeting the 21st century’s rapidly expanding food demands, so it's certainly worth having a discussion about. Feel free to share your knowledge, thoughts and viewpoints with us in the Contribute section! ?

[post_title] => Genetically engineered plants do it better [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => genetically-engineered-plants-do-it-better [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-13 16:27:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-13 15:27:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=107366 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 77264 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2017-09-13 09:35:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-13 07:35:45 [post_content] => And the winner of the Sweden International Virtual Reality Award in the category Best 360º Video is... Next Nature Habitat VR!Our immersive experience allows us to travel through four different future environments, asking the question: what does it mean to live in a next nature? With the VR, we aim to stimulate debate on how we want to live in the future. According to the jury, the Next Nature Habitat VR "skillfully utilizes the VR medium and narration to take the viewer on a captivating thought-provoking visual trip about alternative habitats for humankind". Congratulations to all the winners and finalists of the Sweden VR Contest 2017 and thanks to everyone who contributed to the development this production. Did you missed it? Watch the trailer above and ask yourself: where would you live?Looking for more? You can book the Next Nature Habitat VR installation for your event! Have a look at this page for more information. Want to stay up to date about the latest NNN news, events and projects? Make sure to join Next Nature Network and never miss a thing! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => Next Nature Habitat VR Wins Sweden VR Award [post_excerpt] => Our Next Nature Habitat VR experience has won the Sweden International Virtual Reality Award in the category Best 360 Video! [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => habitat-vr-wins-sweden-virtual-reality-award [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-13 09:49:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-13 07:49:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=77264/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 76634 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2017-08-04 10:00:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-04 08:00:22 [post_content] => This year Momentum, the Nordic biennial, celebrates its ninth edition in the lush landscape of Moss, Norway. Taking the thematic approach of Alienation, the team of curators (Ulrika Flink (SE), Ilari Laamanen (FI), Jacob Lillemose (DK), Gunhild Moe (NO) and Jón B.K Ransu (IS)) seeks to extrapolate new perspectives on the human condition subjected to the rapidly changing interconnected world through transdisciplinary explorations. Presenting a group of internationally renowned artists, the biennial addresses topical concerns of cultural and geographical borders, biopolitics and social inequality, to outline a series of strategies towards "extraordinary futures". We recently talked with one of the curators of the biennial, Ilari Laamanen, to peel the outcrops of the exhibition and explore its similarities with the next nature philosophy.
The idea of pure, untouched nature is long lost
We are intrigued by the curatorial concept of this year’s biennial, Alienation, can you tell us a bit about it? The starting point of the concept was the realization that the world we live is widely disconnected, hard to comprehend, and oftentimes irrational. It seems to be more and more difficult to find a common ground in terms of ideology and philosophy, as the changes in nature, technology and society are rapid and concurrent. This time we live in cries for cross-pollination of methods and new knowledge.People also seem to be more and more lost with the sense of community. Many things might be more shared than before, yet it seems that on a fundamental humane level we are isolated from one another, and alienated even from our immediate surroundings. Our curatorial team invited contributors with different backgrounds to tackle these issues through an interdisciplinary approach and speculation.[caption id="attachment_76643" align="aligncenter" width="426"] Patricia Piccinini, Atlas, Silicone, fiberglass, human hair, car paint, 84x54x50cm, 2012.[/caption]It can be said that the theme of the biennial is related to the next nature topic. What is next nature for you?The idea of pure, untouched nature is long lost. We are forced to look at the consequences of human actions on the planet. The idea of next nature relates intimately to our habitat. The domestication and endless utilization of different species is a valid concern, as are the effects of the countless substances that are migrating into our bodies, with and without us being aware of them, thus different kind of variations of nature and human-made systems are connected to this phenomenon. It is also fascinating to contemplate what kind of hybrids we are ourselves and what we might turn into in the future.Are we becoming cyborgs?I believe that some of the more interesting developments focus on physical body. Indeed, it is not far-fetched to say that our lives are becoming more and more cyborg-like. People use technology to build, enhance and keep track of their bodies. Technology provides means to help people support their malfunctioned systems and enables them to alter or change their gender.
Solastalgia is a sense of existential distress and alienation caused by climate change
A new sense of freedom comes with all these developments, but there’s perhaps some melancholy too, as many of our actions are detrimental to environment. In the biennial, artist Jussi Kivi presents Moon Woods, a nocturnal scenario made of mostly synthetic materials. Kivi’s diorama channels the concept of solastalgia, a sense of existential distress and alienation from one’s most immediate surroundings caused by climate change. This sense of being fundamentally out of place, or longing for something, seems typical of our time.Can you elaborate on the ecological perspective in relation to the body?One should also think of plastic waste in the ocean and how that is affecting different species inhabiting the waters. The litters the fish and crustaceans consume change them and when consumed by people our bodies get affected too. In a similar way, the water we put into our bodies is affected by countless of chemicals and it is becoming quite difficult to find waters that haven’t been polluted yet. In Momentum 9, Pinar Yoldas focuses on this issue and presents new kinds of crossbreeds our actions might produce in a not so distant future.[caption id="attachment_76644" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Pinar Yoldas, Ecosystem of Excess, Detail of an installation, 2014.[/caption]One of our research topics ‘Wild Systems’ investigates how our systems have become so complex that they now behave like independent ecologies (think about an algorithm running our financial systems, or GM organisms thriving in the wild). How to cope with that?Humans did not bring the nature into being and they cannot fully control it. So from this perspective one wants to start considering if there is enough respect towards nature. While a lot of progress is being constantly made in all disciplines, the big mystery remains: how do all the developments and breakthroughs connect to one another, or do they even?So many of the existing systems around - and within - us are still too complex for us to understand. Think the potential of microbes, for instance, and how they affect our physical being and even consciousness. Sonja Bäumel’s Being Encounter is a work in the biennial that address this issue: although we claim to know so much about the things surrounding us, we are oftentimes clueless when it comes to mapping the processes in our bodies.
So many of the existing systems around us are still too complex for us to understand
Jenna Sutela’s work circles around complex biological and computational systems. For the Momentum 9 Biennial she created two site-specific installations. Let’s Play: Life depicts a computer playing through the Game of Life that simulates systems in the real world. It has been proposed as a model for the self-replication of robots. Her second installation Sporulating Paragraph introduces an alien organism operating like a microscopic machine or virus and taking the form of a living graffiti. The work, inspired by 2014 Jeff VanDerMeer’s novel Annihilation, seeks to interfere with our fundamental illusion of control.Do you think technology alienates people from people? I don’t think that technology alienates people from people per se, I would rather say that it is becoming more and more important to cultivate our inter-human relationships in favor of virtual ones. New technological equipment or gadget does not automatically mean progress, as the media theorists like Friedrich Kittler and Marshall McLuhan stated decades ago. On a similar note: not every message delivered through media is factual. Thus criticality towards media and the ability to be self-reflective becomes more crucial than ever before.
Criticality towards media and the ability to be self-reflective becomes more crucial than ever before
Is technology capable of enhancing our humanity?Advancements in technology have enabled freer access to information and data than earlier, so at least in theory this should create greater understanding of us as humans and how we should act and interact on this planet. When we consider the Western culture and its strong embrace of dichotomies and categories, it would be easy to feel worried about technology taking over nature. But as we might want to take a more holistic approach and see all things on some level connected, it would make sense to accept the growing role of technology in our lives and rather make the connection to the fundamental human need to expand its intellect, creativity and ability to invent.[caption id="attachment_76646" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Mediated Matter, Synthetic Arpiary, Honeybee Hive Installation in the Synthetic Apiary environment, excerpt from a video, 2016.[/caption]What does science fiction mean to you? Science fiction can be a useful tool for both speculating future, and touching upon current matters from a distanced perspective. Take Momentum 9 artist Kapwani Kiwanga, for instance, who in her Afrogalactica performance series intentionally confuses truth and fiction to unsettle hegemonic narratives and to create spaces in which marginal discourses can flourish.
How much of our fear is part of cultural conditioning and fiction?
When considering mainstream film productions in the science fiction genre, the setup is typically built around the threat against humanity and this planet we inhabit. A big question in relation to the theme of the biennial is: does the threat come from the external environment or from within? And how much of the fear people feel is constructed inside their heads and how much of it is part of cultural conditioning and fiction?Instead of thinking about stereotypical creatures from outer space, our curatorial team leaned more towards abstract nowhere, where the question is not so much about the threat anymore, but about the realization that we are constantly exposed to, and invited to engage with, matters previously unfamiliar to us. In terms of science fiction related inspiration, Todd Haynes film Safe (1995) and Dennis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) are some examples of the more nuanced works that resonate with the biennial’s thematics.[caption id="attachment_76645" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Museum of Nonhumanity, installation view at Suvilahti, Helsinki, 2016. Photo by Terike Haapoja.[/caption]Tell us about the role that insects play in the biennial.In the context of this biennial, the idea of an alien is not necessarily something that comes from outer space, but can be more likely found in our everyday surroundings. The relationship between humans and insects is too often simply utilitarian, or insects are considered a nuisance. We wanted to shed light on this complex relationship through three different works, which can be also seen as connected to the broader themes of the biennial.Mediated Matter by Neri Oxman tackles the issue of possible bee extinction (caused by strong pesticides) through their ‘Synthetic Apiary’. The video documentation, featured in Momentum 9 highlights the pioneering project that enabled the birth of first ever bee in a synthetic, man-made environment. The work is typical for Mediated Matter who, as they put it, “focuses on the nature-inspired design and design-inspired nature”.
The idea of an alien is not necessarily something that comes from outer space, but can be found in our everyday surroundings
Búi Bjarmar Aðalsteinsson’s Fly Factory breeds insect larvae for human consumption. The project started from the designer’s desire to offer more sustainably produced protein and to alleviate potential food shortages in the future. The factory feeds insects on food waste and recycles nutrients they excrete as fertilizer.Lastly, Museum of Nonhumanity, a project by artist Terike Haapoja and author Laura Gustafsson presents the history of the distinction between the humans and other animals, and how this imaginary boundary has been used to oppress human and nonhuman beings. In the section of the museum that deals with disgust, insects are used as an example of species of lesser value: and how certain types of insects have been also used as abusive names for people of lesser value. The project illuminates the worst sides of human actions towards nature and one another. It also makes the audience contemplate their own mechanisms of making distinction between themselves and the others.
No man is an island
The biennial takes place in Moss, Norway; how important is the geographical location - or Nordic context, as you put it - for the exhibit?While years ago the biennial started out as a platform for Nordic art and talent, it became an international, thematic exhibition that addresses topical, important issues in culture and visual arts. For this edition’s curatorial team it was important to spend as much time as possible in the Norwegian city of Moss, where the biennial takes place, to build a connection between the featured works and the local surroundings.I, for instance, found it highly interesting that Momentum Kunsthall, one of the main exhibition venue of the biennial, used to be a brewery. It was also fascinating to learn more about the ecosystem of the neighboring river and how it was in danger of being severely damaged due to plans of building new tower blocks in that area. Furthermore, I got the chance to familiarize with an amazing collection of old taxidermy animals and laboratory equipment from local schools. It was great to collaborate with many of the local people who do not come from the art or design background.What makes the biennial stand out?What makes this biennial stand out is its genuine concern about the topics it addresses - and the very special group of contributors it features. Nordic contemporary art scene, or cultural field in the general, is not strongly market-driven, which enables different kinds of practices and a sense of freedom in the decision-making. While connected to the local, the biennial also has international ambitions, and the featured works take part in discussions that deal with topical issues of our contemporary culture all over the world: no man is an island.Ilari Laamanen is a curator based in New York City. Having a background in media studies and cultural studies in Nordic Universities, he focuses on thematic, interdisciplinary projects. Recent curatorial work includes: Momentum 9: Alienation (Moss, Norway, 2017), Fashion after Fashion (Museum of Arts and Design, NYC, 2017), and Ordered Dance (Station Independent Projects, NYC, 2017).You can find Momentum9: Alienation until October 11th at various locations in Moss, Norway. Watch the trailer below.[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/226262991[/vimeo]Want to stay up to date about the latest next nature news, events and other NNN projects? Make sure to join Next Nature Network and never miss a thing! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => Interview: Curator Ilari Laamanen on Momentum9, the Nordic Biennial [post_excerpt] => We recently spoke to Ilari Laamanen, to peel the outcrops of Momemtum9, and unveil the overlapping themes to the next nature philosophy. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-ilari-laamanen [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-12 18:57:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-12 16:57:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=76634/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44843 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2015-06-07 09:59:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-07 08:59:08 [post_content] => Nadine Bongaerts is a Dutch synthetic biologist and entrepreneur who is building bridges between science, business and society. Fascinated by engineering life at the smallest scale, she designs bacteria with new functions. In 2010, she joined a team of TU Delft students to participated in the worldwide synthetic biology competition iGEM (Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine) for which they developed DNA bricks that turned bacteria into minuscule oil-degrading cells. The work was recognized nationally and internationally and awarded with different prizes. Her current research focuses on using genetic engineering of bacteria to produce a pearl-like material with advanced mechanical properties.Bongaerts is always looking for creative ways to share her knowledge and connect science to societal developments. This resulted in the co-founding of Biotecture (2011), a company for communication and education of Life Sciences. Since 2014, she is Global Community Director of Hello Tomorrow in which she leads a global network of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and investors to stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations that accelerate scientific findings to the market.We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between bio­sciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies.The next stage of biology is in a human technology. From the engineering of bacteria to the transformation of entire landscapes, we are the dominant force shaping our planet. What do you think about the concept of nature in this setup? Is it a relevant topic of discussion?[pullquote]"What I cannot create, I do not understand" this is the principle of synthetic biology[/pullquote]I think we are part of a process. In a way, our technological inventions start to resemble more and more nature’s complexity. This is where technology and nature start to converge with each other. I think the relationship between the two is very intricate and as time passes, they will be more and more involved with each other. I can image a future where it will be very difficult to see the difference between nature and or human created technology.Would you define synthetic biology as a technology? And what is the role of this discipline?Synthetic biology (synbio) is using many different disciplines; it's not a single technology. The ambition of synthetic biology is to re­engineer existing biological systems or to engineer organisms from scratch. I always remember this famous quote by Richard Feynman: “What I cannot create, I do not understand”. This is the underlying principle of synthetic biology. In synbio, we often make use of computer models to make predictions about biology, then we go to the lab to verify these predictions. Through this iterative process between computer science and biology, we are able to speed up our biological research. As computer capacity increases, we are also able to test more variables that allow us to understand the complex nature of biology. These fascinating developments help us to better understand what biology is like. But still, I have to admit that even the simplest life forms, like the bacteria I work with, are very complex. Even the most common organisms that we use in the lab are not completely understood yet.[pullquote]Our technological inventions resemble more and more nature’s complexity[/pullquote]What is the relationship between synbio and nature?With synthetic biology, we have a technology that is actually breaking this dichotomy, because we are using nature in this technology. We are working with nature and we are engineering it in a technological sense. So, if we create an organism that has different genes and doesn't exist in nature, you could question yourself about whether or not this is a natural being. I think it is hard to give a good answer to this question. It’s probably a matter of how you define technology and how you define nature, but synthetic biology definitely changes the image of technology and nature being two separate things.You were a part of an iGEM project from the TU Delft, where you developed synthetically produced bio­bricks (standardized DNA codes) to transform bacteria into oil digesting cells. When do you think this technology will be available commercially?Our team did the first steps toward a biological application for oil-polluted water. We took the genes from natural bacteria that already had genes encoding for to enzymes that degrade certain molecules in crude oil and we gave the same genes to E. coli bacteria. The advantage of working with E. coli compared to most other organisms is that this lab-pet is well studied and that there are many genetic tools available to control its cell functions. Especially precise cell control is difficult to obtain. It can take many years before this particular project becomes robust enough to be used as a system for water treatment purposes and it hopefully will inspire other researchers to continue with our work.[caption id="attachment_45170" align="aligncenter" width="530"]_DSC5962 Engineering Synthetic Bacteria[/caption]Synthetic biology and bio­engineering come with a lot of stigma. These technologies are often perceived as something bad because of their manipulation of the natural. What do you think is the root cause of this perception and what can be done to overcome it?Technology is a great tool we can use to find sustainable solutions to certain problems: from curing a disease, to finding eco-friendly energy resource. From this perspective, synthetic biology could help us solve many of these issues; it is a discipline with a high potential in treating humans and the environment. But, as with every new technology, there are also risks involved.I believe that providing information and opportunities for engagement of the general public and specifically stakeholders is essential in the development of (new) sciences and technologies. This is not always easy and there is still a lot of misconception. For example, when you ask people their opinion on GMOs (genetically modified organisms), in most cases, they say it's a bad thing. Then, when you ask what GMO is, many anti-GMO people have difficulties in explaining what it is and why it is so bad. Also, when you explain that GMOs are crucial for the production of insulin or other medicine, the idea of a GMOs is all of a sudden more acceptable. I am not saying GMOs are good in all situations, but the appropriate use of GMOs is again not black and white. As a society, I think we should on the one hand be conscious about the potential risks, while on the other hand we should not let these risks limit us to innovate. This is easier said than done, but the key is that we should try to maximize the problem solving potential of the technology. This is going to be the challenge of synthetic biology.[pullquote]Technology is becoming more and more similar to nature[/pullquote]With Biotecture your mission is to bridge the gap between bio­sciences and society, how do you engage the general public in the discussion about synthetic biology and what do you hope to obtain?First, my co-founder Eva Brinkman and I start with a creative brainstorm session. We always try to bring the science as close as people’s lives as possible. One time, we did a live cooking show in which we pretended to make extra healthy orange bread with the help of genetically modified yeast. During the cooking we explained the scientific details of our new delicacy and asked people from the audience to taste as piece of it when it was finished. In the end, we explained that our live experiment did not really involve GM yeast, as this is not allowed in a public space without suitable facilities. Still, we were able to give people a taste (literally) of what synbio is about. We see that such tangible experiences help people to be more engaged during the debate and to ask more specific questions.Through such public interactions, we learned a lot about how different people respond toward synthetic biology. Right now, we are using this knowledge to help researchers to set up good communication with the public. By doing this, we hope to improve the awareness and use of certain technologies (specifically in the life sciences).[caption id="attachment_45173" align="aligncenter" width="530"]10993281415_466a14ccbc_o Science Communication & Education[/caption]Is there a specific vein of synthetic biology that you think will have a huge impact in transforming human lives completely?There is a technology called CRISPR Cas9, which is a system found in bacterial cells. It's a very primitive type of immune system able to analyze DNA from viruses that are attacking the bacteria. It's a sort of scanner system that detects virus DNA and cuts it off the virus in order for the bacteria to survive. This technology allows us to cut specific parts of DNA, also human. We could theoretically use this technology to make specific genetic changes in our own DNA. It is a recent technology that hugely increased the ability to engineer cells. [pullquote]Synthetic biology could help us solve many issues[/pullquote]Why are we having this Next Nature discussion now, and not 1000 years ago or in 100 years?I think it is because our technology is becoming more and more similar to what nature is doing. Our perspective on nature is changing a lot. We are at a stage where we are getting better at being able to understand the workings of nature and to use it to improve the way we develop our creations.What are your big plans for the future?I will soon start with a PhD research in synthetic biology to pursue my scientific career in depth. My plan is to carry on working on life science technologies that have a positive value to add to society.Thanks so much, Nadine, for sharing your work and viewpoints with us! Interview by Yunus Emre Duyar. Edited by Alessia Andreotti.More interviews: Liam YoungBruce SterlingJason SilvaArne Hendriks, Rachel ArmstrongAlexandra Daisy GinsbergFloris Kaayk, Chloé Rutzerveld [post_title] => Interview: Nadine Bongaerts, Synthetic Biologist Bridging Science with Society [post_excerpt] => We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between bio­sciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-nadine-bongaerts [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 16:33:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 15:33:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=44843 [menu_order] => 630 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44027 [post_author] => 835 [post_date] => 2015-04-22 16:00:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-22 15:00:46 [post_content] => Bioengineers at Harvard University have created what appears to be the first cyborg tissue. The tissue is a structure of neurons, heart cells, muscle, blood vessels, interwoven with nanowires and transistors.The new flesh has normal functioning cells connected to a computer interface via its electronic interface. The interface enables scientists to directly measure cell activity. In order to create the cyborg flesh, researchers started with a 3D scaffold that enables cells to grow around them. For this, collagen, which is the natural binding tissue in animals, was implanted with a structure of nanowires and transistors. When the cells grew around the structure, they were naturally connected to the nanoelectric collagen structure.The team have mostly been able to grow rat cells around the structure, and they managed to grow a 1,5 centimeter human blood vessel. The next step in the project is to find a way to talk to individual cells in the same way the biological system does.One day you could use nanobots to monitor your health and cure unhealthy cells with a tap on your smartphone, or you could use nanosponges to soak up toxins and bacteria that are bad for your health.Although we are still far away from such innovative applications, the future of projects that involve nanotechnology promises great possibilities in the optimization of human health.Source: Extreme Tech [post_title] => Harvard Creates Half-Man Cyborg Flesh [post_excerpt] => Bioengineers at Harvard University have created the first cyborg tissue. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => harvard-creates-half-man-cyborg-flesh [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-31 09:42:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-31 08:42:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=44027 [menu_order] => 688 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 119678 [post_author] => 2194 [post_date] => 2019-09-10 15:06:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-10 14:06:30 [post_content] =>

Pink chickens, synthesized tiger penises and salads grown from bodily fluids - how could they shape our future? In a Next Nature collaboration with the Gogbot Festival, the event’s 2019 conference challenged audience members to suspend their disbelief and imagine. In a series of fascinating presentations from designers, artists, scientists and bio-hackers, participants and audience members alike were invited to consider: what would a world in which biotechnology becomes our next nature look, taste and feel like?

Technology as nature

In times where the term ‘biotechnology’ alone may trigger feelings of discomfort and fear, the conference sought to provide an alternative view on biotechnological applications and to visualize constructive collaborations between nature, culture and technology.

Hosted by NNN’s editor-in-chief Ruben Baart, the conference began with a talk from NNN director Koert van Mensvoort. Crucial to his philosophy is the notion that technology has become so complex, autonomous and omnipresent that the line between nature and technology is blurred - that technology can be best understood as nature in itself.

The body as a resource

Following Koert van Mensvoort’s philosophical framing of the permeability of nature and technology, the first part of the conference focused on the idea of the body as a resource and what being human may mean in a world of biotechnological progress.

This began with a presentation by biohacker and DIY-futurist Peter Joosten. His talk focused on the potential of the human body as a site for modification, and proposed how hacking our own bodies may lead to exciting possibilities. Joosten pushed the audience to consider their own attitudes towards biohacking, asking what technologies they would be comfortable with - from glow-in-the-dark eye drops to having a bionic eye.

Following this, design researcher Thieu Custers discussed his project Bodyponics in which he used natural by-products of his own body to grow the ingredients of a salad. His project played with our conceptions of bodily fluids as waste products whilst offering a more sustainable way of producing food. To their surprise, audience members were invited to contribute their own urine for Custers’ DYI salad kit project!

Exploring the potential of biotechnology

The next part of the conference consisted of short presentations by five upcoming designers who shared their visionary proposals for the future applications of biotechnology. 

Shahar Livne presented her project The Meat Factory and in particular, her sneakers made of animal blood. The project is an ongoing exploration of material processes. Livne uses animal blood (an often unused by-product of the meat industry) as a material alternative to the highly polluting leather industry. Her approach challenges with the line we draw between attractiveness and disgust, the usable and unusable, sustainable and unsustainable.

Kuang-Yi-Ku discussed his Tiger Penis Project. A work imagines a future in which - using the designers words - a “culturally stronger penis” could be produced. The designer’s goal involved synthesising the practices of traditional Chinese medicine and mainstream Western medicine. Through the speculative creation of an artificial tiger penis, made using animal cells, the hybridization of medical practices was proposed to prevent the destruction of traditional cultural practices and the animals they involve.

Non Human Nonsense, consisting of Leo Fidjeland and Linnea Vaglund, took the stage with their wish to turn all chickens on Earth pink. Their work aims to unbound certainty and explore how speculation can reveal the complexity behind our relationships with nature. In their imagined application of CRISPR technology, the designers proposed world every chicken would be genetically modified to be pink. Eventually, their fossils will also colour the geological strata pink - forming the ultimate marker of the Anthropocene. Whether utopian or dystopian, this project opened up conversation about the future uses of technology such as CRISPR as well as the lasting impact of humans on the earth itself.

Quang Tran Bich’s project imagined how we may adapt our skin to better sense an increasingly virtual world - the designer asked, “what if we could feel wifi?” His work contemplates how transformations in our technological surroundings may require a change in the way we interact, sense, touch and use our bodies. He powerfully presented a future in which our skin may be the next interface.

The fifth speaker was Valerie Daude, a designer who addresses our relationship with our gut microbiomes. She thinks about the ways in which we can make our bacterial levels visible through the use of wearable masks. Daude considers how sharing our highly unique microbiome levels with others, like data, may transform our relationships with humans and nonhuman bacteria. Could we use the masks as a therapeutic tool, or transfer desired bacteria to each other when needed?

Towards a joint vision

The event culminated in a panel discussion that invited experts and audience members to engage in the debate and to help formulate a joint vision. Ruben Baart, Koert van Mensvoort, biodesigner Emma Van Der Leest and science communication researcher Joyce Nabuurs discussed the role of speculative design and the importance of the projects presented in terms of fostering debate and changing attitudes.

The takeaway message of the conference was one of positivity and momentum. The afternoon demonstrated a critical engagement with the huge potential for biotechnology to positively impact our lives and the planet as a whole. The format of the conference, which allowed audience members to engage with speakers, continually highlighted the importance of discussion and the democratisation of scientific ideas. Ultimately, we all have a right to participate in the formation of our futures. Finally, the conference demonstrated how the projects discussed can play a vital role when it comes to the idea of biotechnology becoming our next nature.

These projects can form a guide for progressing with technology in meaningful and collaborative ways - particularly at a time when social hurdles seem to outweigh technological ones.

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